Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hamilton Streetcars


As with many early public transit systems, service in Hamilton began with horsecars. The service was incorporated in 1873, but it was not until May 1874 when the first horsedrawn car travelled over just three miles of track. Six cars, capable of carrying 14 to 16 passengers each, were acquired to start the service with four more added shortly thereafter.
The first line ran from Stuart Street West, near the what was then the Grand Trunk Railway passenger station, west to James then north to the city's commercial centre at Gore Park. The line was soon extended west along King Street to the Crystal Palace grounds (later named Victoria Park), to Wentworth Street which was the eastern city limits at the time.
In 1880, the HSR headquarters was located at Bay and Stuart Streets where 50 horses were kept along with 20 streetcars. The horses worked four hours a day, logging 16 to 20 miles. They were retired after five years service.
By 1890, the HSR was operating on 12 miles of track, 45 cars, 9 sleighs and 160 horses. Electrification of the street railway was also being seriously considered. With the original operating franchise set to expire in 1893, a new 20-year franchise was obtained well in advance of the expiry date. Following approval in March 1892, work to electrify the system was begun and new trackage added. Ten closed and five open horsecars had their bodies remodelled and placed on new electric trucks. New electric cars were also ordered, however, it is not known for sure whether these came from the Ottawa Car Company, Jones' Sons Car Company of Watervliet NY, or all from Jones. In any case, June 29, 1892 is the date the first electric streetcar was operated in Hamilton.
In 1899, the HSR was bought out by the Hamilton Cataract interests. The system continued to expand and more cars were added to the fleet, several being acquired second-hand.
The last rail service expansion occurred on December 20, 1927. By then the motor bus had become more than a threat. On July 30, 1929, buses took over the Bartonville line on King Street East.
The June 1940 issue of Canadian Transportation, in an article titled 'The Transit Service in Hamilton', states that 72 passenger street cars, all of all-steel construction, and fitted for one-man operation, as well as 33 buses were in operation when it was written. The article goes on to say that the company (HSR) has 27.97 route miles of electric railway constituted by the following routes: -

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