TrainWeb.org Facebook Page
 1874-The First Year of the HSR

1874-The First Year of the HSR

On March 29, 1873, the Province of Ontario passed ‘An Act to incorporate “The Hamilton Street Railway Company”’ to build and operate a horsecar service to the citizens of Hamilton. This governmental act was necessary to give the Hamilton city council the authority to negotiate construction and operation agreements with the HSR’s board of directors. Several months passed as all the details between the two sides were ironed out, and on December 22, 1873, the City of Hamilton passed By-Law 63, which outlined the terms and conditions that the HSR was subject to. This by-law was ratified by the HSR Board of Directors on January 3, 1874. With the agreements in place, work could now begin on the construction of the HSR.

Hamilton Spectator, Tuesday February 10th, 1874

STREET RAILWAY- The long talked of and much desired street railway will soon be a matter of fact and not speculation. We learn today that the contract for the building and equipping the road has been signed, and that the contractor, Mr. Charles Hathaway, an experienced street railway contractor from Cleveland has bound himself to have the road in running order by the first week in June for a distance of over four miles. The track will be laid from the G.W.R. [Great Western Railway] station [at Stuart and Caroline] along Stuart street to James up to King street, where the road will diverge east and west to the Crystal Palace [now Victoria Park] and to the eastern limits of the city with a branch to the Driving Park [now Gage Park]. The company will put on six cars built after the most fashionable, convenient and substantial cars manufactured in the United States and Canada. The cars coming up James street will run alternatively east and west, so that the citizens will be fully accommodated. We also learn that the company have had two offers to lease the road for a term of years by responsible parties who guarantee ten percent upon the capital stock, but the company will not accept any offer, and will run the road in the interest of the city in the meantime. We have also been shown a very perfect model of a box wherein the passengers deposit their fare so as to day [sic] away with the necessity of conductors. This contrivance is a very ingenious one and will save the company not only the salary of an official but secure effective returns of the proceeds.

Hamilton Spectator, Tuesday April 7th, 1874

Hamilton Street Railway-THE FIRST SOD TURNED-The Work Commenced- On account of the severe snow storm of Sunday last the Hamilton Street Railway Company were unable to go on with the laying down of the track yesterday. Today, however, at 1 o’clock, a bevy of workmen appeared on Stuart street, where, in the presence of a considerable number of spectators, the first sod was turned.
The line will be commenced at the depot on Stuart Street and laid down to James, thence to King. Five cars are now being made in New York and one in Philadelphia, for use on the line as soon as it is opened.

Construction of the tracks used a simple method, in which a trench was excavated in the roadway, wood ties were laid, and then flat rails attached on top. By April 16th, the track had reached as far as the Drill shed at the corner of James and Robert, a distance of about 1 km. This progress was not fast enough for the HSR, as a large 8-horse iron plow was purchased to help cut through the macadamized road surface. Also by this date the first three horsecars had been delivered to the HSR.

By April 20th the track had reached the City Hall at James and York, but work had been slowed due to heavy rains. By the 23rd the track had reached James and King. At this point work began on the second track, which paralleled the first one. Better weather and the new large plow resulted in faster construction, and the second track reached King & James by the end of the month. When the second track reached King the curves on both tracks were installed at James and Stuart, and the HSR gravelled over the area around the tracks, which had been a source of complaints due to the rough surface of the road after construction.

By May 1st construction had begun on the track on King Street East, and by May 9th the track was as far as Wellington street. The curve at King and James was installed on May 12th, and with the completion of a turntable in front of the stables and a final cleaning and inspection of the rails the first test runs of the cars could begin.

Hamilton Spectator, Thursday May 14th, 1874

STREET RAILWAY- Today two of the cars of the H.S.R. started to run on the James and Stuart street lines, and were quite a “hobject [sic] of interest” to the citizens of those streets. The line is not supposed to be regularly in operation for a few days yet, the object in running the cars being to get the track in working order and accustom the horses to their work.

Large numbers of people visited James Street in order to see the cars being operated for the first time. Although not yet open for business, several people were actually given rides on the cars during the testing phase, including a newly wed couple that according to the Hamilton Spectator “got on the street cars [sic] at King street and went down James street as far as Barton street.” It’s not recorded if these people were friends of the operators and were given free rides without official permission, or if the rides given were to introduce the people of Hamilton to the new service before the start of operations.

