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 The Cars of the H&D

The Cars of the H&D

Unlike the other three Hamilton area radials, the Hamilton & Dundas operated for many years as a steam powered railway. During these years the H&D had a small fleet of both passenger and freight cars, some of which would continue to be used by the H&D after its electrification and its takeover by the Cataract Company in 1899.

Unfortunately, information on the earliest cars of the H&D is very lacking. In many cases there are no recorded numbers or builders, and only very brief descriptions. For the cars that survived to be sold as part of the H&D to the Cataract Company in 1898, most of them do not have dates of manufacture or builders. Therefore it is entirely possible that some cars will be described twice in this article.

H&D Steam Dummies

Most famously, the H&D operated a small fleet of steam dummies, small steam engines that were surrounded by a wooden shell in the shape of a streetcar. These engines are described in detail in their own article

Early H&D cars

The first of the H&D cars arrived in August 1878, delivered by the Great Western Railway. Known arrivals are in the following tables.

Numbers Builder Description Date
? ? 1 car Aug 26, 1878
? ? 2 cars Sep 13, 1878
? ? unknown number, 'few' Oct 5, 1878

Some if not all of these cars were built in the USA, as the Hamilton Spectator reported that the H&D was in trouble with the local customs agent over the import duties on the rolling stock. The 'test train' that ran between Hamilton & Dundas carrying dignitaries on May 17, 1879 was five cars long, "one being an open summer car, and three obtained whilst quite new from the Fifth Avenue Streetcar Co"-Hamilton Spectator, May 17, 1879.

Numbers Builder Description Date
? ? 2 cars Aug 20, 1879
? ? 50 passenger seating, larger than all other cars, 2-axle trucks Oct 22, 1879
? 'Philadephia' 100 passenger seating, open car, silver furnishings Jun 4, 1880

As of June 15, 1880, the H&D had a fleet of 3 locomotives and 11 cars. Based on this fact and the description of the first official train, I suspect that the cars delivered in 1878 were the single open car and all of the former New York City horsecars, H&D #51-56 (see below).

H&D #2 on Hatt St, date unknown

H&D #2 is at the head of an excursion train on Hatt St in Dundas. Notice the two passenger cars behind it, which may be the cars delivered in Oct 1879 and June 1880. The photo is undated, but the American and British flags at the front of the train suggest that this is either a charter for a conference with representatives from Canada & the USA, or an excursion on July 4. (Photo courtesy of Brian Henley

H&D Freight Cars

The H&D had a few freight cars in use during its early days. Information exists on only two of them, H&D #11 & 15. Both of these freight cars were purchased or built in 1879 from sources unknown, and both of these cars were scrapped in 1892 for reasons unknown. The H&D also had a number of flat cars, of which almost no details (such as number, road numbers, size, manufacturers, dates of service) are known.

Freight operations on the H&D appear to have dropped significantly in the 1890s, most likely due to the panic of 1893. Freight operations declined to the point that the H&D handed over remaining freight operations to the TH&B in 1897, in exchange for an annual fee and payment of half of the annual track maintenance between Dundas and the connection with the TH&B in West Hamilton.

H&D Passenger Cars/Trailers

When the H&D began operations there were a number of cars, both closed and open, that were used for passenger service.

Very little is known about H&D #16 & #18. Both of these cars started out as passenger trailers, but their original builder and dates of construction are unknown. One of these may be the 50 seat car mentioned earlier that was delivered in October 1879. It is known that both were motorized in 1897, but after the takeover by the Cataract Company #18 was apparently retired, while #16 saw very little use before being retired at an unknown date.

H&D #20 was built by the Toronto Railway Company in 1897 as a double trucked trailer, which would later be converted to a self-propelled combine. When the H&D was taken over by the Cataract Company in 1899, #20 was renumbered to #120. It was then renumbered to #220 in 1901 after the takeover of the HRER by the Cataract Company, and was given its final number as #181 as part of the Cataract company‘s system-wide renumbering around 1910. It was scrapped in 1933.

H&D #20 with steam dummy #4 at the H&D Dundas passenger station, March 17, 1897.

H&D #20 with steam dummy #4 at the H&D Dundas passenger station. Most sources date this photo as March 17, 1897. That may have been the intention when the H&D arranged for this photo to be taken, but several problems occurred during the delivery of H&D #20. It was delivered to the Grand Trunk Railway's Hamilton King St station on the evening of March 15, where it was transferred to the tracks of the H&D using a little used switch between the two lines. On March 16 H&D #20 was towed towards Dundas, but it was found that the car was two inches too tall to pass underneath the TH&B bridge over Aberdeen Ave. Work crews lowered the track profile of the H&D line so that the car could pass underneath the bridge, but the construction and a severe rain storm on March 19 that washed out the H&D line between the two cities meant that it took until March 24 for H&D #20 to finally reach Dundas for the first time.

H&D #22, 24 & 26 were a trio of double trucked open trailers, which were very popular with riders during the summer months. Their original builder and dates of construction are unknown, but it is believed to be Brill. One of these may have been the open car used on the first trip in May 1879 previously mentioned. Two of these trailers, H&D #24 & 26, were motorized when the H&D electrified its operations, and these two cars remained in service until 1920, being scrapped in 1925 after the closure of the H&D. The date of H&D #22’s retirement is unknown, but it probably occurred shortly after the Cataract Company takeover.

H&D #51-56 are the group of H&D cars that are the most well documented. They were six ex Fifth Avenue Streetcar Co. horsecars from New York City. The construction of the one of New York's elevated railways made these relatively new cars surplus, and they were purchased in 1878 for the start of operations. As previously mentioned, three of these cars were part of the first train on May 17, 1879. H&D #54 was covered into a freight car in 1888, and all six of these cars were retired in 1898.

H&D #3 at the H&D's Dundas passenger station, date unknown

H&D #3 at the H&D's Dundas passenger station circa 1886. On the left is car #51, originally a horsecar from New York City. Behind the steam dummy is one of the H&D's boxcars and either car #16 or #18.

A closeup of H&D #51

A closeup of H&D #51.

An H&D train pulls out of Dundas station, 1891.

An H&D train pulls out of Dundas station circa 1891. The steam dummy is H&D #2. It's pulling an H&D boxcar, a closed passenger car, and one of the former New York City horse cars (H&D 51-55) that the H&D purchased and rebuilt into passenger trailers. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives, used with permission)

After the takeover of the H&D by the Cataract Company in 1899, several cars remained in service with the H&D. By the time of the systemwide renumbering of 1910, only three cars from the H&D's early days were still around: H&D #24, 26 & 220 (ex #120, #20). As part of the renumbering, the Cataract Company apparently assigned numbers 180-199 to the H&D. H&D 220 was renumbered to 181, but for reasons unknown H&D 24 & 26 were not renumbered. No new cars were ever 'bought' by the H&D after the takeover, and most operations between Hamilton & Dundas were actually carried out by cars from the HRER.

Hamilton Spectator

"Local Items” Aug 28, 1878, pg 4
“Local Briefs” Sep 13, 1878, pg 4
"Local Items” Oct 5, 1878, pg 4
“Local Briefs” Aug 22, 1879, pg 4
“More Rolling Stock” Aug 25, 1879, pg 4
“Another New Car” Oct 22, 1879, pg 4
"Local Items” Jun 4, 1880, pg 4
“Local Briefs” Jun 15, 1880, pg 4
“The H. and D. By-law Case” Jun 13, 1896, pg 1

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