The E. & N.: Canada’s Island Survivor


 © David Watts 2002


More than twenty years ‘fore Confederation, twelve before B.C.

Vancouver Isle was our western toe below where the border line would be

Joined with the mainland and Canada, but soon she felt let down

When the C.P.R. stopped at Coal Harbour to build Vancouver town.


The electors of Victoria raised hell with their M.P.

And “old tomorrow”, Sir John A. Macdonald, was the one it chance to be

Now when your M.P. is P.M., you’re not used to hearing “no”

You were promised a train as your ticket to Canada—now make it so.


 Up the Malahat and back each day through towns along the Sea

At Parksville a branch to the mill Port west at Alberni

There’s not much freight but people wait at the station for a ride

To hold the line, one more time till the turning of the tide.


Sir John called on coal baron Robert Dunsmuir to make the promise good:

If you build me a line in record time, I’ll see you have your reward”

Robert Dunsmuir started Craigdarroch Castle that he never lived to see

But he saw the last spike at Cowichan Lake nine months after Craigellachie


The E. & N. started out independent but didn’t stay that way long

The Dunsmuir interests sold her off and the C.P. took her on

They extended her north to Courtenay, west to Alberni’s Port

Then in ’99 to Rail America, they farmed her out.


Now the E. & N. has outlived many attempts to do her in:

From neglect of the track to funds cut back she’s held thru’ thick and thin

When Brian Mulroney slashed VIA by half cross Canada on one day

A B.C. court said “Here you don’t: this Island line will stay.”


Other Island provinces had their railways ran in days gone by

You may’ve heard of the Newfie Bullet, the Express on P.E.I.

They lost those trains as the climate changed, the steel is lifted, gone

But the E. & N. hasn’t followed them, she just keeps chuggin’ along.