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 The Remains of the B&H/LE&N Brantford Station

The Remains of the B&H/LE&N Brantford Station

Introduction

The B&H had three different stations in Brantford while it was in service between 1908 and 1931. The first station was at Alfred St and was a temporary one, built because of delays in getting permission for the B&H to cross the Tillsonburg line of the Grand Trunk Railway in Brantford. This temporary station was only used between May 23 and early November 1908, closing down when the tracks were extended across the Tillsonburg line and the second Brantford station was opened at Market St. The Market St station was also built as a temporary structure. However, it would last eight years.

Another Railway for Brantford: The Lake Erie & Northern

The Lake Erie & Northern (LE&N) was chartered in 1911 to connect Port Dover to Galt (now part of Cambridge) via Brantford. Construction began in 1913, but slowed down when the railway and the town of Brantford were unable to come to an agreement on where to place the station in Brantford. This delay would drag on for months, leading to the LE&N being purchased by the Canadian Pacific Railway at the end of 1913 after the LE&N's contractors ran into financial problems. It wasn't until September 1914 that the station site was finally agreed to by all parties: next to the Lorne bridge, at the intersection of Colborne and Water Streets.

The Station

The station was designed by the CPR by architect Theodore Videto in Montreal. The station was two stories high, with waiting rooms, washrooms, ticket office and station entrance from Colborne St located on the upper floor. Directly underneath were two tracks. Two flights of stairs, one per side of the building, led down to one of the side platforms on the station's lower level. The entire station was approx. 23 x 11.5 m in size, with ceilings of almost 5 m. The exterior was red brick, accented with stone, and designed in the New England Colonial style. The blueprints for the station were delivered to Branford city council in September 1915, but arguments over realignments to Water St delayed approval of the plans until June 1916.

The B&H gets involved

In the spring of 1916, the B&H struck a deal with the LE&N. In exchange for payment of half of the construction costs, the B&H would be granted use of the station. The B&H extended its tracks westwards to the new station site, and began operating from it in November 1916. The new station was not yet complete, so the Market St station remained in service until December 16, 1916 when the new station was finished. The LE&N began using the new station on March 10, 1917, and the station was officially opened on March 12. 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. Anyone wishing to do so would have to change trains in Brantford, as B&H cars could not run on the LE&N because the B&H used 600V power, while the LE&N used 1500V. 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. This lasted until 1929, when service on the HRER ended.

The Radials and the Station Disappear

The B&H used its third Brantford Station for nearly 15 years before the railway was shut down on June 30, 1931. Passenger service on the LE&N would last another 25 years, coming to an end on April 23, 1955. The station stood vacant for three years before being torn down in 1958. Because of its small area and proximity to the Grand River, the site was not redeveloped, and the remains of the station survived both the construction of Icomm Drive and the raising of the Lorne Bridge in the 1970s. Today, the walls of the station's lower level and the platform are still in place, and easily accessible from either Colborne St or from the trail along the east side of the Grand River.

In 1990 CN aquired all of CP's tracks in Brantford, in exchange for all of CN's tracks in Peterborough. Both of the railroads had customers in the two cities that were at the end of railway lines with little or no other traffic. This trade allowed CN to pull out of Peterborough and CP to pull out of Brantford, and not impact the companies remaining that were shipping by rail.

Under Lorne Bridge

Under the Lorne Bridge, looking south. This is the view from the operator's cab of a southbound LE&N car just entering the station. The gap in the top of the wall on the left is from the raising of the Lorne Bridge in 1979.

Remains of west side platform

The remains of the west side platform, looking south.

Northwest corner

The northwest corner of the station. The bag & book are on top of the base of the column that supported the upper level. A long series of glass windows were on top of the wall on the left, which helped to illuminate the platforms.

Remains of east side platform

Hidden in the grass is part of the east side platform.

The west side of the station

The west side of the station, with the southwest column still standing.

South end of the west side platform

South end of the west side platform

Closeup of southwest column

A closeup of the southwest column. The rail sunk into the ground next to the column may be an old fence post.

East wall of lower station

The east wall of the lower station. At the top of the wall are pieces of steel beams that supported the upper story's floor. In the centre of the photo is an angled piece of concrete that was part of the staircase down to the platform. Below this are two metal brackets, which may have supported a landing.

Old B&H roadbed

In the centre of the photo in the grass is the slight ridge formed by the B&H roadbed, curving to the right. (the large concrete structure on the left is a possible access point for the buried Mohawk Canal)

CN 4116 passing through

Trains still pass through the site of the old station. CN 4116 is returning from switching hopper cars at the large S. C. Johnson plant in west Brantford near the north end of Grand River Ave. From the plant, this short train of a half dozen cars runs south along the Grand River, curves around the Brantford Casino east to Greenwich St, and then runs in reverse up the tracks alongside Clarence St until it reaches the CN mainline.

Sources

Smith, Douglas N.W. "The Stations and Railways of Brantford" Canadian Rail Passenger Review: Number 3, Ottawa, July 2000