Hamilton Spectator, Friday May 15th, 1874

H.S.R.- The Hamilton Street Railway Company, which will have their line in full running order shortly, have pushed forward the work of constructing this road and putting it into operation with marked activity, and have at the outset made a good impression as to their ability and capacity for bearing out all that has been promised by them. Within a short space of time they have erected a car house and stables on Stuart street, next [to] the Custom House. These two buildings are connected with each other, having the water works running through each of them, and are well lighted by gas. The stables are 120 feet long and are exceedingly well arranged in every department. Feed for the horses is chopped by machinery and being stored above, can be run to each stall, the manger of which is lined with galvanized iron and supplied with water from the pipes. The horses procured so far for work on the cars are all good, sound, strong animals, and well calculated for the business. The company commence [sic] with five cars, each capable of seating 14 or 16 persons, and of holding on occasion 30 or 40. The cars are painted, some of them green, others red, and are marked with the name of the company and the route which each is to run on the line. The seats are perforated ones and are made after the most approved patterns. The cars run remarkably smooth and are light, pleasant and well ventilated conveyances. Of course the track is not as smooth as it might be and the animals are not yet accustomed to their work, but all this will be remedied in due time. We have before described the ticket boxes in these cars and need not add anything on that department. Tickets will be had at the office on James street for the present.

Service began on Monday, May 18th. Starting at 7:30 am, cars departed every 12 minutes from Bay and Stuart, along Stuart and James. Red cars travelled as far as Gore Park, while Green cars would continue east on King to Wellington. Return service began at 8:00 am, every 24 minutes from Wellington & King, and every 12 minutes from Gore Park. By this description, the HSR had three cars in regular service (two greens and a red). By the end of the week, the HSR was reporting better than expected ridership, as well as its first accident when a car derailed on King street on May 21st. Injuries consisted of a trampled hat and a damaged skirt.

The HSR had its first major day on Monday May 25th; Victoria Day (then known as the Queen’s birthday). The HSR carried an estimated 6000 passengers on that day, and “could have carried twice as many if they had had the cars”. At the time, Hamilton’s population was around 30 000.

As the horsecars began to run construction in east Hamilton continued, with the tracks on King St East ending at the then city limit of Wentworth St. This would become the end of the line for the Eastern Branch, and a waiting room was set up for riders across from the Barton House by mid June. The construction now turned south onto Wentworth to Main, and then along Main until by May 30th the tracks had reach a point 100 yards west (approximately where the intersection of Main & Connaught Ave South is today) of the Driving Park's gates. This track on Wentworth and on Main was called the East Hamilton branch. It was built without the use of ties, and was along the north side of the street as opposed to being in the centre.

During the first week in June, switches were installed on King St East at Mary and between East and Emerald, allowing for horsecars to pass. As well additional cars arrived, giving the HSR a total of ten horsecars and allowing increased service.

Hamilton Spectator, Saturday June 6th, 1874

STREET RAILWAY TIMETABLE- We now publish a correct timetable of the arrival and departure of the cars of the Street Railway from either terminus. The road may be said to be now in first-class working order, and on Monday next the new timetable will come into force. Cars will commence running every morning (except Sunday) at 6 am, and make a trip each half-hour until 8 am, after which time, and until 8 o’clock at night, they run at the rate of one every fifteen minutes; from 8 pm until 10pm one car every half-hour will be resumed. This is an arrangement sure to please every one. So far, the cars have become very popular, and have never failed to give satisfaction to the public. The interior of each car is complete and comfortable in all its arrangements, and most of them are furnished with perforated seats. The contract for the laying of the King street west track has been let out to Mr. ________ ________, and, we understand that that part of the line will be speedily completed.

Construction began on the King St West track on June 8th at Locke street, and had reached Ray St by June 13th and Charles St by June 20th. As well, the East Hamilton branch was receiving it’s last loads of ballast for the track, and was expected to open in time for the Queen’s Plate horse races taking place over the Dominion Day weekend at the Driving park.

