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British Columbia \ Baynes Sound Colliery Co.

Baynes Sound Colliery Company.

I n the 1860s, a coal seam appeared on the shore of Baynes Sound, near the Tsable River. Canadian businessmen in Victoria immediately started resource development from their offices, far removed from the site. The Colonial Secretary of the colony at Vancouver Island received a request to record the discovery in June 1865, and by November, the Baynes Sound Coal Company had formed and received a six-month lease for 7040 acres along the main channel of the Tsable River. In March of 1866, the company got a three-month extension, but failed to pay the fee.

Immediately accusations arose that the company had no money and was only interested in selling land rights to San Francisco. These suspicions proved true and 6400 acres were sold to the Black Diamond Coal Co. of San Francisco. However, the British Colonist reported that the government had 'sold' the property and predicted trouble as the Baynes Sound Coal Co. claimed they had legal posession of the land. Despite some controversy, mining engineer John Landale and four 'practical miners' from San Francisco landed on the sound on September 22, 1866. Thankfully, no violence ensued.

In 1875 the Baynes Sound Coal Co. reorganized as the Baynes Sound Colliery Co., Ltd. and the company began developing the mine. During 1876, thirty men led by A. J. Mclellan constructed a wharf on the Sound, and a tramway up to the mine. Just four miles (6 km) in length, the railway crossed 23 bridges, each ranging from 24 to 200 feet long. A Baldwin 8-ton locomotive named "Quadra" was ordered along with twenty-one 4-ton coal cars. In early November the tramway was put into operation, capable of moving 300 tons per day. The entire cost to build the wharf and railway was $16,500.

The company also developed the waterfront near the wharf. A sawmill was constructed to supply lumber for a new town called Quadra. In January of 1877 Quadra contained a post office, hotel, store, and a saloon. Fifty-five men who worked at the mine lived in this small community. The new town was well on the way towards becoming an important settlement in the area.

Within two months 600 tons of coal were extracted, but only 98 tons of it was sold. During 1877 the price of coal dropped and the company found difficulty selling the coal which had been mined months before. Depressed coal prices were blamed, but insufficient capital and high costs may have played a part in the closure. Whatever the cause, all machinery was removed from the mine, meaning financial disaster for the shareholders of the Baynes Sound Colliery Co. By October the mine employed only seven men. That year the mine produced nearly 1,500 tons of coal but was only able to sell 600 tons. 1

The financial outlook did not improve during 1878. The company produced an additional 200 tons of coal before operations ceased. The locomotive "Quadra" wound up in the hands of an equipment dealer in San Francisco before being sold to the Lyon Mining & Milling Company in Nevada in 1881. Renamed the "Ernie Birdsall", the little 0-4-0T it operated there a year before it was moved to California to become San Joaquin & Sierra Nevada Railroad #1 "Ernie Birdsall".

The mine remained dormant until the 20th century when it was reopened by Canadian Collieries (Dunsmuir) Limited as the T'Sable River Mine in 1947. Through the 1950s the company employed between 200 and 230 men, with an annual output of 150,000 – 200,00 tons. Output did not live up to projections and the mine closed in April 1960 after 11 years of operation. A group of experienced miners formed the Comox Mining Company Limited and re-opened the mine on a smaller scale. Comox operated the mine for another six years before operations ended for good. After 17 years operation the T'Sable mine had produced nearly 2 million tons of coal, a mere 8% of what had been projected in the 1940s.

Revised: December 31, 2015.
1. Report of the Minister of Mines. Sessional Papers. First Session, Third Parlament of the Province of British Columba. 1878.

Canada: An Encyclopedia of the country, Volume III. Toronto, The Linscott Publishing Company. 1898.

Reference Material Available Online:


Annual Report of the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending in December 1875. Minister of Mines' Office, British Columbia. Google Books Icon

Annual Report of the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending in December 1877. Minister of Mines' Office, British Columbia. Google Books Icon


Collected Baynes Sound Colliery Photographs.
Images collected from private collections, libraries and historical societies.

British Columbia \ Baynes Sound Colliery Co.
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