Monday, August 16, 2010

Spotlight on Pole Railway Car

Pole railway car c. 1895 (on exhibit on the lower grounds)

Pole railways were used at the turn of the 20th century by a few logging companies on Vancouver Island, including three in the Cowichan region.  The rail cars had concave or cupped wheels that ran along wooden poles instead of steel rails.  Pole railways were designed to be temporary and were a cheaper alternative to steel railways, costing $500 per mile to build compared with $2500 per mile for a conventional one.

"Old Betsy", Shawnigan Lake Lumber Co. No. 1, a 12-ton Climax locomotive
The Shawnigan Lumber Co. used a  pole railway to transport logs around Shawnigan Lake (on Southern Vancouver Island) starting in 1900.  The cars were originally pulled by a team of horses, but eventually the company used a steam locomotive named "Old Betsy" to pull the cars.

Pole railways were not widely used in the forest industry on the coast.  They were built to be temporary and were only well suited for gently sloping and swampy terrain.