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 The Cataract Company

The Cataract Company

In 1896, five men from Hamilton incorporated the Cataract Power Company to built a hydroelectric generating station at DeCew Falls near Thorold, and transmit the electricity to Hamilton. Construction of the generating station, as well as holding ponds and service canals began in 1897, and electricity started flowing in August 1898, with the official opening of the generating station on Nov 12, 1898.

Following the takeover of the Hamilton Electric Light & Power Company shortly afterwards, the company was reorganized and emerged as the Hamilton Electric Light & Cataract Power Company. Further expansion resulted in the company being renamed the Hamilton Cataract Power Light & Traction Company in 1903, and a final reorganization in 1907 gave the company its final name, the Dominion Power and Transmission Company. Regardless of how many reorganizations occurred, the company was referred to informally as the Cataract Company.

Like most power companies of the era, the Cataract Company became heavily involved in electric railways. Its first acquisition was the Hamilton Radial Electric Railway (HRER) on May 26 1899, followed by the Hamilton Street Railway on June 20, and the Hamilton & Dundas Street Railway (H&D) on July 22, which had just completed its conversion from steam to electric operations in January of 1898. The Hamilton, Grimsby, & Beamsville Electric Railway (HG&B) was bought in 1905 from its owner, the Grand Trunk Railroad. In 1907, the last of the Hamilton area radials was bought, the Brantford & Hamilton Electric Railway (B&H), then under construction. Also in 1907, the Hamilton Terminal Company (HTC) was formed in order to run the Hamilton Terminal Station, and to be the owner of any new cars purchased.

One unusual thing about the Cataract Company was that as it took over each of the Hamilton radials there was little or no integration of operations. Rather than merge operations into that of a single company, each radial company existed much as it had before. The only change made to the radials was that all equipment and cars were renumbered where needed to avoid confusion. (An organized numbering scheme for all Cataract company owned radials was introduced around 1910.)

The next fifteen years were the golden years for the Cataract Company. However, things began to decline in the early 1920s. The paving of major streets and improved vehicles led to the closing of the H&D in 1923, and the cutting back of the HRER in 1925. At this time, the Cataract Company passed out of Hamilton hands, and became part of Nesbitt-Thomson. This in turn was sold to Ontario Hydro in 1930. As a condition of the sale, all remaining Radial lines were to be shut down (the remainder of the HRER was closed in 1929). The last day of service on both the HG&B and the B&H was June 30, 1931. The HSR remainedunder the ownership of Ontario Hydro until 1946, when it was sold to Canada Coach Lines

John Patterson commemorative plate

This commemorative plate was made in honour of John Patterson, Hamilton industrialist and one of the founders of the Cataract Company. On the plate's rim are drawings of five of his major industrial projects. At the bottom left is the Decew Falls hydro-electric station, on the left are the first long-distance power lines in Canada, and at the top is the Hamilton Terminal Station.