Down by the station, early in the morning
Blue Water, Blue Water, Blue Water Line Blue Water, Blue Water, Blue Water Line If you can't afford a quarter then you ought to give a dime If everybody gave then we could save the Blue Water Line
So went the old Brothers Four folk tune back in the 1950s. The little Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway Line on Vancouver Island stands to suffer the same fate as the Blue Water and dozens upon dozens of other small rail systems in North America as the boneheads who govern us with antediluvian mindsets push through more highways while paying lip-service to their admiration for alternate modes of transport.
I confess, the old E&N is dear to my heart, as it is to hundreds of Vancouver Islanders. One of the reasons the former colony of Vancouver Island agreed, in a moment of madness, arguably, to join Canada was the promise from Ottawa of a railway in perpetuity.
The little train runs from Victoria to my hometown of Courtenay, some 140 miles to the north. During the time Wendy was working out of Victoria we used the little Dayliner many times to go back-and-forth, especially in inclement weather. The fare was reasonable, and even though the little old coach plodded along at a less than stellar pace, it was much less stressful than driving the miles.
As follows are some lines from the blog I wrote pertaining to the beloved train and the trip back in February, 2007:
It’s decrepit in a funky (almost charming) way, and it shudders and rolls from side to side, added to which it makes odd (and one hopes not ominous) noises as it wends its way along to its hoped-for destination some 135 miles distant.I’m referring to the E&N (Esquimalt and Nanaimo) ‘Dayliner’. This is the single diesel unit railway coach that runs from Victoria on Vancouver Island to Courtenay (the end of the line) and then back again to Victoria on a daily basis, come rain, shine, snow, sleet, flood or earthquake. This aged relic is the last vestige of the first transcontinental railroad in Canada and it came into being in return for British Columbia’s agreement to join the Canadian Confederation – which to this day isn’t deemed an agreeable situation in many minds in these parts.Politics notwithstanding – or, in truth, maybe ‘withstanding’ – the feds, or their railroad handmaiden, Via Rail (Canada’s Amtrak, so you know what I mean), have been trying to kill the E&N for decades now. They don’t like it. It doesn’t turn a profit (as if any passenger service does), and what the hell do they care about the transportation concerns of a handful of people in the never-never land. It pisses them off that they were able to kill the ‘Newfie Bullet’ in Newfoundland (leaving that province without rail service), but they haven’t been able to do it on the west coast. Pisses them off indeed that the courts have always found that they would be wise to honor a century and a quarter old undertaking, or that all sorts of shit would be flying around the corridors of power in consequence.So, as a relief to Vancouver Islanders and others who have used the service, the old, old, old ‘Budd’ cars still ply the wavy and bumpy rails each day. Of course, Via’s way of continuing to give the finger has been their steadfast refusal to replace the rolling stock with something that even resembles late 20th century, let a lone 21st. Oblivious to any considerations of the environmental virtues of mass transit so that travelers can eschew their cars (don’t these morons read the papers?) they would rather we fire up private vehicles to make our trips up and down the Island. It is testament to the E&N’s mechanics in Victoria that they are able to, with spit, baling wire, curses, and pirating from one diesel unit to another, keep these relics running.
Now, for those of you who have never ridden the E&N, which is likely most of you, there are two things I am asking for you to consider, and no I am not seeking your nickels or dimes – and let me add that I rarely take up causes, but this one is dear to my heart, sense of romance, and sheer environmental common sense (something sorely lacking in our leaders, despite their protestations to the contrary). So, I am going to ask you to tap into the Island Corridor people’s homepage at www.ourcorridor.ca. And also, if so inclined, to add your name to the list. They are seeking 4,000 names and already have well over 2,500.
It doesn’t matter where you live. I believe our rail lines not only must be preserved, they must also be encouraged and expanded. As it is, the Europeans put us to shame with their sleek and speedy electric trains.
For decades there has been a concerted effect on the part of North American politicians to kill our rail lines. Don’t let them get away with it!
Maybe you can play a role in saving your own metaphorical Blue Water Line, too. If there is a beleaguered shortline near you, give it all the support you can. If for no other reason than if I am in your neck of the woods, I want to ride one of your little trains, just like I want you to have the option to ride mine.
Labels: Save the little old train