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 The Brantford & Hamilton Electric Railway (B&H)

The Brantford & Hamilton Electric Railway (B&H)

Prologue

The B&H was actually the third attempt to build a radial line up the escarpment to Ancaster. The Hamilton, Chedoke & Ancaster (HC&A) was incorporated in 1896 to build a line up the mountain. But no construction was ever started, and Haines Bros of New York, who were attempting to build a Niagara-Hamilton-Brantford line, took over the HC&A in 1900. The HC&A was renamed the Hamilton, Ancaster & Brantford (HA&B). By 1904, all property issues had been dealt with and construction contracts were about to be let, when financial trouble on their American interurbans resulted in Haines Bros abandoning their Canadian plans

The Beginning

Around the same time, the Von Echa Co, who wished to build an interurban between Hamilton and London, incorporated the B&H. The official sod turning ceremony took place on August 6, 1906 at a site two miles east of Brantford. Actual construction got underway late in 1906, but during the construction of the B&H the Von Echa Co lost control of the company due to questionable dealings by one of its promoters. The line was briefly under the control of an Indianapolis based group before passing to the Cataract Company in 1907. Service opened between Hamilton and Ancaster on Dec 21, 1907, and service between Hamilton and Brantford opened on May 23, 1908.

Construction

The B&H was built to very high standards, with relatively heavy rail and very few curves. From the Hamilton Terminal Station the B&H travelled through Hamilton along Main and Hess, and then began ascending the escarpment at a 2-½ % grade. Reaching the top of the escarpment, the B&H passed through Ancaster, and then paralleled Hwy 2 through Alberton, Langford, and Cainsville before reaching Brantford. The Brantford station changed a few times, at first being at Alfred St, and then moving westwards to Market St in Nov 1908.

Foreign Connections

The B&H was the only Cataract Radial to connect with a non-Cataract radial, this being the Lake Erie & Northern at Brantford. When the LE&N was finished in 1916, it and the B&H moved into a new station. The B&H extended its tracks 450 metres to the Lorne Bridge, where the new station was built and officially opened on March 12, 1917. Interlining tickets were sold, making it possible to travel by radial from Hamilton to Brantford, and then north to Galt or south to Port Dover on one ticket. (A traveller would have to change trains in Brantford, as B&H cars could not run on the LE&N becuase the B&H used 600V power, while the LE&N used 1500V).

Also in 1917, the federal government’s Board of Railway Commissioners ordered the construction of an interchange between the LE&N and the Grand Trunk Railway's (GTR) Tillsonburg line in Brantford. As there was no suitable place on the LE&N to build this interchange, it was built on the B&H to the east of the new station. A small yard was built to the south of Wharfe St for freight cars, and a storage track was built so that B&H cars could be safely stored while the overhead wires were charged with the LE&N's higher voltage. A break in the overhead wire controlled by a switch allowed the LE&N to travel the B&H without damaging any nearby B&H cars.

During the mid 1920’s, B&H service was integrated with the HRER, making it possible to travel from Burlington to Brantford (and then further on the LE&N) on a single ticket. This lasted until 1929, when service on the HRER ended.

The Last Days

The B&H was abandoned on June 30, 1931 as dictated by the sale of the Cataract Company. The LE&N bought a section of the B&H route in Brantford, from the joint station at the Lorne bridge to a point just west of Lynwood Dr in order to service several industries in the area and to keep the connection with the GTR (now part of Canadian National). These former B&H tracks remained in service with the LE&N until 1972, and were removed by the summer of 1974 as part of the redevelopment of downtown Brantford.

The rest of the tracks between Brantford and Hamilton were removed in 1932, although perhaps a little too quickly. It was discovered that freight motor HTC 677 had been left behind in Trinity after the rails were removed! The freight motor was trucked back to Hamilton for scraping.

A Final Note

Due to its high quality construction and traffic free access to Hamilton and Brantford, the B&H could probably have been operated profitably during the Great Depression. Had the line survived, the construction of a branch from Ancaster to the airbase at Mount Hope would have been of great use during the Second World War.

Brantford B&H/LE&N station, August 23 1958

View of the Brantford B&H/LE&N station taken on August 23 1958 by Bruce Murdoch. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)

Aerial photo of Downtown Brantford showing B&H/LE&N station

This is an aerial photo of Downtown Brantford taken in 1919. The Grand River is at the bottom of the photo, with the Lorne bridge crossing the river. The Lake Erie & Northern runs along the side of the river from left to right, and the B&H/LE&N station is the large building over the tracks next to the bridge. (Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, used with permission)

Aerial photo of Downtown Brantford showing B&H

This is a second aerial photo of Downtown Brantford taken in 1919. The B&H/LE&N station is the large building on the left edge of the photo by the edge of the river, complete with a B&H radial car parked on the tracks. The tracks of the B&H leave the station and head towards the right side of the photo, closely paralleling Water St and then passing under the old Market St bridge. (Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, used with permission)

B&H/LE&N station looking southwest

This unused postcard shows part of the B&H/LE&N station looking southwest

Market St bridge in Brantford

This postcard shows the Market St bridge in Brantford. The staircase on the left side leads down to the second B&H Brantford station. The earliest postmark found for this card is 1912.

B&H tracks at Alfred St, Brantford

This postcard shows the tracks of the B&H passing the new Alfred St Bridge in Brantford. The small tan coloured building on the left is the first B&H Brantford station, which was built due to difficulty in crossing the Tillsonburg line of the Grand Trunk Railway in Brantford. This temporary station was only used for six months in 1908, when the second Brantford station was opened at Market St. The earliest postmark found for this card is November 16, 1910.

