The venerable E&N railway is approaching a very important period in its history; whether the railway will continue or not. As politicians hesitantly debate its future, one option should be explored: run the railway as a “Preserved Railway,” using the successful UK model.
Today, in the UK, there are over 50 standard gauge and over 20 narrow gauge preserved railways in operation, offering scheduled passenger services with many operating all year round. The preserved railways were created by groups of people wanting to retain and operate local and historic railways, many using steam locomotives.
The foundation for an “E&N preservation society” is already in place, with scores of volunteers already maintaining the rights-of-way from Victoria to Courtney and Port Alberni.
The E&N preservation society could be the umbrella group to operate and maintain the railway, offering live steam excursion; Via Rail passenger operation; a scheduled freight service; and a commuter railway for Greater Victoria.
Far fetched? No, as many UK preserved railways successfully do the same thing.
A preserved E&N Railway, would not only be an international tourist draw, it would be a magnet for movie industry, which searches internationally for vintage railway locations.
If anyone has watched British cinema and TV drama, have all seen the British preserved railway in full operation. Movie sets they are not.
What is most important is that a preserved E&N Railway would not only be a regional railway or tourism and movie industry generator, it would be a jobs generator.
The financial spin-off from a preserved E&N, from jobs to increasing business potential, would be tremendous.
Supporting a preserved E&N railway, would be supporting a continuing and viable economy on Vancouver Island.