Glen Mofford’s new book, Along the E&N, captures the history of Vancouver Island through the lens of its various hotels and saloons that lined the now-dormant rail line.
Along the E&N tells the story of 32 establishments from Esquimalt to Campbell River. Of all the establishments detailed in the book, only nine remain today.
“It was actually going to be a book about 100 hotels on Vancouver Island, and then I realized rather quickly as I was doing my research that it’s a lot of work,” Mofford said. “I boiled it down to 32 and I tied it together with the E&N, because they’re both nostalgic … When you pick this book up, that’s your ticket on to the E&N train 140 to 160 years ago, on a steam train from Esquimalt to Campbell River with 32 stops along the way.”
While the book does a lot to detail the various establishments along the E&N, Mofford also weaves interesting anecdotes and the history of the communities where the hotels existed. Chapters detail a murder-suicide on Mount Sicker, a bartending dog in Bowser, and visits from John D. Rockefeller to a Chemainus hotel.
One chapter details the history of the Abbotsford Hotel that stood in Ladysmith from 1900-1935. The hotel was originally built by Andrew J. McMurtrie in the town of Wellington, which was once a booming coal town between Nanaimo and Ladysmith. When James Dunsmuir founded Ladysmith in 1900, the hotel was deconstructed and transported on the E&N to Ladysmith where it was reconstructed.
“That’s kind of neat in itself, especially if you’re not from around here, or even if you are and you’re not familiar with that story,” Mofford said. “They took the whole hotel and put it on flat cars of the E&N, which was really appropriate for this book, then they put it all back together again, and it did fairly well for awhile.”
Mofford said he found more history in Ladysmith than he could fit in his book, and wishes he could have written about more of Ladysmith’s hotels.
“Ladysmith was a lot more than you see today, although Ladysmith is one of those happy stories, because it’s turned out pretty good,” Mofford said. “These were central places, and there was a lot going on there.”
Along the E&N is Mofford’s second book. His first book, Aqua Vitae, follows the history of drinking establishments in Victoria. Both were published by Touchwood Editions. Mofford is currently travelling Vancouver Island doing readings and presentations. He’s currently deciding whether to write his next book on drinking establishments of Nanaimo, Vancouver, or B.C. as a whole.
Outside of his books, Mofford writes for his blog, raincoasthistory.blogspot.com, and contributes regularly to his Facebook page, as well as the Facebook group Historic Hotels and Pubs of British Columbia. Along the E&N is available wherever books are sold on Vancouver Island, including Salamander Books on 1st Ave.