COBBLE HILL, BC - Macdonald & Lawrence Timber Framing Ltd, a company that specializes in restoration and conservation of historic timber structures, has put forward an option that could save Canada's largest wooden railway structure, the Kinsol Trestle, for considerably less than government estimates.
Gordon Macdonald and Steve Lawrence recently inspected the 86-year-old timber framed structure to determine whether the trestle could be restored to become a historic link on the Trans Canada Trail.
There is absolutely no question that the Kinsol is an important part of our architectural heritage. This structure is an outstanding example of a time in our province's history when there was no scheme too grand and no project so massive that it could not be completed with hard work and ingenuity, said Gordon Macdonald.
I value this history tremendously. Therefore, reports that the bridge was going to be destroyed prompted our company to assess the trestle's structural integrity.
We have invested considerable time and energy in carrying out this investigation, and taken advice from some of the world's leading experts in timber conservation. It is our professional opinion that the bridge can and should be saved.
Macdonald said the trestle can be restored by the summer of 2009 for a cost of $4 million. This is significantly less than the $4.8 to $6 million estimates for demolition and reproduction that are currently under review by the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
It's highly specialized work, but there are well-established protocols for working with architectural heritage, said Macdonald.
For the best result, we'd want six months to develop a detailed conservation strategy, and another three months to allow for a thorough peer review of that strategy. Once this planning is complete we estimate that it would take about 18 months to carry out the repairs.
The result would be a bridge with a service life of 40 years; however, with regular maintenance and modest expenditure, the trestle could be conserved in perpetuity, added Macdonald.
While developing his plan to save the bridge, Macdonald assembled a team of internationally recognized experts, including: structural engineers, environmental consultants, wood scientists and building conservators.
Structural engineer Reid Costley, who is a senior partner with the award winning firm Cascade Engineering Group, took part in an on-site review of the Kinsol Trestle last week.
Discussions with Macdonald & Lawrence indicate that their proposed repair methodologies are sound and cost-effective, said Costley.
We suggest that the CVRD seriously consider saving this national treasure.
Ralph Morris, the now-retired civil engineer for CN Rail who was responsible for the trestle before it was abandoned in 1979, is excited to see a legitimate restoration proposal at last. After visiting the site in August 2006, Morris noted the structure was solid with no sag or distortion of alignment.
I am convinced that this bridge could be restored, he said.
The trestle is of special interest owing to its unique low-level Howe trusses supporting the frames over the Koksilah River. In addition, it is of major significance to Canada's railway and logging history making it worthy of preservation.
A wonderful aspect of this particular proposal is that the specialist skills and resources are available right here in the Cowichan Valley ... in my experience of working on heritage projects around the world, this is a remarkably unique opportunity, concluded Macdonald.
With a length of 614 feet and a height of 145 feet (taller than a 14 storey building), the Kinsol is the highest trestle in the British Commonwealth and possibly the largest wooden trestle in the world. Completed in 1920, the trestle was crossed by its last train in 1979. The trestle and the rail right-of-way were transferred to the Province of British Columbia in 1986. The Trans Canada Trail now runs along the old rail bed, although trail users must take a 7 km detour around the trestle.
This news release can be found in Island Tides Volume 9 Number 11.