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 The Belt Line

The Belt Line route

Start of service: Oct 1913
End of service: April 6 1951
Route: Two-way loop from King & James via James, Barton, Kenilworth, Main, Sherman and King.
Antecessor route: King East & Barton route

In October of 1913, the Belt Line route began operations, running from the corner of King and James in a large two-way loop from via James, Barton, Kenilworth, Main, Sherman and King.. Officially, the Belt Line route was two routes. The Inner Belt ran the loop in a clockwise direction, while the Outer Belt ran counter-clockwise. However, the streetcars in both directions were simply labelled ‘Belt Line’

The last HSR streetcar route to operate, the Belt Line route was also the busiest route. Running along two major East-West streets and connecting the downtown core with what were then the eastern suburbs, the Belt Line route was the heavy hauler of all the streetcar routes, carrying more than 50% of all the passenger traffic on streetcars in Hamilton. As the largest and busiest line in The HSRs network, the Belt Line route would usually be the first route to see service improvements. The HSR’s Pay As You Enter service was introduced on the Belt Line route in August 1918. On May 1, 1927, the new NSC cars took over all service on the Belt Line route. One-man service was placed on the Belt Line route in 1933 after a long fight between the HSR and the City of Hamilton.

When the HSR was sold to Canada Coach Lines in 1946, its new parent company immediately announced the abandonment of streetcar service. Under the original abandonment timetable the Belt Line route was to be the last route, abandoned in 1954. However, in early 1951 the HSR negotiated with the City of Hamilton that if all streetcars were abandoned as soon as possible, the City would drop a 4% tax on the HSR’s gross receipts. After scrambling to find enough buses to replace the streetcars, the Belt Line route was abandoned in the early morning hours of April 6th, 1951. Later that day, streetcar service in the City of Hamilton was officially ended in a ceremony at Gore Park, where streetcar service had been started decades earlier. The Belt Line route was replaced by the King-Barton bus route, which ran as a diesel bus service until trolley buses took over at the end of 1951.

HSR 409 loads passengers at Gore Park

HSR 409 loads passengers at Gore Park on the Belt Line route. Judging by the streetcar and the buildings in the background, this photo is circa 1920. (Anyone see any clues as to exactly when the photo was taken?) (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)

HSR 546 at King and Walnut, spring 1951.

HSR 546 at King and Walnut, spring 1951. (From Alan Gryfe’s collection, used with permission)

HSR 401 on the Belt Line in January 1920.

HSR 401 on the Belt Line in January 1920 at King near Ferguson. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)

HSR 511 on King St East between Elgin and Ferguson, date unknown.

HSR 511 on King St East between Elgin and Ferguson, date unknown. (From the Stephen M. Scalzo collection, used with permission)

HSR 533 at King St East and Ferguson, date unknown.

HSR 533 at King St East and Ferguson, date unknown. (From the Stephen M. Scalzo collection, used with permission)

HSR 503 on the Belt Line route, at Kenilworth and Dunsmure.

HSR 503 on the Belt Line route, at Kenilworth and Dunsmure. (From Dave’s Electric Railroads, used with permission)

HSR 518 on Kenilworth south of Roxborough.

HSR 518 on Kenilworth south of Roxborough. (From Dave’s Electric Railroads, used with permission)

HSR 515 is decorated as part of the streetcar farewell on April 6, 1951.

HSR 515 is decorated as part of the streetcar farewell on April 6, 1951. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives, used with permission)

Sources

Mills, John M. Cataract Traction; The Railways of Hamilton. Toronto: Upper Canada Railway Society/Ontario Electric Railway Historical Association, 1971

Westland, S. I. "Steel City Traction" Upper Canada Railway Society Newsletter May 1971: pg 69-74