Early in the 20th Century almost all of the goods required to keep Victoria operating were barged from Vancouver to Naniamo then freighted to Victoria via the E&N Railway in trains up to 50 cars long. Upon reaching the Esquimalt Yard there were two distribution options: continue by rail over the bridge to Victoria (see 14 on diagramme), or barge to harbour side industries (see 15 on diagramme).
Trains destined for the distribution via Victoria’s Albion Yard had their engines switched to smaller units that could negotiate the tight radius turns required on the Victoria side of the harbour.
The Canadian Pacific Railway purchased the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway (E&N) and constructed the roundhouse complex on the site of E&N’s 1886 Victoria terminus. The complex was completed by in 1913 to serve as the primary servicing facility for E&N’s steam locomotives and rolling stock. In 1949 service switched to diesel maintenance as steam was phased out. After that date the roundhouse service facility for the E & N’s diesels. Trains pulled by lighter engines were marshalled at the complex for hauling goods across the harbour to the Albion Yard that served the Victoria’s industrial district of the time. The complex ceased operation in 2011 when passenger dayliner service was curtailed.
The roundhouse complex is comprised of three sections:
- The turntable, sidings and tracks
- The 10 bay locomotive roundhouse and two attached structures. Locomotives and rolling stock could be moved into the machine shop either through the roundhouse or by a separate track leading off the turntable. The machine shop is divided internally into two sections by a brick partitioning wall. The rear area housed both the blacksmith and the boiler shops.
- Freestanding brick buildings.
A Canadian Historic Site
The roundhouse survives virtually untouched since its construction and was designated a Canadian historic site in 1992. Surrounded by various well-preserved related shops and railway outbuildings, it is a particularly fine example of an industrial structure associated with the steam railway era in Canada.
Bayview Place and Railway Interpretive Center
In its new reincarnation the roundhouse will serve as the historic heart of the registered sustainable, conscientious LEED-ND Bayview neighbourhood. The developer has set aside the two northern bays of the roundhouse to serve as a museum and interpretive center for the historic location. The Roundhouse Marketplace with its grocery-anchor will combine a mix of retail, culture, gathering places.
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