Train Station Restoration Underway
Phase one of the restoration of the E&N Train Station on Selby Street has begun. This is a $2.3 million project the first phase of which will lift the existing building to place it on a proper foundation and complete the framing and excavation work. There is a commercial tenant in place with plans for an Irish pub style restaurant. The station itself as well as the rail bed that extends north to the Comox Valley, west to Port Alberni and south into downtown Victoria is owned by the Island Corridor Foundation. The provincial government has funded on ongoing $500,000 study of the future viability of rail — transit and freight — on Vancouver Island.
What’s happening in your neighbourhood? Email and let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org. Include photos — Click the photo at the foot of the page to see the gallery.
I have a suggestion.Tear up the E&N trackage on the island.There is no freight being carried.No logs,no lumber,no pulp,no coal ,no mineral concentrates,no grain,no anything.As far as the rail line becoming a viable passenger/commuter operation,this is pie-in-sky thinking.
I wonder how much in subsidy it costs to carry the small number of passengers who now travel on the system.Is it a $100 per person,per trip? $200? Hopefully the study will publish this information and expose the economic folly of this operation,not to mention the noise,the pollution and the dangerous crossings.
Oh by all means, tear down anything that represent the historical background of our community and island. Why do people move here and want to change things. Live here for 40 years, then if you want change things, then do so.
If the train went the right way at the right time of day it would be more viable than it is now. There are many things that can be done with the rail line and if it is removed it will be gone forever!
Mr.Manners,I would be interested to know the many things that can be done with the E&N railway line.Kindly elaborate.
I await the results of the study. Trains can make good sense as W. points out. I have never understood the ridiculous schedule which makes it impossible to get to Victoria in the morning and back to Nanaimo in the late afternoon, evening. One suspects that there are some politicos who do not want to see any easy escape from here, but they should be more concerned with how to get folks from up and down island to Nanaimo.
Wayne you’ve got this one so wrong.
The days of driving our giant Oldmobiles over the Malahat to knock a few balls around at Bear Mountain are over my friend. New rail technologies have proven themselves in Europe and this vast land will catch up eventually.
While I don’t know what the per passenger subsidy might be on future rail on Vancouver Island I know that the cost of the public infrastructure dedicated to the automobile at this point is so huge it probably can’t be calculated.
Here’s some good background by Darrell Bellaart in the Daily News from November ’09. http://www2.canada.com/nanaimodailynews/news/story.html?id=4d4d5530-208d-4459-83bc-2c92bc4fb580
The Snuneymuxw will be a major player in Nanaimo’s economic development and we need to make progress on treaty and land claims issues including key sites like the Wilcox lands adjacent to the Assembly Wharf Lands.
As far as its schedule is concerned this has been the doing of VIA Rail but the Island Corridor Foundation has announced that a change to morning departure Nanaimo to Victoria is imminent.
I’ve lived here since 1970, and people are ALWAYS saying the day liner runs the wrong way.
Why do people say that? If it’s true, why hasn’t it been changed?
As to the great value of the train station, before the fire, I went to the station to take some pictures for my blog, and the place was a complete mess! The grass was completely overgrown, there were even weeds growing out of the sidewalk. It looked on the outside and the inside as if no one cared at all.
Except now it will be a restaurant, what is the difference between then and now?
The train runs the wrong way, in my opinion, because the City of Victoria wants it to run North in the morning and South in the evening to take toursist up island and back in the same day.
That is wrong thinking because for those that live north on the island cannot use the railroad to shop south unless we spend two evenings in a hotel or with friends.
If the train leaves Courtenay in the morning, North Islanders could get into Victoria by the end of lunch time, shop and spend our money in Victoria and not have to leave until noon the next day. One night in a hotel is all that is needed to attend any event at the Royal or Playhouse Theaters or the Memorial areana.
Island people are an ongoing source of revenue.
The difference in the station is that THEN it was a rotton old building, now it will be restored and that is a BIG difference,
oops. forgot to spell check.
Via was the one that made the decision change the train schedule. They did the numbers, and determined that outside of populated corridors there is more money in train tourism then passenger service. So far, it has been hard to prove them wrong.
The difference between train tourism and train passenger service highlights some important distinctions in the realm of public transportation. Earlier blogs by Wayne Schulstad & Frank Murray briefly touched on this, but I believe their comments require some elaboration.
