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Dateline Cowichan: Rail crossing helps develop downtown

Mayor Jim Quaife tied by rope at the corner of Station and Craig streets during Bonanza Day in 1969. - courtesy Cowichan Valley Museum and Archive
Mayor Jim Quaife tied by rope at the corner of Station and Craig streets during Bonanza Day in 1969.
— image credit: courtesy Cowichan Valley Museum and Archive

When Jim Quaife was mayor of Duncan, he was young, good-looking, had a mile-wide smile and a penchant for calling all young female reporters Smiley.

Last fall, he reminded me of council’s role in the early 1969 removal of a Duncan eyesore and the installation of a third downtown railroad crossing. For years, Duncan’s downtown face had been disfigured by the switching yard in the Coronation Avenue area.

Traffic congestion worsened rapidly because the transport department and the CPR were reluctant to grant Duncan a badly-needed third crossing over four pairs of tracks, Quaife explained. Alderman Martin Lukaitis pressed hard for the track removal. “The development of the city depended largely on the removal of the tracks,” he said when approval finally came after four years of negotiations with the CPR.

A CPR railroad crew moved in to take out the surplus tracks in February 1969. “The lifting of 3,500 feet of railroad track is giving the city a new lease on life,” Quaife said. “This is a red letter day for Duncan.” The third crossing was officially dedicated and opened for traffic later that year, meaning room for more vehicles to park along Canada Avenue.

1969: drama

Scene-stealers in Duncan Musical Club’s Jack and the Beanstalk, postponed several weeks due to ice and snow, were Roswynne Barnes as Snoopy, Margaret Rose playing Bratilda and Harold Proctor in the role of Miss Prim.

1969: flights

At a special meeting of Duncan Flying Club members, Joe Howse was elected president. Included in the club’s new executive were Bernard Wadsworth, vice-president; Gail Wadsworth, secretary; and Marion Achurch, treasurer.

1969: goodbyes

A farewell party convened by Mrs. D. Millin, Mrs. S. Ruegg and Mrs. V. McArther was held in the cocktail lounge of the Crofton Hotel for departing residents Mr. and Mrs. A. Flawse. Their gift: hand-cut crystal glasses in cornflower design.

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