HSR 1874 Dominion Day Timetable

Replica of the HSR's 1874 Dominion Day Timetable

On Dominion Day, the HSR carried between 10 and 12 000 people using its entire fleet of 10 cars

Hamilton Spectator, Thursday July 9th, 1874

THE WORKING OF THE STREET RAILWAY- Since the establishment of the street railway in this city its career has been a most successful one in every respect. Its management is in competent hands: to this fact the regular running and general good maintenance of the road fully attests. The main line on King street, from Locke to Wentworth, is in capital order, as is also the eastern extension down Main street to the Driving Park. What is surprising to many is the knowledge that for through journey on the entire length of the road, from one extreme to the other, the one fare, 5 cents, is only asked. A passenger can get aboard the cars at the G.W.R. station and ride straight on to the eastern terminus, a distance of nearly 3 miles, for the very small figure of five cents. It must be understood, however, that all eastward bound cars do not go past Wentworth street, therefore, parties wishing to go past that point should be careful in selecting the proper coach. All cars destined to the Driving Park are distinguished by having two small red flags displayed “fore and aft “

Due to the poor roads in Hamilton at the time, many people would use the rails of the HSR to make it easier for their wagons to travel around the city. Citizens were free to do so, provided that their wagons did not block the HSR horse cars. Obstruction of the street railway would become a repeated charge listed in the Hamilton Spectator’s Police court column, as people were charged with blocking the tracks. The standard fine was about $2 (Around $50 in today's money).

HSR 1874 Timetable

Replica of the HSR's 1874 timetable

As previously mentioned, in July of 1874 the HSR had 10 cars. Based on the above timetable, the HSR ran four cars on the eastern branch, three cars on the western branch, and a single car on the East Hamilton branch, for a total of eight cars in service, and two cars as spares or undergoing maintenance. Although not explicitly stated, the HSR’s fleet was probably numbered 1-10. The number of available cars would change in the coming weeks. On August 6th, the HSR suffered its first serious incident when the front axle of car #5 (a green car) snapped at the Mary St switch on King. The car was moved to the workshop for repairs ‘with some difficulty’. A week later on August 13th, three new cars were delivered to the HSR by the G.W.R. These cars were very similar to the existing cars, and were placed into service the next day. Although numbers are not given, it is most likely that these new cars became HSR 11-13.

HSR 1, on King St West between MacNab & Park about 1875

HSR 1, on King St West between MacNab & Park about 1875 (now the site of the Ellen Fairclough Building). The text above the windows reads ‘G.W.RY STA. (Great Western Railway Station) & KING ST. WEST' identifying this as a red car. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)

At the request of its riders, the HSR allowed free transfers from red to green cars and vice versa at King & James, starting on August 19th.

On October 1st, the Board of directors of the HSR instituted Sunday service. While the operation of horse cars on Sundays was illegal in Ontario at this time, at first no action appears to have been taken by the police to stop the HSR. However, the Sunday operations attracted the attention of the Evangelical Alliance, a group of Hamilton area ministers. During October and November of 1874, the Evangelical Alliance, along with the Sabbath Observation Association, asked the HSR to reconsider its Sunday operations. When the HSR refused, the two groups demanded that the HSR be charged with breaking the Sabbath.

Hamilton Spectator, Saturday, December 12th, 1874

POLICE COURT-Sabbath Observance Association vs. The Hamilton Street Railway-THE RUNNING OF THE STREET CARS ON SUNDAY-The Street Railway Indicted for Sabbath Breaking-The Question Argued before the Police Magistrate-The Case Closed, but the Decision of the Police Magistrate Withheld

Yesterday at the 4 p.m. session of the police court, the Hamilton Street Railway Company were indicted on a charge of Sabbath breaking, at the instance [sic] of the Sabbath Observation Association. The charge was laid by Mr. Dennis Moore and Mr. A.I. Mackenzie, members of the S.O. Association, and was in effect “that the Hamilton Street Railway did exercise a worldly labor, business, or calling on Sunday by running their street-cars for hire, and in so doing were not carrying travelers on Her Majesty’s mail, or performing a work of necessity or charity.”

There were present several ministers, members of the Evangelical Alliance, and some members of the Sabbath Observation Association. Among the ministers were the Rev. Messrs. J.S. Williamson, D.H. Fletcher, J.C. Smith, J.P. Lewis, W. Stephenson, and W.W. Carson. Some of the Directors of the Street railway were also present, and the court room was crowded with spectators, among whom were several people from the east end who are in the habit of using the street cars as conveyances to church and who were anxious to hear the issue of the case.

