|This page is a spur line of my main Abandoned and Historical Railroads Page.
|New! A short video of the VIA Rail RDC-1 passenger coaches coming home to the Russell Roundhouse. New!
|Last Update: 8-4-04
|The Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railroad, began life in 1883, when Sir Robert Dunsmuir built the line from Esquimalt
(just north of Victoria, BC) to Nanaimo, 72 miles to the north. In 1905, Dunsmuir sold the E&N to Canadian
The third, and only surviving round house that was built for the E&N, the all brick Russell Round house was
completed in 1912. Much of the locomotives serving for the E&N were stored and serviced at the Russell
Roundhouse in the early years. In 1949, the E&N retired most of its steam locomotives and purchased 13
Baldwin DRS diesels. These engines were also stored and serviced at the Russell Roundhouse. But in 1953,
the Wellcox yard in Nanaimo was completed and most of the E&N freight operations moved out of the Russell
Roundhouse and to the new yard in Nanaimo.
The Russell Roundhouse still serviced the E&N passenger line which consisted mostly of RDC diesel powered
cars For the next several decades, the passenger line’s viability was questioned and it was almost
abandoned, but the government required that it remain in service and be upgraded.
By the 1960s, Canadian Pacific was purchased by CP Rail. In 1979, VIA Rail took over the passenger service on
the E&N line. The RDCs were still maintained and based out of the Russell Roundhouse. By this time, the
Roundhouse and grounds were starting to deteriorate, from non-use. Only one stall of the Roundhouse was in
use. The rest of the grounds were closed down. VIA Rail went through a number of RDCs before finally
settling on two units, 6135 and 6148. A third unit was used in the 1980s, but today these two units are what
remain in service.
By 1999, CP Rail sold the E&N freight operations to the world’s largest short line operator RailAmerica. The
passenger service was still operated by VIA Rail. (actually this isn't totally correct. For more details, please see
my updated sidebar at the bottom of the page.)
In 2000, the Russell Roundhouse was declared a Canadian Historical Monument, but the buildings were
condemned. Today only one stall of the Roundhouse is in use. The entire rest of the structure and other
structures on the grounds are abandoned. The local government wants the round house repaired (specificly
the leaking roof and other repairs) so that it might be saved and possibly used as a museum. The owner's, CP
Rail, apparently don't want (or don't have) the money to spend on restoring the building. So it's future fate is a
CP Rail was doing the maintenance of on the RDCs that were in passenger service on the line at the Russell
Roundhouse, but their service was so poor that the contract was soon given to another company, Point Hope
Shipyard. Today, the Point Hope Shipyard rents one stall of the Russell Roundhouse and continues to service
the RDCs. However, soon the operations are planned to move elsewhere. At that time, the Russell
Roundhouse will be completely unused and it's fate will be even less clear.
When I visited the site in the spring of 2004, the grounds appeared to be totally abandoned. A large turn table
still exists in the middle of the yard allowing access to each of the roundhouses stalls. The yard was
overgrown with weeds and I had figured that the buildings were not in use at all. (I didn't know at the time that
VIA used part of the round house.) But then later in the day, I saw the two remaining VIA Rail RDCs coming back
home from the days run on line. As they have for several decades, now the RDCs occupy only one stall in the
roundhouse at the far end of the building. The turn table does not need to be turned as the stall lines up with
one section of track which allows the RDCs to simply pull directly into the stall over the turn table.
VIA Rail only operates two RDCs today. RDC-1 number 6135 was built in 1958. It has been rebuilt several times
and appears to be in fair condition today. RDC-1 number 6148 was also built in 1958 and rebuilt a number of
times over the years. Both units use two separate diesel engines that make 275 h.p. each. VIA Rail operates
the passenger trains from Victoria all the way to Courtenay, 140 miles to the north and back to Victoria on a daily
|These views show two large stalls and the multiple stalls serviced by a turn table.
These stalls have not been in regular service since the 1950s.
|This view taken from Esquimalt Rd, shows
the back of the roundhouse and other
buildings on the property.
|These views show the old locomotive stalls and the turn table. The turn table appears to be in good condition, but most of the
locomotive stalls have not been in use for decades. Only one is used today, the one at the far right is used by VIA Rail to store
and service their twin RCD-1 passenger trains.
|The track is set up so that the
turn table does not have to be
turned to pull the RCD-1 units
into the stalls. Note how the
track appears to be bolted to
concrete here. A bit of a weird
|VIA Rail stores it's RCD-1 passenger trains here for now. I spotted those
trains just after they returned for the day at about 5pm. They were getting
ready to put them away for the night. Point Hope Shipyard is now
contracted out to do the maintenance on the RCD-1s. They currently rent
the roundhouse stall, however, soon, they will be vacating the roundhouse
and using a new facility to maintain the RCD-1s. When that happens, the
roundhouse, which is mostly condemned, will be officially out of use and
|Number 6135 has been in service since the late
1970s on the E&N. One of two RDC-1s on the line, it
was originally built in 1958
|Number 6148 has also been in service since the late 1970s on the
E&N. It was also built in 1958. Both units are powered by twin
diesel engines, making about 275 h.p. each. Tyler Welsford told me
that in June (just after these pics were taken) 6148 was involved in
an accident with a gravel truck and is now out of service.
|The E&N line outside of Victoria.
