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Cornwall Street Railway Light & Power Co.
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Streetcar and
Freight Operations

Photo Gallery

Electric Railway
Equipment Roster

CSR 35 Trolley Coach

Reference Material

Preserved Equipment

Modelling the CSRL&P

Cornwall, Ontario, Canada

Revised October 22, 2009


The Cornwall Electric Street Railway Company (1896 - 1902)
Cornwall Street Railway Light and Power Company (1902 - 1971)


Thomas Alva Edison arrived in Cornwall in 1884 to conduct experiments with electric illumination in the Canada Mills weaving sheds of Canadian Coloured Cottons, power being furnished by a steam driven generator. It was significant at the time because Edison's installation was the first electrical incandescent lighting system to be put into operation in Canada. The experiment was a huge success. Coincidently, Charles V. VanDepoele also successfully demonstrated Canada's first electric railway in Toronto that same year. These events aroused the interest of then Mayor James Leitch, and Wilbur R. Hitchcock, to the point where they would play an important part in bringing streetcar service to Cornwall.

In 1887 the Stormont Electric Light & Power Co. was formed to supply electricty to Cornwall and the surrounding area. In 1896, ten years after a failed attempt to initiate a streetcar service in Cornwall, the Cornwall Electric Street Railway Company was formed. Service began July 1 with four single-truck cars consisting of two open bench cars and two closed cars. The initial route, Pitt Street, was 1.5 miles long and ran south along Pitt Street from the Grand Trunk Railway station to Water Street, turning east on Water to Brennam's Corners. The Second Street route ran from St. Lawrence Park, in Cornwall's east end, along Montreal Road to Marlborough Street, north on Marlborough to Second, west on Second to the Toronto Paper Company mill in the west end. This line was approximately three miles in length. Ridership grew quickly necessitating the purchase of two additional cars in 1897.

In order to generate more revenue, freight service was begun in 1899. One freight locomotive was purchased new to start the service with a second being added the following year. Cornwall had a unique freight switching service whereby freight cars were taken, by electric locomotives, from the GTR (later Canadian National) yards, and the **Ottawa and New York Railway Co., to the Toronto Paper Co., Canadian Coloured Cottons, as well as other local industries. Mail was also carried from the GTR station to the post office.

In spite of what appeared to be a prosperous situation, the railway was somewhat ahead of its time for a town the size of Cornwall. The company soon found itself in such financial difficulties that in 1902 the bondholders (The Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada) were forced to foreclose. This put Sun Life in the railway business. The company was reorganized as the Cornwall Street Railway Light and Power Co. Ltd. and the charter of 1902 gave the new company not only the power to operate a passenger and freight switching service, but also to distribute light, heat and power, which feature of the charter proved very useful several years later.

Problems continued to plague Sun Life and in 1905 it decided to purchase the Stormont Electric Light & Power Co. Ltd., which was more prosperous. By sharing overhead costs such as offices, personnel, poles for overhead wires and trolley operation, the two companies were able to survive.

A 1915 ruling by the Ontario Railway Board outlawing the operation of open cars with running boards resulted in the three open cars being rebuilt as closed cars. Over the years, several second hand passenger cars and freight locomotives were acquired. Older equipment was then either scrapped, rebuilt, or sold to other railways.

As time went by, more industries established themselves in the Cornwall area. In 1918 the Glengarry & Stormont Railroad (later to come under control of the Canadian Pacific Railway) built a spur line to the middle of the city.

Like most public transit systems, ridership declined following the end of World War II. As well, the streetcars had suffered from heavy use during the war years. The decision was made to replace the electric streetcar system with trolley coaches. All rail passenger service ended on July 27, 1949 with the usual final run ceremonies taking place at the car barns. Car 25 made the funeral run, painted black with moons, and stars, and other decorations. A Cornwall Street Railway official, dressed as Father Time, rode around the Belt Line on the roof of the car. This was followed by one of the new trolley coaches.

Freight operations continued to be provided by the electric freight motors until the line was acquired by the Canadian National Railways in the fall of 1971. C.N.R. diesels soon replaced the electrics with final electric operation taking place on a cold, rainy, Saturday October 9, 1971.


