Train station in Courtenay needs to be repaired

THE COURTENAY TRAIN Station's Wayne Murphy says the station's roof has been leaking for five or six years. The damage on the ceiling behind him is on the main floor; the upper floor where the caretaker lives has much more extensive damage.
— image credit: Renee Andor

One of Courtenay's heritage buildings needs some serious TLC before its big birthday next year.

The Courtenay Train Station's roof has been leaking for the past five or six years, according to station master Wayne Murphy, who says the leaks are causing significant damage inside the building.

"It's getting wrecked," he says of the walls and ceilings where the water damage is showing. "And it's 100 years old next year, so that's why we want to get it in good shape, to celebrate 100 years."

Built in 1914, the station was given heritage status by the City of Courtenay in 2002.

During a tour of the building, Murphy pointed out an area of damaged ceiling on the main floor, but upstairs, where caretaker Dixon Hiscock lives, looks much, much worse.

Hiscock doesn't use the overhead light in his bedroom anymore because the water damage around the bulb is so bad he's worried about turning it on. He's had to move his bed three times because he keeps waking up with water leaking onto it and his closet has a sizable hole in the ceiling from water damage.

Murphy notes there's other things in need of attention, too, like what he described as 'the river' running underneath the building.

Graham Bruce of the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF), which owns the building, says he's known about the leaking roof for quite some time, but with the foundation's limited financial and human resources, he can only do so much at once, and he's been busy focusing on re-establishing passenger service between Courtenay and Victoria.

Now that a new service agreement is being negotiated with VIA Rail, five regional districts have approved funding for bridge repairs on the track and the provincial and federal governments have committed $15 million toward restoring the service, Bruce says the ICF is looking at the train stations themselves.

"We had an inspection done of the Parksville station and in the next little while here we'll have an inspection done of the Courtenay station because, what we want to understand before we go and put a brand new roof on there is what's the whole state of repair for the building itself, foundation-wise and everything," he explains. "In the meantime, it's been unfortunate because they're leaking — we know that — but it's just something that we have to work on in kind of a systematic way."

He says the ICF will make every effort to fix up the heritage building rather than building a new station, but the ICF is awaiting the building inspection for now.

"Then we will have to develop a plan for it, how you go about the fundraising for it ... there's just a huge amount of energy and community support needed to make those things happen," he adds.

Meanwhile, Murphy notes the Courtenay Train Station houses the Comox Valley Directions Society office, the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Comox Valley office and a counsellor/therapist's office. Between AA, NA (Narcotics Anonymous), and bible study meetings, space at the station is used six nights a week.

Murphy and over 20 other members of the Comox Valley Directions Society chipped in about $23,000, which came from their own pockets to fix the building when they moved in back in 1995. They revamped the building with baseboard heating, paint and various other upgrades.

VIA Rail covered some costs after the project got moving as well, according to Murphy.

He notes the building was "in shambles" when they moved in, and he hopes to get it fixed up again, with the roof as a priority since the work done inside the building years ago is being damaged by the leaks.

Bruce says the ICF will do what it can to keep space available for the building users after rail service is up and running.

If everything goes smoothly, according to Bruce, work on the tracks should begin in April, with part of the passenger service restored by spring 2014 and full service restored by that summer.

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