Curtis Huntley, of Able Company Rope Access of Victoria, rappels down the 44-metre-high Kinsol Trestle where he and other experts are checking the wooden structure, built in 1921, to see if it can be restored. Initial results look good, in the view of one group making the assessment. A report is due in January.
DUNCAN - Dangling from ropes and hanging 14 storeys above the ground, timber restoration specialists poked and prodded at the 86-year-old Kinsol trestle Friday.
The results will decide whether the crumbling railway trestle can be restored to its former glory or have to be demolished and replaced with a replica.
The assessment for the Cowichan Valley Regional District is being carried out by Commonwealth Historic Research Management Ltd. of Vancouver, Macdonald and Lawrence Timber Framing Ltd. of Cobble Hill and Delcan Corp. bridge engineers of Burnaby.
Initial results are looking good, Sue Thomas, business manager of Macdonald and Lawrence, said Friday.
The smaller timbers are in poor shape, but the structural ones are looking pretty solid over all, she said.
It was what was expected and now it is being confirmed.
The 187-metre trestle had repair work done in the 1920s and 1930s and a major repair job in 1958. But in the years since, it has been allowed to fall into disrepair and was last crossed by a train in 1979.
Timbers coated with creosote have fared better than those left bare, Thomas said.
It's not going to carry a train again, so the question is whether it can be made safe for pedestrians, she said.
A report will be made to the CVRD in January and the board will then decide which course to take.
The timber experts, helped by Able Rope Access of Victoria, are taking samples of all the vertical frames or bents.
That means rappelling down the 44-metre-high span, doing a visual check, drilling a test hole in the wood and in some locations, taking core samples and writing notes.
They are hanging there drilling and then they have to disinfect the drill bit before they go to the next timber so it doesn't spread mould and spores and then they have to plug the hole, Thomas said.
It is a highly specialized job, as most engineers working in modern construction do not have the expertise to work with heavy timber, she said.
Among those hanging from the bridge was Gordon Macdonald, who has worked on historic restoration projects ranging from Windsor Castle to Sir Ernest Shackleton's Nimrod Hut in Antarctica.
Last year, after the CVRD received a report that the bridge was too dilapidated to restore, the province pledged $1.5 million to dismantle the trestle and another $1.6 million to build a new bridge.
However, after an outcry from local residents and history buffs and an estimate by Macdonald and Lawrence that it could be restored more cheaply than replaced, the CVRD commissioned the current study.
Provincial money would be available for restoring the bridge.