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Hamilton Street Railway - Streetcar Operations
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Revised July 14, 2009


Hamilton, Ontario, Canada



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: -

Belt Line7.82
Burlington-James South7.60
Westdale-James North4.28
Aberdeen-King West4.01
Crosstown (Sanford)1.68

On July 8, 1946, tenders for the sale of the HSR by the Ontario Hydro Electric Power Commission were closed. Three private individuals, one being the President of The Canada Coach Lines Limited, acquired the street railway for $1,400,000. Almost immediately Canada Coach announced plans to abandon the streetcar service in favour of buses.

Thursday August 4, 1949 was the last day of streetcar operation on the Westdale portion of the Burlington-Westdale route. The last car was 504 on run 13, leaving King and James Streets at 1:15 AM (Friday morning), turning the Westdale loop at 1:30 AM for the last time. Track removal on the line began the very next morning.

In 1950, the last of the Preston cars was scrapped. These included 431, 447, 451, 453, 455 and 457. On June 24, 1950, car 523 was struck by a gondola car loaded with scrap metal at the Dofasco TH&B crossing on the Burlington line. Car 523 was overturned on the scene, stripped of useful parts and the body carted away for scrap.

Car 529 has the distinction of being the last car to make a round trip over the Burlington Street route in the early hours of Sunday December 10, 1950, pulling into the carbarn at 1:55 AM. Trolley coaches, which indirectly replaced the Burlington cars, began operation later that same day on Cannon Street.

The end of the streetcar era in Hamilton came in the early hours of April 6, 1951 when the Belt Line route was abondoned, car 519 making the last revenue run. Even though it no longer operated on railway tracks, the name Hamilton Street Railway continued to be used, and is still used today.

Power for the streetcar lines was supplied from the main transformer station located at the main shops on Wentworth Street at 600 volts DC. Track guage was 4 feet 8 1/2 inches.


Industrial Hamilton: A Trail to the Future
Hamilton Transit History
This is an excellent site with a new URL



(click on thumbnail for larger view)

For more pix of H.S.R. streetcars, go to
and scroll down to Hamilton Street Railway




  • Adam Beck - James Sturgis - Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Don Mills ON, 1982, ISBN 0-88902-246-1
  • Canadian Car Builders Series
    - John M. Mills - Upper Canada Railway Society/Ontario Electric Railway Historical Assoc., Toronto ON
    ==This series consists of three seperate volumes:
    ====- No. 1: Ottawa Car Company
    ====- No. 2: Preston Car & Coach Co.
    ====- No. 3: Miscellaneous Builders
  • Cataract Traction - The Railways of Hamilton
    - John Mills - Upper Canada Railway Society/Ontario Electric Railway Historical Assoc., Toronto ON, 1971
  • 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
  • Wooden Cars on Steel Rails: A History of the Crossen Car Companies, Cobourg, Ontario
    - Ted Rafuse - Steampower Publishing, Port Hope ON, 2004, ISBN 0-9685474-1-9


  • HSR 500 - 547 - Upper Canada Railway Society Bulletin 36
  • HSR 500 - 547 - Canadian Railway Modeller - June/July 1994 page 36 (plan & specs.)
  • Abandonment 40 years ago - Streetcars were integral part of Hamilton Street Railway
    - by Larry Partridge - Toronto and York Division of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association
    - The Turnout Number 190-April 1991 page 7
  • Hamilton Street Railway - A Look Back at the Steel City's Streetcars on the 40th Anniversary of Their
    - by Larry Partridge - Toronto and York Division of the Canadian Railroad Historical
    Association Turnout Publications No. 3
  • Hamilton Street Railway/Canada Coach Lines Annual Reports
  • Steel City Traction - Upper Canada Railway Society 'Newsletter' May 1971 page 69
  • The Transit Service in Hamilton - Canadian Transportation June 1940 page 303
  • Fifty Years Ago: Farewell to Steel City Streetcars - Branchline April 2001 page 3

In addition to issuing periodic 'Bulletins', the Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, also 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 Hamilton Street Railway. 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.

The Canadian Railroad Historical Association, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, published a newsletter that contained items pertaining to the Hamilton Street Railway Co. An index of articles, and issues they were in, can be found at C.R.H.A. Archives and collections.


  • Hamilton Transit The Electric Years 1892 - 1994 (30 mins.) - GPS Video #T-015
  • Hamilton - Toronto (Electric Transportation Systems) (60 min) - MacDonald Video


521 at the Halton County Radial Railway Museum Milton, Ontario, Canada


This page is a historical reference dealing only with the electric operations of
The Hamilton Street Railway and is in no way connected with the HSR.
For information about the HSR, or to contact them, please visit the official HSR web site.

Transit History of Hamilton, Ontario


To learn more about the City of Hamilton,
visit the City of Hamilton web site


Comments, corrections & additional information welcomed
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