Tourism is a form of entertainment. People are willing to pay good money to be entertained. Passenger train service is, well . . . a service; people are very unwilling to pay for a service. This is why almost all forms of public transportation are to some degree subsidized.
Subsidization is justified because, even though not every taxpayer might not use the service, everyone does, to some degree, benefit from the service. A fast, reliable and cheap foot passenger ferry service between Vancouver and Nanaimo would improve almost every corner of Nanaimo’s economy, especially the real estate portion of our economy. Its this benefit that, I believe, justifies subsidizing this service. (Mind you, I believe the real estate industry ought to pay the lions share of that subsidy)
The same argument has to be made for a train service to Victoria. It’s obvious such a service is going to require some kind of subsidy. What is not so obvious is the economic benefit. Does a train ride improve our access to corridors of power and influence? Will it provide us with high paying jobs, or service contracts? Will it improve the exchange of ideas between our two centres; lead to innovation and improved productivity? What part of our economy will benefit the most from a train trip? Tourism? Or does a train ride to Victoria allow us another way to go shopping? Is reversing the train schedule doing nothing more then allowing us to be tourists? If that’s the case; if the train ride is, for us, part of a weekends entertainment then we should be prepared to pay good money for it, out of our own pockets. To put it in other words; the more the train ride works for us as a group, works for the economy of our community, then the greater the justification for subsidies. The more it entertains (which is a personal benefit) then less is required to subsidize it.
This is not parsing a delicate balance. Persuading arguments have to be made for subsidizing train service. The stronger the arguments, the greater the subsidy, the better the service. Arguing for a subsidy to reduce the expense of a trip that is only entertainment, is the weakest of all arguments that can be made. The more entertaining the service is, the less need there is for subsidy.
Developing public transit policy by determining people’s motivation for traveling is an interesting idea. Ridership is ridership. A paying customer is a paying customer. Would we establish toll booths staffed by bureaucrats who would determine whether our trip was considered “frivolous” or of benefit to one industry or another?
Yes,Ridership is Ridership and a paying customer is a paying customer.One other little detail that should be considered though,is No riders are No riders,which equates to No paying customers are No paying customers.
So, the solution would be simple, if there were enough traffic to warrant there should be two trains, one coming north, and one going south, thus accommodating both groups. Of course, it would have to be viable. Is it viable now?
I presume that despite our speculation, a train originating in the north is simply not good business sense, or it would have been done.
So the NEW train station is only of any real interest as now it is becoming a NEW restaurant. If it were to only be a train station, it would get no more attention than before.
With the shortage of eateries in Nanaimo, this will be a welcome addition.
Will more people use the train now, that the station has been renovated?
I’m confused. Are you arguing for a passenger train system? Or are you just saying something dreamy like, “Wouldn’t it be nice, to take a train down to Victoria, do some shopping, take in a show and come back on the train.”
I’m entirely in favour of a good argument, but I am so not interested in idle day dreams.
Dan, I don’t know if this was a reply to my reply but I’ll jump back in. I’m not making a case one way or the other for rail. The provincial government feasibility study either will or won’t do that. I suspect most of the provincial cabinet would rather be building roads. I am, as I know you are as well, interested in public transit ideas. Mostly though I was just reporting that the train station in my neighbourhood is finally getting some attention.
The rail system needs to be used for many things in order to be profitable. There are countless things that could be done and I have some ideas and some of them come from others including rail enthusiast, tourists, and citizens along the route. Not all of them will be done but the more we can use the corridor the better. Multi-usage is a good idea as it keeps the cost down and keeps the system moving properly. We have some sidings alongside the route but no double tracks along the island. The triangle at Stockett can be used for switching cars and storage is plenty at Welcox Yard near the Assembly Dock.
Passenger Rail service has proven to be a money generator and could be improved by reversing the route or having a North and Southern departure scheduled for passing at Stockett.
