Please enjoy the history of the building that the Ladysmith Waterfront Arts Centre Gallery is housed in. We would like to show our appreciation of the history of the area and the building. This information was provided to us by the Ladysmith Historical Society written by Kitt Wilmot.
In 1934, a violent windstorm blew down thousands of trees on the hills behind Ladysmith; in 1936, the Comox Logging & Railway Co. Moved equipment into the area to harvest them while still marketable, building truck roads and a railway from the Nanaimo Lakes area to Ladysmith where the logs were dumped into the harbour using a humdirgen (just outside this building alongside No. 1 loco) to tip the logs off the wagons.
The logs were then boomed and towed to the Fraser River to Canadian Western Lumber Co.'s sawmill. The whole organization was capable of handling a million feet of logs daily.
To maintain the large fleet of locos, railcars & ancillary equipment, Comox built a large machine shop which was carefully planned; in an interview, Comox Vice President & General Manager, Robert Filberg said, "We just took our time. We knew that some day we would want to put in a real plant at Ladysmith to take care of our growing business there, but we didn't hurry; whenever we hit on a new idea we put it down; whenever we made a mistake, we took not of it. And we finally got around to building our new layout to handle under one roof, all the complicated terminal operations of our Company at Ladysmith; we consulted the record and drew our plans according to past experience, incorporating the new ideas we had gathered on the way and avoiding the mistakes we'd previously encountered."
"The structure was 203 feet long by 84 feet wide with a height of 36 feet, of solid mill construction, with galvanized iron reinforcing the walls. The repair shop was big enough to accommodate seven large logging trucks simultaneously, and a double set of railroad tracks led into the north end of the building so that two locomotives or cars could be repaired or overhauled at once. The locomotive pit was 70 feet long, & the roundhouse 24 feet by 70 feet. Overhead, a 7 1/2 ton crane, made by the company's own crew, operates on a 40 foot-wide craneway.
Machines throughout the building were all individually driven. The welding shop piped juice all over the building so that individual jobs didn't have to be taken to the shop but could be handled almost anywhere in the machine shop. There was also a fully equipped engine repair shop and tire plant. Air compression was provided by a 315 c.f. Schramm motor.
The machine shop extended to the roof, and occupied the western half of the building. The eastern portion was in two stories and was subdivided among the various departments such as the store room where about everything needed in a logging camp or railroad operation was not only stored by catalogued, so that the attendant could tell simply by turning up a card index system the extent of the company's stocks'.
Comox left about 1986 and the grant from the Expo 1986 Legacy was used to refurbish the building and subsequently the Ladysmith Railway Historical Society used the shop to restore locos & wagons & also established a museum of railway artifacts on the top floor; due to financing & expansion problems, the shop & museum were closed.
The building has been occupied by several businesses, notably Seward Kayaks who build kayaks, & sundry small business e.g. Island Wood Pelleters, O'Hurley's Wooden Boats, Island Signs, Island Outdoor Centre & currently Southwood Products Inc. The Ladysmith Arts Council began operating the Ladysmith Waterfront Arts Gallery in September 2006.
Thank you for your interest in the Comox Logging & Railway Co. Machine Shop Expo Building in Ladysmith, BC
For more information on the history of Ladysmith visit... www.ladysmithhistoricalsociety.org
© 2006 Kit Willmot