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CSR 4 CSR 8 CSR 9 CSR 11 CSR 14 CSR 35 CSR B2
(click on thumbnail for larger view)

For more C.S.R.L.&P. images visit:

and scroll down to
Cornwall Street Railway, Light & Power
andCornwall Street Railway
Courtesy of

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  • 100 Years of Service - Cornwall Electric
    - Karen Carter-Edwards - Cornwall Electric, Cornwall ON, 1987, ISBN 0-9692908-0-2
  • Adam Beck - James Sturgis - Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Don Mills ON, 1982, ISBN 0-88902-246-1
  • Cornwall Street Railway: An Illustrated History of the Transit Operations of the Cornwall Street Railway
    ==Light and Power Company

    - Anthony Clegg and Omer Lavallee - Railfare DC Books, Pickering ON, 2007,
    =ISBN 978-1-897190-26-5 (HC), 978-1-897190-25-8 (SC)
  • Electric Locomotive Rosters - edited by Robert J Wayner - Wayner Publications, New York NY, 1965
  • Interurban Electric Locomotives From Baldwin-Westinghouse
    - Joseph A. Strapac - Shade Tree Books, Bellflower CA, 2001, ISBN 0-930742-22-2
  • Lines of Country: An Atlas of Railway and Waterway History in Canada
    - Christopher Andreae - The Boston Mills Press, Erin ON, 1997, ISBN 1-55046-133-8
  • On a Streak of Lightning: Electric Railways in Canada
    - J. Edward Martin - Studio E, Delta BC, 1994, ISBN 0-920716-03-2
  • The Birney Car - Harold E. Cox

    View a full copy of The Birney Car on-line,
    or the page listing the Cornwall Street Railway cars.

    (Please note that each page is its own GIF file which may take a while
    to download depending on the type of internet connection you have.)

  • The Railways of Cornwall (Ontario, Canada) Before Y2K: The Last Moccasin
    - Maurice J. Lafontaine - self-published, Cornwall ON, 2000
  • The Trolley Coach In North America - (Interurbans Special 59)
    - Mac Sebree and Paul Ward - Interurbans / Ira L. Swett, Cerritos CA, 1974, LCCC 74-20367
  • Transit's Stepchild The Trolley Coach - (Interurbans Special 58)
    - Mac Sebree and Paul Ward - Interurbans / Ira L. Swett, Cerritos CA, 1973, LCCC 73-84356


  • And All The Trumpets Sounded - (short story of the end of CSR electric operations)
    - *Canadian Rail - No. 238 November 1971
  • Canada's Last Common Carrier Electric Railway
    - Upper Canada Railway Society 'Newsletter' June 1972 page 87
  • Cornwall Electric Locomotive Number 7
    - Canadian Rail No. 408 January-February 1989 page 16 (photo and history of first 7)
  • Cornwall Equipment Notes
    - Upper Canada Railway Society 'Newsletter' November 1959 page 8
  • Cornwall St. Rwy. (includes roster for 1948-1954 era)
    - Traction & Models August 1967 page 11
  • Cornwall Street Railway Light & Power Co. Ltd. - NMRA Bulletin February 1969 page 6
  • Cornwall Street Railway Light & Power Co. Ltd. (final electric operations)
    - Traction & Models December 1971 page 6
  • The Restoration of Courtauld's No. 7
    - Canadian Rail No. 461 November-December 1997 page 167 (photos and history)
  • Sir Adam Beck and the Hydro Radial Proposals - John F. Due
    - Upper Canada Railway Society - Bulletin 50, 1958

In addition to issuing periodic 'Bulletins', the Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, produced their monthly 'Newsletter'. This first appeared in 1945 and contained news of railway and public transit, primarily in and around the Toronto and Southern Ontario area. Numerous issues included items pertaining to the Cornwall Street Railway Light and Power Co. Early in 1973, it became a bi-monthly. Beginning with the January-February 1976 issue, the name was changed to 'Rail and Transit'. Copies of the 'Newsletter', and 'Rail and Transit', are on file at the Metro Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON, M4W 2G8.

* Canadian Rail is published by the Canadian Railroad Historical Association (C.R.H.A.), Montreal, Quebec.

An index of articles can be found at C.R.H.A. Archives and collections.


  • Inter-Urbans Of Eastern Canada - Sunday River Productions (34 minutes) VHS / also on DVD
    includes footage of electric freight operations on the Cornwall Street Railway, Grand River Railway,
    Lake Erie & Northern Railway and Oshawa Railway, as well as freight and passenger operations on
    the London & Port Stanley Railway and Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto Railway.

