The Kinsol Trestle is a significant wooden railway bridge that crosses the Koksilah River on the decommissioned CNR Cowichan line. The Kinsol is the highest wooden trestle remaining in the Commonwealth and with over 1.2 million board feet of timber, it is one of the largest wooden bridges in the world.
The Kinsol Trestle is a significant wooden railway bridge that crosses the Koksilah River at Mile 51.1 on the decommissioned CNR Cowichan line. Originally conceived by the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway in 1917, construction was delayed by the First World War and it wasn't until 1920 that the bridge was finally completed.
The Kinsol is the highest wooden trestle remaining in the Commonwealth (125 ft), and with over 1.2 million board feet of timber it is one of the largest wooden bridges in the world.
The Kinsol was last crossed in 1979, and has suffered from neglect ever since. The old rail bed and approaches now form part of the Trans Canada Trail network, but the Kinsol crossing remains the only obstacle to the completion of this otherwise uninterrupted hiking and cycle path.
The bridge is situated within the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) and is owned by the provincial government (Ministry of Transportation). The poor condition of the bridge represents a liability to the public and owners alike, and this issue has been the subject of several recent studies and reports.
There is strong local support for the preservation of this proud structure as evidenced by the 12,000-name petition that MLA John Horgan recently tabled in the Provincial Legislature. However, in December 2006 the CVRD announced its decision to demolish the historic bridge, and to construct an imitation trestle made from pressure-treated timber for an estimated cost of $4 million. The justification given for this drastic move was that it would be too costly to contemplate restoration, despite existing commitments from the Province to provide at least $3.1 million of the required funding.
This decision prompted M&L to coordinate an independent assessment of the historic structure, and to perform an inspection of critical elements of the bridge structure with colleagues from Cascade Engineering Group, a firm that specializes in the design and analysis of timber structures. The group took additional advice from Madrone Environmental Services Ltd, and Mr Ralph Morris P Eng (retired) who was CN Rail's Senior Engineer responsible for the Kinsol Trestle for over 30 years.
The results were encouraging, and in June 2007 the group of volunteer experts presented its findings to the CVRD Board of Directors at a special public meeting. During this meeting the board also received a presentation from representatives of Klett Consulting Services Ltd, the paid consultants who are recommending demolition. The M&L working group concluded that it was realistic to safely conserve the historic bridge, and that this could be accomplished for less than the cost of replacement.
Furthermore, the group determined that this was by far the most environmentally sound course of action. This new information proved sufficient for the CVRD board, and they resolved to commission a more detailed assessment of the costs necessary to conserve the structure. A Request for Proposals was posted on the CVRD website on July 26th, 2007.
Of particular interest will be the costs to maintain the restored bridge, because the board has been told that the Klett proposal would require no more than 'some tightening of bolts' for the next 40-years. By contrast, M&L recommended forming a non-profit society to manage the estimated $60K per year that would be required to maintain the bridge in perpetuity. It is interesting to note that the Kinsol itself was certified to carry loads in excess of 50,000 lbs per axle less than 40 years ago when the last loaded train rolled over the crossing: this seems to indicate that something rather more substantial than bolt tightening may be required.
The Kinsol Trestle is an important part of our local and provincial heritage: it remains an outstanding example of a time when there was no project too grand, or scheme too bold for us to achieve with hard work and ingenuity. M&L remains committed to the conservation of Canada's built heritage, and will continue to strive for the protection and preservation of the Kinsol. On August 27, 2007 M&L submitted a proposal in association with Commonwealth Historic Resource Management and seven other professional organizations to carry out the feasibility work that is described by the CVRD's Request.