Restoration Wave Crests For Trestle

As regional bridge engineer for CN Rail from 1961 to 1979, Ralph Morris had 1,200 bridges under his jurisdiction.

Yet out of them all, only one really stood out for the retired railway man.

I look on the Kinsol trestle as my bridge since it was part of my charge when the line was abandoned, the 82-year-old told the News Leader Pictorial from his home in Edmonton.

Morris is adding his voice to a growing chorus of people who want to see the old trestle restored.

The Kinsol is a national treasure and was always special, he said. I understand some people have suggested the whole bridge must come down because there is so much rot in the timbers, but I suggest otherwise.

Malahat-Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan tabled a 12,000 name petition - signed by people who want to save the old trestle - in the legislature Thursday

That's great news for Morris who said he visited the Island last summer and one of the main stops during his travels was the trestle. He was surprised to find the bridge to be in remarkably good condition.

Overall the structure is still solid with no sag or distortion in alignment, he said.

That assessment is in agreement with another, more recent one done by a local timber firm.

Gordon Macdonald
Photo: Mike D'Amour
Gordon Macdonald of Macdonald and Lawrence Timber Framing Ltd. during a recent survey of the Kinsol Trestle. He and his experts believe the old bridge can be restored for less cash than it would take to replace it.

Gordon Macdonald, of Cobble Hills's Macdonald and Lawrence Timber Framing Ltd., and his partner Steve Lawrence did their own study that involved pulling in experts from around the world to consider the feasibility of restoring the 86-year-old wooden structure.

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, Macdonald said. 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 about $4 million - less than the $4.8 to $6 million that was estimated as costs for demolition and reproduction that are currently under review by the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

The 614-feet long, 145-feet high Kinsol is the highest trestle in the British Commonwealth.

It was built in 1920 and after decades of service, was crossed by its last train in 1979.

There wasn't any traffic and the line was abandoned because it wasn't making money anymore, said Morris.

The trestle and the rail right-of-way were transferred to the Province of British Columbia in 1986.

Jack Peake, chair of the CVRD has heard the Macdonald and Lawrence proposal to save the trestle and said he is planning to convene a meeting of his directors so the entire board can hear the proposal.

View the Kinsol Trestle Project