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  • 11(2) - Freight motor - was sold to the Ohio Railway Museum, Worthington, OH in 1972 and restored as
    Youngstown & Ohio River R.R. 7, its original owner and number.
  • 12(2) - Freight motor - was sold to The Shore Line Trolley Museum, East Haven, CT in 1972.
    (A photo of this locomotive, loaded on a flatcar for movement to the museum, can be seen on page 229
    issue #246 July 1972 Canadian Rail, published by the Canadian Railroad Historical Association.)
  • 14 - Freight motor - was sold to the Illinois Railway Museum, Union, IL May 1972.
  • 16 - Freight motor - to the O.E.R.H.A.'s Halton County Radial Railway museum, Milton, ON.
    Preserved as Lake Erie & Northern Railway 335.
  • 17 - Freight motor - Placed on permanent display in Cornwall following retirement.

  • 4(2) - Maintenance car - The City of Cornwall had plans to preserve this car. It was stored behind the
    City Transit building for several years before it suddenly disappeared, possibly scrapped.
  • B-1 - Snow sweeper - Originally intended to be displayed in the City of Cornwall. In 1972, it was instead moved to
    the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology (now the Canada Science & Technology Museum),
    Ottawa, ON, where at last report it remains in indoor storage.
  • B-2 - Snow sweeper - was sold to the Seashore Trolley Museum, Kennebunkport, ME in 1972.
    This car may also have carried, or was referred to as, #10.
  • 3152 - Snow plow - was sold to the The Shore Line Trolley Museum, East Haven, CT in 1972.
    This car may also have carried, or was referred to as, #8.

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  • Plan for Springfield Terminal 15 and 20 [later Cornwall 7(2) and 14] - Model Railroader December 1962
    page 42
  • In the mid to late 1970's, Bay State Models of Groveland, MA produced an O scale model of the Eastern Massachusetts lightweights. The CSRL&P purchased at least one of these cars which I believe became #25. The models had an epoxy body, wood floor, metal steps & roof details. (add Tracton & Models August 1977 page 25)
  • A number of companies have released models of the Birney car over the years, ranging from plastic to brass, in most scales.

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With the desire to abandon rail passenger service, fifteen Canadian Car & Foundry trolley coaches, model T44, were purchased in 1948. Three model C-36 gas powered buses also came from the same builder. The C-36's were needed to augment the trolley coaches in rush hour service. Had the system not been owned by an electric power company it is doubtful that Cornwall, with a population of a little over 25,000, would have seen trolley coach operation. It was the smallest city in Canada to operate trolley coaches.

The first trolley coach was delivered on December 23, 1948. Service started June 8, 1949 on the Second Street line, the Belt Line on July 27, 1949, and the Courtaulds line on December 24, 1949. The trolley coaches were painted cream and vermillion. For a more detailed look at the inauguration of trolley coach service in the City of Cornwall, see Canadian Transportation August 1949 page 443.

The Courtaulds line was abandoned in the mid-1960's while the Belt Line was re-equipped with motorized buses in 1967. This left the Second Street line which continued to operate with trolley coaches until abandoned May 31, 1970. Coach 106 was the last one to arrive at the barn at 6:02 p.m. ending 20 years and 10 months of trolley coach service in Cornwall. At this point, the Cornwall Street Railway Light and Power Co. Ltd. had no desire to remain in the transit business. Taken over by the city of Cornwall, the name was changed to Cornwall Transit.

Fleet # MakeModelSerial #BuiltRemarks
100 - 114CC&FBrill T445550 - 55641948 
115CC&FBrill T4450001946ex-demonstrator,
Purchased by CSR in 1951.


100-104, 106-108 and 110-113 were sold to the Toronto Transit Commission in September 1970 to provide parts for the trolley coach rebuilding program. 105, 109, 114 and 115 were scrapped prior to May 1970.


CSR 105 CSR 109
(click on thumbnail for larger view)

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Adult Fare Ticket
Student Fare Ticket
Child Fare Ticket

To learn more about the area once served by Cornwall Street Railway, Light & Power Co.,
visit the City of Cornwall web site

Cornwall LACAC

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