The Last Spike
In 1883, the British Columbia Government appealed to Robert Dunsmuir to build a railway between Esquimalt and Nanaimo. In return, Dunsmuir received a substantial amount of money and a land grant that amounted to 20% of the land on Vancouver Island. The project took 3 ½ years. The 72 miles of track, which was laid starting from both ends, met at Mile 25 (Cliffside, Shawnigan Lake). In 1886, the inaugural train left Esquimalt with Robert Dunsmuir, Sir John A. MacDonald, their wives and other dignitaries. At Cliffside, Sir John ceremoniously placed the last spike. He used a silver hammer and pounded a gold spike. A cairn was built at the site to commemorate the event. In 1986, the 100th anniversary of the E & N was celebrated with a second plaque. The original cairn and two plaques can be seen after a short hike north along the rails from Cliffside Road.