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Duncan Train Station wins national restoration funding competition

Runaway success in The Next Great Save will provide $50,000 for museum fix-ups

By Cameron Welch
February 23, 2023
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Duncan Train Station wins national restoration funding competition

Runaway success in The Next Great Save will provide $50,000 for museum fix-ups

By Cameron Welch
Feb 23, 2023
The 111-year-old station needs some fixing up. Photos from Cowichan Valley Museum via National Trust Canada
The 111-year-old station needs some fixing up. Photos from Cowichan Valley Museum via National Trust Canada
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Duncan Train Station wins national restoration funding competition

Runaway success in The Next Great Save will provide $50,000 for museum fix-ups

By Cameron Welch
February 23, 2023
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Duncan Train Station wins national restoration funding competition
The 111-year-old station needs some fixing up. Photos from Cowichan Valley Museum via National Trust Canada

The Duncan Train Station sits just up the Malahat from Greater Victoria, and now sits atop the podium. On Wednesday it finished in first place in the 2022 Next Great Save competition, in which 10 historic sites try to secure the most votes from the public. The top finisher gets win $50,000 from the National Trust for Canada for retrofitting or otherwise improving and updating heritage places.

The train station was the runaway winner with 76,546 votes, following a call for public support made by its occupant the Cowichan Valley Museum.

Station was a key factor in Duncan’s origin

During the railway buildout that was part of the deal to join BC with Canada, the original plan was to have the station further north. But residents convinced notorious coal and rail baron Robert Dunsmuir and PM John A. Macdonald to build, in 1887, what become known as Duncan’s Crossing. The town expanded around it, and in 1912 the higher-capacity Duncan Train Station replaced the Crossing. The station went on to handle everyday traffic from Island industries and departures and returns from both World Wars before becoming the museum in 1989.

WWI departures from the Duncan station.

Why its stewards want the funding

According to its application, the museum seeks to spruce the station up and make it greener and less expensive. Changes will include replacing old systems with heat pumps, and updating windows and insulation to cut energy use and emissions by an estimated three quarters. That would be followed by repairing and repainting the sides, doors, brick chimneys, gutters and downspouts.

One of several issues with the current state of the building.

The track to victory

The station chugged along to the win after opening a 20,000 vote lead on runner-up La Vieille Maison in Nova Scotia. That second-place finisher, which comes away with $10,000, has been called “the best-preserved example of a post-exile Acadian dwelling in Canada” and is now a museum of early Acadian re-settlers.

In third with 22,368 was another BC train station, the Historic 1916 CNR Hope Station. That station will receive $5,000 toward the goal of relocating it to downtown Hope and making it a visitor centre. The centre would include a museum focusing on the untold stories of the railway including those of the 8,000 Japanese Canadians that passed through it on the way to interment camps such as nearby Tashme.

Fundraisers' goal is to turn the former Hope rail terminal into のぞみ駅 (nozomi-eki) – ‘a station of hope.’  Photo: Tashme Museum via National Trust of Canada

The rest of the pool of contenders ranged from historic houses to a lighthouse to a stone church.

From Island rail past to Island rail future

This verdict giving the station restoration funding comes three weeks before the BC government will make a final decision on whether to fund and restore Island rail service itself. In disuse since it stopped carrying passengers in 2011 and freight in 2014, the line could require hundreds of millions to restart. If rail isn’t returning as of March 14, the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation can return to court to regain control of the railway land originally taken via the Indian Act.

This week the Capital Regional District sent a letter, which also speaks for several other regional districts on the Island, asking the federal government to protect and fund the 295km rail corridor.

More on the Island rail deadline here.

The Duncan Train Station in the year of its opening.
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Cameron Welch
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