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Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway Roundhouse

The Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway was incorporated in 1883 as part of the federal government's promise to provide rail service to British Columbia.

A contract to construct the rail line was awarded to Robert Dunsmuir (recognized by the Government of Canada as a person of national significance at Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria, also a national historic site of Canada).

Engine maintenance for the rail line began at a small, one-stall shed in Victoria West, with operations transferring to the Wellington terminus in 1898, when the northern station was completed. With the purchase of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway line and land grants by Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1905, and expansion of the line during the early years of 1900, a new roundhouse was built at the southern terminus, along with other improvements. This expansion was designed to take advantage of rail and water transportation links within Victoriaís Inner Harbour.

A contract to construct the roundhouse and ancillary structures was let to E. R. Doe and Brother of Victoria in March, 1913 and the roundhouse, machine shop and boiler, and engine houses were completed by October 1913.

The locomotive house has 10 stalls, with locomotive pits and one drop pit. The machine shop abuts to the back of the end stall and contains two locomotive pits and one drop pit, similar to the locomotive house. Lighting is provided by three large skylights on the roof, together with large sidelights. A blacksmith and boiler shop is a continuation of the machine shop. The engine and boiler room are located in the angle between the machine shop and the locomotive house. The site also includes a car shop and stores building. All structures are made of brick and timber framing, with cement and/or plank flooring. An 85-foot diameter turntable provides locomotive access to the 10-stall roundhouse.

Until the mid-1900s, Canadian Pacific operated about 20 steam locomotives, all of which were serviced at the Russellís Roundhouse.

In the late-1940s, the Vancouver Island operations underwent significant technological change. It was the first of CPRís operations to be fully dieselized, and served as the companyís test area for the new generation of locomotives. The Russellís Roundhouse became the maintenance depot for this new diesel electric technology.

The 1950s saw the introduction of Dayliners - self-propelled passenger cars. Today, Dayliners are still serviced at the Russellís Roundhouse.

The Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway Roundhouse National Historic Site of Canada occupies land traditionally used by the peoples of the Songhees First Nations.

News Release associated with this Backgrounder.