Note how the tracks are not really
maintained. You wouldn't think
this track sees trains daily,
although only two RCD-1s and
only twice a day.
|I thought the Canadian crossings
were kind of interesting. Different
from the ones in the U.S. This is
an E&N crossing just outside of
|This interesting E&N bridge is located just south of Duncan, BC. I'm not sure of the date of construction, but it's design
is similar to bridges that I've seen which date to the late 1800s, early 1900s. The E&N originally constructed a wood
bridge of similar design here in the 1880s. This steel replaced that one, probably around 1900, I would guess. If
anyone knows the exact date of construction, please email me.
|This abandoned bridge is not directly related the E&N railroad or Russell Roundhouse, but this is the best page to showcase it ,
as I found it on my same trip to Vancouver Island. It is a large viaduct trestle located on the Canadian Pacific, Cowichan
Valley Subdivision. The line here was finished in 1925. This bridge was built in 1922. The line was abandoned in 1988, after
the mill in Youbou began to ship via truck. It was subsequently turned into a very nice bike trail with all new decking and hand
rails on the bridge. Although I"m not a huge rails to trails fan, I'm glad to see this structure preserved and open to the public.
Incidentally, is was visiting this bridge that caused us to be a rare victim of crime in Canada. Just our luck! On the way back
to the truck, I witnessed a white 4 door car speed away and then saw my window broken out. They were able to steal my GPS
and chargers, but luckily didn't have enough time to get the rest of my equipment which was far more valuable. Be careful, if
you decide to visit this area. I'm told car prowls are very common here and the little jerks are probably still out there.
Despite our run in with the little hoolagans, our visit to Canada was very positive and enjoyable. What
a wonderful country. The people were extremely friendly and I hope to someday return to explore the
other abandoned lines on Vancouver Island.
Update: August 4, 2004
Tyler Welsford was kind enough to email me and add a few corrections and updates relevant to this page
and the old E&N line on Vancouver Island:
The E&N is owned by RailAmerica, and Canadian Pacific. CP owns the Victoria-Nanaimo and Parksville-Courtenay portions of the
E&N and leases it to RailAmerica. RailAmerica owns the Nanaimo-Parksville-Port Alberni portion of the E&N. The E&N also has a
pair of GP38's and a GP20 that handle all the freight duties on the line, they are based out of the Wellcox yard in Nanaimo, on the
waterfront, right downtown Nanaimo. The E&N runs freight trains Monday-Friday. Freight traffic is pretty limited since they lost their
largest customer, a pulp mill in Port Alberni. Currently the E&N Railway only handles special moves to Victoria. There has been no
movement on the Port Alberni Sub since 2001 and the line is railbanked for future use.
The turntable at the Russell Round house is still operational, the old steam engine on it was converted to compressed air in 1986,
and the turntable is still used to turn the RDC's, to even out the wear on the wheels. They just recently turned the 6135. VIA has four
RDC's on the E&N, 6130, which is being leased from FarmRail while 6148 is out of service after hitting a loaded gravel truck, 6133
which hasn't been used since 2002, 6135 which is operating, and 6148 which slammed into a gravel truck in June.
There are serveral pictures of the E&N freight operation at:
Thanks Tyler for the info and link to your cool pics! The above link is to a number of very interesting
pictures of current RailAmerica operations on Vancouver Island, including some shots of the Russel Round
House in use by both the VIA Rail Diesel Cars and the CP Rail freight diesels.
|Relevant Links to the E&N, Russell Roundhouse and VIA Rail
An interesting looking book that details Canadian Railroads
|If anyone has any further information on any of the above railroad that you'd like to share,
you can Email me anytime. Thanks.
|Copyright © 2004 Brian McCamish, All Rights Reserved
Note about the photos on this site:
Most photos were taken by me, except for those that are otherwise indicated. I usually allow people to use my photos for personal use or
websites. Simply Email me. I may not have authority to grant permission regarding some photos that were only loaned to me by others
specifically for this website. Every effort has been made not to include other's photos without the proper permission and credits, however, if you
see any photos which belong to you and that I don't have permission to use, I apologize. If you send me an Email, I will remove the photos
immediately or give proper credit, which ever you wish.
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