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 The East Hamilton Route

The East Hamilton Route

Start of service: July 1 1874
End of service: August 30 1894?
Route: From Great Western Railway (After 1882 Grand Trunk Railway) station at Stuart & Caroline to Main & Connaught Ave, (later Main & Trolley St[Gage Ave]) via Stuart, James St North, King St East, Wentworth and Main St East.

The East Hamilton route shared much of its route with the Eastern Branch but running at a much lower frequency, with horsecars every hour. After the start of HSR service on May 18, 1874, track construction continued east on King St East as far as the city limits at Wentworth, where the Eastern Branch would ultimately end. The tracks continued south on Wentworth, and then east on Main to a point about 100 m west of the gates to the Driving Park (Gage Park), near what is today's Connaught Ave.

Unlike the other horsecar routes of the time, the East Hamilton route horsecars were not painted a special colour, but were instead marked with two small red flags, one at each end of the car.

Increased ridership and greater than expected track wear resulted in the HSR making infrastructure upgrades in 1879. The tracks on Main east of Wentworth were completely relaid in March. The tracks on James between Stuart and King were rebuilt starting on April 7, and track twinning on King Street East began on May 14.

The East Hamilton route underwent a few route changes during its lifespan. The route was cut back on Stuart from Caroline to Bay at some point during the 1870s, as it was found that the hill on Stuart was too steep for fully loaded horsecars. As well, the route was extended to the concession road next to the Driving Park, which subsequently became known as Trolley St (today's Gage Ave). In 1890 the construction of the East Car Barn at King & Burlington (today's Sanford Ave) resulted in the tracks being removed from Wentworth and from Main west of Burlington Ave, and were relaid on Burlington and on King, west of Burlington.

The HSR electrified most of its system in 1892. The only HSR tracks not electrified were those used by the East Hamilton route past Burlington & King, which remained horse-drawn due to an agreement between the HSR and the Hamilton, Grimsby and Beamsville Electric Railway. In exchange for the HG&B not extending their planned route further than downtown Hamilton, and not running a local streetcar service, the HSR agreed to abandon the East Hamilton route when the HG&B began construction, and so did not bother converting the line to electric operation.

Because of the difference in operating speed, horsecars and streetcars cannot easily operate on the same track. So on June 29 1892 the East Hamilton route was reduced to running between Trolley & Main and King & Burlington, using four horsecars that the HSR held on to.

No exact date for the closure of the East Hamilton route has yet been found. The HG&B began construction on Main St on August 30, 1894, and it is assumed that the East Hamilton route was closed down at this time. However, the route remains listed in the HSR's published schedule in the Hamilton Spectator until November 5, 1894.

Bird's-eye view of Stuart St in 1876, looking southeast.

Bird's-eye view of Stuart St in 1876, looking southeast. In the centre is the original HSR car and horse barn built in 1874. The large building in the lower right corner is the second Stuart St station, opened in 1876. Notice that the tracks do not reach the station because it was found that the hill next to the station was too steep for horses to pull a fully loaded horsecar. (Image taken from a larger map located here).

Bird's-eye view of eastern Hamilton in 1876, looking southeast.

Bird's-eye view of eastern Hamilton in 1876, looking southeast. Main St meets the edge of the map approximately where Eastbourne Ave is today. The East Hamilton route actually continued off the end of the map for another kilometre. (Image taken from a larger map located here).


Hamilton Spectator

"Street Railway - Special arrangements for Dominion Day and the Races" June 29, 1874, pg 3
“Street Railway Time Table” July 23, 1874, pg 3
“Street Railway Extension” March 11, 1879, pg 4
“Local Items” April 8, 1879, pg 4
"Local Briefs" May 14, 1879, pg 4
“Everything Is All Serene - The Street Car Business is Finally Settled - A Conference That results in an Agreement Between the Street Railway Company and the H. G. & B Railway Company - Mutual Concessions Made” Mar 11 1892, pg 1
“Brief Local Items” Aug 30 1894, pg 1
“Hamilton Street Railway Schedule” Nov 5 1894, pg 3

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