WIKIPEDIA PHOTO The Englewood Train crossing the Kokish River.

Vancouver Island loses its last logging train

Western Forest Products closes Englewood Train operation and will make the switch to transport via roads.

Vancouver Island’s last rail logging operation has ceased, less than a year after a fatal train derailment tragically killed three workers.

Western Forest Products announced the closure of its Englewood logging train, which is headquartered in Woss, a small village on Northern Vancouver Island, located about 75km southeast of Port McNeill.

“Its the end of an area not only for our community logging on the whole coast,” said Dave Rushton a retired logger who represents the village on the Regional District of Mount Waddington’s board of directors.

Western said via a Nov. 7 press release that the “logs will be transported by truck at a lower cost to create efficiencies in the transportation of logs to its mills from northern Vancouver Island forestry operations.”

The railway was first constructed in 1917 and was the only remaining log transport railway systems on British Columbia’s coast.

RELATED: Third person dies from injuries sustained in logging train incident near Woss

Changing Times

At peak operations, the train employed 34 workers with the line running 90 km from Vernon Lake, through Woss, and past Nimpkish Lake Provincial Park to Beaver Cove.

In their press release, Western stated, “as a result of the closure of the train, these positions will be eliminated,” but the company will identify “opportunities for the impacted employees to transition to other positions within its operations” anticipating the reduction in jobs to be less than 15.

“It’s a devastating blow but it wasn’t unexpected,” said Rushton, adding “It kind of feels like a prizefighter who has been knocked down, we get up and it’s like another sucker punch after the incident in April.”

In April 2017, the Englewood logging train derailed near the centre of Woss, killing three workers and injuring two more.

RELATED: WorkSafeBC and TSB investigate fatal Woss derailment

Western then halted operations on the train line, out of respect for the workers and their families, according to a joint statement from Western and their union the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937.

Rushton said although the closure of the train “was expected with the rumours going on”, it will impact the entire village, which has a population fewer than 200.

“We are a small very tight night community – we celebrate everyone’s fortune and we mourn their bad fortune, so it affects everybody,” he said, adding that some of the workers are second or third generation residents. “They have kids and grandkids here and if they have to relocate it’s tough.”

Company offering to retain employees

Western said it is committed to working with its employees in a fair and equitable manner.

“The company is focussing today on working with our impacted employees and discussing options with them to look at other positions, retraining opportunities and other options that may be available,” said Western’s Communications and Government Relations Director, Amy Spencer via email.

Rushton noted a transition would be hard for some workers as “the guys that work on that road are in their late 50s and it’s tough to retrain and go back to school” but he hopes that “they’ll be something encouraging for them all.”

The closure of the logging train operation, also has implications for road conditions on Highway 19, with Rushton stating he’s not sure if Western will use the highway exclusively but, ““It will definitely be an adjustment for everyone that uses the highway there is no doubt about that.”

He noted that there are a lot of questions still left to be answered, but “we are a resilient group I am sure that we will recover.”

Western employs over 3,500 employees and contractors on the coast, of which 600 are directly employed on northern Vancouver Island.

Just Posted

Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson set to hit Rock the Shores stage

Other acts include Bahamas, Allen Stone and Bedouin Soundclash

Croatia loses in World Cup final, Victoria fans still jubilant

“We’re just a small little country, we only have 4.5 million people, and look how far we’ve come.”

France doubles up Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup

Played in Moscow Russia, latest Fifa World Cup marks the highest scoring final since 1966

Fire at Christie’s Carriage House Pub on Fort Street

The fire was caused by rags in a dryer

Park ambassador pilot going well at Mount Doug

Dog poop bags, litter and cigarette butts among ongoing park issues

REPLAY: B.C.’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

5 things to do this weekend around Victoria

The sounds of summer Rock the Shores returns to the lower fields… Continue reading

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Lake Ontario

Police say the 35-year-old’s death appears to be a ‘case of misadventure’

Air quality statement warns of smoky air for Kamloops area

Environment ministry says area on north side of Thompson River may be affected by wildfire smoke

Pussy Riot claims on-field protest at World Cup final

Russian protest group claimed responsibility after four people ran onto field in police uniforms

Fans party on Montreal streets after French World Cup win

To city is home to nearly 57,000 French nationals

LOCAL FLAVOUR: South Island expecting a bumper berry crop

It’s berry time in Saanich. My raspberries are getting plump and ripe… Continue reading

B.C. VIEWS: Making private health care illegal again

Adrian Dix battles to maintain Cuba-style medical monopoly

Almost every part of Canada’s largest national park deteriorating: federal study

Drawing on decades of research — the report lists 50 pages of citations

Most Read