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

Canadian mini-series set to shoot in the Comox Valley

St. Joseph’s General Hospital will soon be shining brightly on the small… Continue reading

RCMP investigate sexual assault in Courtenay

Comox Valley RCMP officers are investigating a reported sexual assault at Sandwick… Continue reading

Comox Strathcona Waste Management board approves tour of Nova Scotia advanced recycling plant

Three CVRD representatives will tour Sustane Tech. plant while in Halifax for FCM conference

Comox opts for ‘blank sheet’ when it comes to cannabis bylaw

Comox council unanimously approved a bylaw to prohibit the sale of cannabis within the town.

Lack of security: why Vancouver Island food production is on the decline

Big Read: agriculture a big, expensive commitment as advocates push to make us more food secure

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

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

CONTEST: Win a whale-watching tour for four

Where in the world are the Snowbirds?

Dix says B.C. remains focused on fighting youth overdoses in wake of teen’s death

Elliot Eurchuk’s parents say he died at his Oak Bay home after taking street drugs

Final week for ALR input

Public consultation process closes April 30

‘When everybody leaves: Counselling key to help Humboldt move on after bus crash

Dealing with life after a tragedy can be the worst part following a loss

Half-naked shooter guns down four, runs away in Nashville Waffle House shooting

Nashville police say they are looking for Travis Reinking in connection with the shooting

Child’s body found in river downstream from where boy went missing during flood

Three-year-old Kaden Young was swept out of his mother’s arms in February

B.C. VIEWS: Eliminating efficiency for farm workers

Don’t worry, NDP says, the B.C. economy’s booming

B.C. student makes short-list for autism advocacy award

Brody Butts honoured for his role as a mentor and self-advocate

Most Read