Mr. John Jones, of Jones & McQuesten, appeared for the prosecution, and Mr. E.G. Patterson, of Mackolcan, Gibson & Bell, for the defense. The magistrate having read the charge and stated who were the complainants, the evidence was opened and gone on as follows:

Joseph Rutherford, sworn: I am Superintendent of the Street Railway Company; my duties are to give general orders to the men to take the cars out and in; to take charge of the Company’s office; I am appointed by the Board of Directors and receive special orders from that authority; receive orders from the Secretary frequently; I know Mr. Moore, Mr. Springer and Mr. Baker of the Board of Directors; don’t know that Mr. Murton belongs to the board; I give orders to the drivers to take out cars; Peter Anderson and Joseph Service took out cars last Sunday under my instructions; their regular work is in the stables and not outside; Carr and Sheen drove cars last Sunday also; they are not ordinary conductors; I gave orders on Sunday last to change the ordinary drivers, as I heard that our conductors were to be arrested for working on Sunday; I did not wish to see the people disappointed in getting to church; Service occasionally drove previous to last Sunday; I gave these orders with regard to the change of drivers on my own responsibility; I got the my instructions to change the drivers from Mr. Eastwood; I do not know what he is in the company; he dropped me a note saying that we would get into trouble if the drivers were not changed; I have burnt the note; when a passenger gets on board the cars on Sunday there are no questions asked with regard to his destination, an he is not treated differently from a passenger on a weekday; the time table produced regulates the cars on our line, and we run by it on Sundays; No. 2 car ran King street west last Saturday; it left the palace at 8:50 in the evening; when the cars get up to the Palace on their last trip they take passengers for their return down town.

To Mr. Patterson-The reason we make the trip from the palace down after church is to get the cars in the car house over night; we do not solicit passengers on this last trip and do not advertise it; one of the regular drivers has been summoned; if the regular drivers had run on Sunday last and had been summoned here it would have put us to great inconvenience; the company did not run cars on Sunday at first and did so some months afterwards on the desire of the public (witness mentioned several names of persons who had requested Sunday running); the cars run on Sunday are for the accommodation of the public; the cars running on Sunday are a loss to the company, at least they make no money by it.

Constable Bennett sworn: I had orders to take the names of the drivers that ran the street cars last Sunday with the numbers of the cars; the driver of No. 8 was Joseph Service; of No. 3 was Peter Anderson; of No. 2 Aaron Carr; I believe that Anderson and Carr are stablemen; another person drove No. 3 one trip, but I did not learn his name.

To Mr. Patterson: I got my orders from the Chief of Police; the passengers were principally ladies, and some, I noticed, got out at the corner of King and John streets.

Peter Anderson sworn: I am a stable man in the employ of the Street Railway Company; I was employed last Sunday as driver of car No. 3; I made my trips from the station to Wentworth street; I carried a fair number of passengers; I know the ordinary duties of a week day driver and acted as they do; I got my orders to drive last Sunday from the Superintendent; don’t know what they were given for.

To Mr. Patterson-As a general rule the passengers I carried were church goers; I did not solicit passengers as is done on week days; on one trip while my hands were cold I gave the reins to a person who drove up town; I had no conductor on my car which is usual.

Joseph Service sworn: I am a stable man; work around the car sheds; I sometimes drive cars; drove car No. 8 last Sunday from the station to the race course; I had no conductor on my car all day Sunday, but discharged both duties; I collected fares; I carried some passengers from the east end up town; don’t know whether the other drivers solicited passengers on Sunday; would have taken any passenger on and never asked any of them their destination.

To Mr. Patterson-I took two trips in the morning and evening

John Bowe, sworn: I got on a street car last Sunday at the Custom house [Stuart & Bay] and rode to the American Hotel on King street; there were others on the car besides me-a gentleman, a lady, and two children; could not say whether the gentleman was going to church, but I think the lady was; there were no questions asked as to where I was going; I stood on the platform outside and talked with the driver; he told me that he was usually employed as a driver.

To Mr. Patterson: I take my meals at the American Hotel; Mr. A.I. MacKenzie is a partner in the firm in which I am employed; I was at the station on an errand to oblige a friend and got on the street car as a convenience;I paid my fare; was not employed to take notes in the interest of the railway.

Lyman Moore sworn: I am President of the Street railway Company; am one of the directors; Messrs Springer, Bolton, Patterson, Barker, Murton, Hammond and myself are the Board of Directors; Mr Rutherford has the general management of the running of the road; he has the responsibilities of the running of the road; he is appointed by the directors; the Directors did not give any special orders for last Sabbath; and I did not hear of them being given till Monday; I had no communication with Mr. Eastwood on this matter, and do not know who instructed Mr. Eastwood to instruct the Superintendent; I would have opposed the changing of the drivers on Sunday; the Board gave orders for the cars to run on Sunday; it does not pay us, so I am informed, to run the cars on Sunday: we do it for the accommodation of the public who wish to go to church.

