With James Douglas’ 1856 decree that all those seeking Fraser River gold must register at what is now Victoria’s Malahat Building on Wharf Street came the pressing demand for transportation from Victoria up the Fraser. This sparked the beginning of Victoria’s ship building industry. At first barges were constructed to tow miners and their gear across the Strait of Georgia and up the shoaling Fraser River. Sidewheel then sternwheel steamboats soon followed. This shipyard industry established Victoria as the regional transportation capital and would lead to a succession of coastal steamship lines that would headquarter out of Victoria for the century.
With one of the world’s great sources of wood on their doorstep and a growing demand to service the rugged coast, many shipyards popped up around the harbour. Steam engines were imported, primarily from England while boilers, their plumbing and drive mechanisms were crafted at Albion Iron Works, one of Victoria’s first industrial enterprises. The demand for motive power led to Albion opening their own ways in the upper harbour. Vessels from shipbuilders around the harbour were towed to those Albion ways to be powered.
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