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Kinsol Trestle

Cowichan Valley Trail, Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2009/03/11

Kinsol Trestle, archival; Cowichan Valley Museum and Archives, 1998.11.11.1
Kinsol Trestle, 1920
Kinsol Trestle, CVRD; Cowichan Valley Regional District, 2011
Kinsol Trestle showing rehabilitation work
Kinsol Trestle, CVRD; Cowichan Valley Regional District, 2011
Kinsol Trestle showing deck after rehabilitation

Other Name(s)

Kinsol Trestle
Koksilah River Trestle

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1914/01/01 to 1920/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2011/07/28

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Kinsol Trestle is a large timber crossing over the Koksilah River. It is located in a rural part of the Cowichan Valley Regional District near Shawnigan Lake on southeastern Vancouver Island. Originally constructed as a railway trestle in 1920 and partially rebuilt several times over the years, the trestle was abandoned when the rail line closed in 1979. It stood unused for almost 30 years until it was rehabilitated for recreational trail use beginning in 2008. The Kinsol Trestle was reopened in July 2011 and is now part of the Cowichan Valley Trail system. The historic place includes the trestle structure, its concrete foundations, the river banks beneath and nearby, and the two approaches at the top of the banks.

Heritage Value

The Kinsol Trestle has heritage value for its scientific and engineering features, for its socio-economic and historical associations, and for its aesthetic and spiritual qualities.

The Kinsol Trestle is thought to be the highest and largest surviving timber trestle in Canada. Part of a permanent line begun in 1911 by the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway, in direct competition with the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, the Kinsol Trestle was begun in 1914 and finally completed in 1920 by the Canadian National Railway, successor to the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway. The present assembly replaced the original high-level deck Howe Truss in a pragmatic response to damage by high waters in 1931. The patchwork of repairs and evidence of the changing techniques of repair and replacement are representative of continuing trestle maintenance and speak to long-term usage.

As a work of engineering, the Kinsol Trestle has heritage value as an example of the manner in which Canadian railway companies built large timber structures across deep ravines. The technology used tried and true components and assembly methods combined in a unique configuration that responded to particular site conditions. The railway's engineers used large old-growth Douglas-fir timbers to create a hybrid structure that combines eight parallel low-level Howe Trusses (built in 1934) resting on concrete piers and supporting six decks of framed trestlework. The spans at either side of the trusses consist of multi-decked timber bents. A total of 46 bents combine for a length of 614 feet and a maximum height of 145 feet, all aligned in a seven-degree curve.

As a relic of twentieth-century transportation history, the trestle has value as an illustration of the nation's optimism about resource extraction--primarily timber resources. It provides a window into the logging industry of that era, and to the anticipated agricultural settlement in the Cowichan Valley and the southern interior of Vancouver Island. The trestle's abandonment as a railway structure and its subsequent rehabilitation as part of the recreational trail system represents the recent eclipse of the resource economy by the leisure and tourism economies in this region.

The trestle also has aesthetic value for the elegance of its scale and gentle curve, for the dramatic impact on the visitor of 'discovering' the trestle from the two approaches, and for the patina of its weathered and deteriorating timbers.

The historic place can be said to have spiritual value for the sense of awe evoked by its scale and beauty, for its authenticity, and for our appreciation of the skills of the work crews who assembled and maintained it. Remaining evidence of the wilful fire damage to the deck in 1988 reminds us of the period of abandonment and the changing values of society.

Source: Cowichan Valley Regional District

Character-Defining Elements

Key character-defining elements of the Kinsol Trestle include:

- its immense scale and complexity
- common techniques of timber trestle construction evident in the structure, including: the multi-decked framed and braced bents with inclined outer posts and intermediate sills and girts (struts) defining the intermediate decks (storeys); the bracing together of groups of bents to form towers; the eight Howe trusses; the caps and stringers that form the top deck; and the mud sills at the base
- large timbers of coastal Douglas-fir, discoloured by preservatives, weathering and the patina of age
- wide, curved, flat bridge deck with strong horizontal emphasis
- barrel stands to support water barrels used for fire-fighting
- complex connections, some with metal hardware such as shoes and washers
- limited use of concrete for piers, abutments and foundations
- unique numbers hand-chiselled into primary timbers
- tool and blade marks on the timbers
- inspection ladders
- signs of damage and neglect, including evidence of the damage from the 1988 arson
- the Koksilah River flowing below the trestle
- the steep banks on either side of the river
- clean, uncluttered approaches along the former rail right-of-way
- dramatic views of the curved trestle from both approaches
- view of the trestle from the banks of the river



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (BC)

Recognition Statute

Local Government Act, s.954

Recognition Type

Community Heritage Register

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

2008/01/01 to 2011/01/01
1934/01/01 to 1934/01/01
1931/01/01 to 1931/01/01
1920/01/01 to 1979/01/01
1979/01/01 to 2008/01/01
1988/01/01 to 1988/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Technology and Engineering
Developing Economies
Communications and Transportation
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Sports and Leisure

Function - Category and Type


Pedestrian Way
Bridge, Tunnel or Other Engineering Work
Historic or Interpretive Site


Station or Other Rail Facility

Architect / Designer



Canadian National Railway

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Source: Cowichan Valley Regional District

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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