To Mr. Patterson-A resolution was passed by the board that cars should be run on Sunday for the convenience of people going to church, with instructions that drivers or conductors should inquire of passengers if they were going to church; a number of the shareholders gave bonuses with the expectation that they would have a Sunday car.

FOR THE DEFENSE

Lewis Springer-I am a Director of the Railway and live in the township of Barton; know of a number of persons living near me who use the cars to go to church; I know a lady who is infirm and comes in on the street cars to church; she could not afford to hire a carriage; corroborate Mr Moore’s evidence about the request made to the company

To Mr. Jones-Was not a party to the substitution on the stable men last Sunday; the object of the company in running cars on Sunday is strictly and solely to accommodate church goers without any other ultimate object.

Mr. Murton-I am one of the directors; corroborate the evidence of the last witness in every particular; I was one of the persons to whom the request was made about Sunday running; had no object towards the cars running the cars on Sunday, generally, and should be very sorry to see them run, except for the convenience of people going to church.

Thomas Beasley, sworn: Live in the east end, and was one of those who requested the Sunday running subscribed to the railway; my wife, myself and family go to church by the cars.

To Mr. Jones: I subscribed my bonus to the road before I knew that they would run on Sunday; it was talked of however; I sold my carriage when the cars started.

D. Smith: Live in Barton and attend church by the cars; all the passengers as far as I know, are those going to church.

Edward Shean: Drive cars, but am not compelled to on Sunday; have driven every Sunday since the Sunday trips commenced, and do not remember more than 20 cases were passengers were not going to or returning from church.

This closed the evidence.

Mr. Jones, in a few well placed remarks, addressed the bench, and held that the running of the cars on Sunday was a clear violation of the act, as the practice was neither a matter of necessity nor charity, nor were the passengers that rode on the cars travellers in the meaning of the law. He maintained that the directors of the company should be held liable as it was proven that they were accessories, as well as the Superintendent, who was acting under their instructions. He cited a case in which Captain Tinning was convicted on a similar charge, for running his boat from Toronto to the island across the bay on Sunday.

Mr. Patterson then addressed the magistrate in a vigorous manner. He contended that the passengers who rode in the cars were travellers in the eye of the law, and was of the opinion that the magistrate would agree with him in that view of the case. In order to constitute a breach of the Sabbath Observance Act it was necessary that the work so performed should be done as the ordinary employment of the party or parties charged; this had not been the case here, as the only one who was doing his ordinary work was Shean, and he did without any pay whatever. As the convenience of the public was the sole object of the Company in running Sunday cars, and as the cars only ran at such hours as to accommodate the citizens attending church, he did not see how it could be regarded as a violation of the act. It had been proven sufficiently, he thought, that the practice was both a necessity and a charity to many to who could not otherwise get to church

The magistrate after a few general remarks said he would hold over his decision until he could consult some authorities on the subject, as to whether the Sunday running was a work of charity or necessity, and as to some other features of the case. His decision will probably be given on Monday next.

Hamilton Spectator, Tuesday, December 15th, 1874

The Street Railway Case –The Charge of Sabbath-breaking Dismissed

This morning at the Police Court the magistrate gave his decision on the charge of Sabbath-breaking brought by the Sabbath Observance Association against the Hamilton Street Railway Company. The members of the Bar interested and several from the Railway Company and the Sabbath Observance Association were present. His Worship in his remarks said that the only case cited by the counsel for the prosecution was that of Tinning, who was convicted of running his steamboat from Toronto across the bay to the island on Sundays. In this instance it appeared that the steamer was run for pleasure only and that there was no pretense that the carrying of passengers across the bay was either a work of charity or necessity. In the present case, however, it was evident to his mind, from the fact that it was only during church hours, or rather during the usual hours in which citizens went to and from church, that the cars were allowed by the Company to run. According to the evidence of the witness the Company was not making anything by the transaction as a commercial speculation, and it also appeared that, it some instances at least, a work of charity was being done. As to the strict merits of the case the drivers in question were not performing the duties of their regular calling, and could not in the eye of the law, be guilty of breaking the Sabbath. He held the action of the company to be no violation of the statue, and said he would dismiss the case.

And so ended 1874, the first year of the HSR’s operations.