Seaspan can bring rail cars LOADED from Vancouver to Welcox yard where the cars ban be sent North or South. Lately BC Ferries at Duke Point have started sending Semi-trailers back and forth without the Truck. BC Ferries have their own trucks to load and unload the semi-trailers and then the truckers take them North or South (same service offered by Seaspan.) Instead we could have them come by Seaspan by traincar (24 hour a day service) and then the goods can be taken North or South to a City where they can be loaded onto Trucks for delivery (reduces greenhouse emissions of trucks going north or south on the highway)
Specialty Services – Port Alberni wants to have a set of rail-coaches traveling from Parksville or Nanaimo to Port Alberni with an old style theme or steam engine. The fund raiser for the train station with old coaches proved to be profitable and the coaches are still here until they get transfered back to Vancouver when NEEDED.
Currently propane is delivered via railroad and that is only the tip of the iceberg. I am unsure of the exact formula for comparing truck loads vs train loads but would guess that it would be cheaper and more efficient to send up 20 train-cars once or twice or three times a day per engine than to send up the comparable number of semi trailer loads with tractor. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable can help with those figures.
Propane being shipped on the E&N? From what origin to what destination,and what is the volume of traffic,if known? Thanks
For more information check out the Rail Corridor Foundation. http://www.islandrail.ca/
Great. No trains, but hey, I can use my car to drive up to the very expensive train station so that I can eat in an Irish Pub. So, here is my thought. Run the train so that I can go to Victoria and to the Irish Pub on Government Street. A really great and fun place.
Wayne, how long have you lived here. The propane is delivered on a regular basis (at least weekly if not more often) and you can see the cars being shuttled right next to the firehall across from the Golf Course on the Island Highway.
Those BLACK roundish rail cars carry propane, not coal ;)
Here is an incomplete “To Do” list regarding the train station restoration and the revival of the passenger train service on the island.
Not all of these ideas are mine, but whenever I try to plant these seeds I’m met with a very favourable response.
A small train could pick up passengers from the new cruise ship terminal and transport them up to the restored train station. Along the way the story of Nanaimo could be told. Once at the train station passengers might enjoy a brew and a meal or they might want to wonder down one of the most interesting shopping areas in our city. Some of the more adventurous might even wonder as far as Commercial St. or Maffeo-Sutton Park. Some of the most hardy might even choose to walk all the way back to their cruise ship.
Some of you have mentioned the very disgraceful condition of our intercity bus terminal. To my mind, the perfect place for such a terminal is where the bus exchange is now. Part of my effort to improve our bus system, involves clearing that space so that a intercity bus terminal can be built there. A small pedestrian bridge over the track would connect to bus terminal to the train station and would also serve as a most excellent gateway to that part of the city. It might even be possible for passengers to exchange one mode of transportation for the other and continue on their way. The economic benefits of moving the bus depot to that location would be huge, especially for the merchants in the old city quarter. The city would be well advised to use every means available to have the bus terminal move to this location.
Build new train stations in Cedar and Wellington that also function as a bus exchange for the soon to be developed through town rapid bus line and the neighbourhood bus routes. This could be the seed of a commuter train system that would give passengers a choice between taking the rapid bus system through Terminal and Nicol, or take the train up to the old city quarter.
I have never been on this train, but every report I have read of the experience describes Nanaimo as the low point of the trip. One writer who made a point of traveling all over North America by train described Nanaimo as the worst part of any train trip he has ever been on. This suggests to me that we need to consider how Nanaimo presents itself from the point of view to the train traveler. Some effort should be made to improve the views from the train as it moves through our city.
If the train is going to contribute to the growth of our tourist industry and become an integral part of the islands transportation system then Nanaimo has to develop to improve its prospects as a destination of choice. The train needs to bring more people to Nanaimo, and take less people to other parts of the Island.
For a city that doesn’t seem to understand or appreciate the economics of tourism, for tourism promoters who seem to have the energy, imagination, and reaction time of slugs and for a leadership that has dumped all its tourism development eggs into the one conference centre basket this last item is going to be the biggest challenge. The biggest hurdle happens to be the people running the show right now. Perhaps the most productive and most significant step in the right direction is getting these people either off the tracks or on board. Either way, that’s going to be tough.
If we had arguments such as, ‘for every dollar we spend on train transportation we save a dollar fifty on highway maintenance, plus we gain all the benefits of a sustainable transportation system,’ then we might have a fighting chance. I’m hoping that this group with all its resources, energy and imagination might be able find the arguments that persuade and allow our train system to revive.
Some pictures of train type things from recent travels —
Rail Station Block, Portland OR
Skoda Trolley, Portland, OR
Commuter train South of France, between Collioure and Carcassonne