B&H along Mohawk Canal, Brantford 1911

This postcard shows a B&H car heading for Hamilton along the Mohawk Canal, just east of the Alfred St bridge in Brantford. The earliest postmark found for this card is September 2, 1908.

B&H bridge over Fairchild's Creek, 1908

This postcard shows the B&H's bridge over Fairchild's Creek, just east of Cainsville. The earliest postmark found for this card is August 28, 1908.

1952 Ancaster aerial photo

This aerial photo of the then new suburbs of Ancaster taken in 1952 shows the path of the B&H, from the bottom of the photo to the center-left. Wilson St is the road running from the lower-right corner of the photo to the centre-left, with Fiddler's Green Rd running horizontally through the middle of the photo and Golf Links Rd running off into the distance at the top of the photo. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)

B&H Ancaster stop, circa 1910

The B&H Ancaster stop, on Halson St south of Wilson, taken from a postcard circa 1910. (Photo courtesy of the Toronto Public Library, Digital Collections)

B&H ROW in Ancaster, November 5 1960

View of the former B&H right of way next to St. John's Anglican Church in Ancaster, looking west towards Halson St. Taken on November 5 1960 by Bruce Murdoch. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)

B&H right of way, likely somewhere in today's Iroquoia Heights Conservation Area

This postcard shows the B&H right of way, likely somewhere in today's Iroquoia Heights Conservation Area between Hwy 403 and Scenic Drive. The earliest postmark found for this card is December 15, 1913.

B&H ROW near Scenic Dr, November 5 1960

View of the former B&H right of way near Scenic Dr, looking east. Taken on November 5 1960 by Bruce Murdoch. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)

Upper Horning Rd Bridge over B&H, May 9 1911

This postcard shows the Upper Horning Rd bridge crossing the B&H. The earliest postmark found for this card is October 16, 1909.

B&H at top of escarpment overlooking Dundas Valley, 1910

This postcard shows the B&H at the top of the grade along the escarpment, overlooking the Dundas Valley. The road on the right is Lower Horning Rd, and the road with the farm buildings in the centre-right is Main St West. On the left of the postcard is the bridge carrying Upper Horning Rd across the tracks. The earliest postmark found for this card is November 11, 1908.

Route of the B&H up the escarpment

The right of way of the B&H as it climbs the escarpment. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)

B&H 210 & 220 at the B&H/LE&N Brantford Station in 1920.

B&H 210 & 220 at the B&H/LE&N Brantford Station in 1920. One of the interesting things about this station was the fact that the B&H used 600V power while the LE&N used 1500V, meaning that B&H crews had to be very careful that they selected the correct wire! In order to prevent this from happening, B&H cars usually remained outside the station.

B&H 210 & 220 were both built by the Brill Company in 1907, and were originally numbered 310 & 320, respectively. B&H 220 was scrapped in 1933. (Photographer unknown)

B&H 210 at Sanford yard, date unknown.

B&H 210 at Sanford yard, date unknown. B&H 210 was destroyed on March 17, 1923 when a sagging power line under the CNR overpass in Cainsville brushed the heater’s exhaust pipe, creating a short circuit and setting the car on fire. However, the trucks were salvaged, and were later used in the construction of B&H 240. (Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, used with permission)

The remains of B&H 210 after the fire at Cainsville.

The remains of B&H 210 after the fire at Cainsville. HG&B 171 has towed the remains back to the Sanford Yard, where the intact trucks will be salvaged for the construction of B&H 240. (From the Richard Vincent collection, used with permission)

B&H 230 at Hamilton Terminal Station, summer 1928.

B&H 230 at Hamilton Terminal Station, summer 1928. The Brill Company built this car in 1907. It was originally numbered 330, and was scrapped in 1933. (Photographer unknown)

B&H 235 with HTC 605 at Hamilton Terminal Station, summer 1928.

B&H 235 with HTC 605 at Hamilton Terminal Station, summer 1928. The Brill Company built this car in 1907. It was originally numbered 335, and was scrapped in 1933. #605 was built by the Preston car & Coach Company in 1913, and was scrapped in 1933. (Photographer unknown)

B&H 240 at Hamilton Terminal Station, summer 1928.

B&H 240 at Hamilton Terminal Station, summer 1928. The Cataract Company built #240 in 1923 out of the leftover pieces of several other cars. The roof is from HRER #307, and the trucks are from #210. This car was scrapped in 1933 (Photographer unknown)

HRER 305 at the Ancaster stop in 1908.

HRER 305 at the Ancaster stop in 1908. (From the Ross Gray collection, used with permission)

B&H 315 at the Ancaster stop, circa 1909

B&H 315 at the Ancaster stop, circa 1909. Built by the Brill Company in 1907, it was renumbered 215 around 1910, and was scrapped in 1933. (From the Ross Gray collection, used with permission)

B&H 315 at the HRER's Oakville station, date unknown.

B&H 315 at the HRER's Oakville station, date unknown. (Photo courtesy of the Toronto Public Library, Digital Collections)

Radial car crossing gravel quarry, just east of present day Scenic drive, date unknown.

B&H 335 crossing the gravel quarry just east of present day Scenic drive, circa 1909. Built by the Brill Company in 1907, it was renumbered 235 around 1910, and was scrapped in 1933. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, used with permission)

More info on the B&H's fleet is here

Maps of the BH

A large portion of the B&H is still easily visible as hiking & biking trails, as shown here

Additional remains of the B&H are here and here.