The Story of the HG&B cars
The story of the cars that were originally owned by the Hamilton, Grimsby, & Beamsville Electric Railway, and their eventual fate, is more than a little muddled. Poor record keeping, two changes in ownership of the line, first to the Grand Trunk Railroad and then to the Cataract Company, plus a system-wide renumbering in 1910, have made the history of the cars unclear.
Several different sources were used for this article.
The Original 1894 Cars
One thing that all sources agree on is that there were eleven cars on the HG&B's roster when it began service on October 17, 1894. Where the sources differ is the on the details of the eleven cars, such as the types of car, the number of cars of each type, and the car numbers. Breaking the cars down by type makes the story a little easier to tell.
The Long & Short Passenger Cars
RTGC states that in December 1893, the HG&B ordered "4 closed passenger cars each twenty-eight feet long, all double trucked with 30 hp number 12 Westinghouse motors to propel them" from Ahearn & Soper of Ottawa. The roster identifies them as #13, 16-18. RTGC goes on to state that #13 was rebuilt into a single truck freight motor, and given the nickname ‘Redbird’. Apparently this altered the car’s stability, resulting in a bobbing motion as the car moved along the tracks, and ultimately leading to the car being wrecked at the Red Hill Creek when it ran down the slope out of control. The Cataract Company renumbered #16-18 to #156-158 after the takeover of the HG&B in 1905, and all three remained in service until 1932, when they were scrapped.
So what’s wrong with this story? Well, this picture of one of the closed passenger cars crossing the Red Hill Creek in 1899, for starters.
Look at this enlargement of the number on the front of the car. It’s a two digit number starting with a one, but it’s clearly not #17, and if you look at the left side of the second digit, there’s a piece missing from the bottom half, so this can’t be #16 or #18. It isn’t 13 either; in fact the number could only be 15 or 19, neither of which was mentioned in RTGC.
CT states that the HG&B ordered from the Ottawa Car Company (a subsidiary of Ahearn & Soper) “four 32-foot passenger cars numbered 15-18.” #15-18 were renumbered to #156-159 at the time of the Cataract Company takeover of the HG&B. #159 was retired shortly after for reasons unknown, and replaced by #159:2 (see below). The other three cars were rebuilt in 1913, and scrapped in 1932. It also states that the HG&B bought “one smaller single-truck car (no. 13, probably intended for a projected suburban service),” which was later converted into a freight car.
According to CT, #15-18 were renumbered 156-159, as follows:
CT's info is confirmed by the Hamilton Spectator, which reported that on October 28 1895 there was a head-on collision between HG&B #15 and HG&B #16 near Winona at the curve on Queenston Rd just west of the intersection with McNeilly Rd. Other articles mention an HG&B #17, and describe the HG&B closed passenger cars as being "double trucked...28 feet [in length]. The Motor cars are each supplied with two 30 horsepower Westinghouse motors" with no additional details. In later years, these cars were leased/rented by the HSR as streetcars. The Hamilton Spectator also reported that during the 1898 Shareholder's meeting of the HG&B, the board of directors stated that they would be "cutting [the] short passenger car in two and making it a double truck, same as all the others." There is no further mention if the small car was modified as planned.
SRR states that the HG&B had "3 passenger cars 30 feet long, mounted on McGuire double trucks with 30-horse-power Westinghouse motors", with no details about manufacturer or fleet numbers. There is also a mention of "a small car" as part of the fleet.
The SRJ article on the HG&B states that "the company owns eight 28 ft. and 36 ft. double truck cars, each equipped with two 30 H. P. No. 12 Westinghouse motors...McGuire and Taylor trucks are used." This suggests, but does not confirm that there are 4 28 ft cars along with 4 Open Passenger Cars (see below).
The CEN article states that the original fleet includes "five trolley cars, four 32 ft. and one 28 ft. bodies, with double McGuire trucks, and one single McGuire truck — all having Westinghouse motors of the latest design (30 h. p.)"
So to summarize:
There appear to be two types of passenger car. Most sources agree that there were originally four double-trucked longer cars, around 30 ft long +/- 2 ft. There is less agreement about the existance of a single-trucked short car that was rebuilt into a freight motor at some point. CT, SRR, CEN and the Hamilton Spectator all mention it, while RTGC believes it was a converted double-trucked car. All of the sources agree on the use of 30 horsepower Westinghouse motors, and where mentioned the use of McGuire trucks. The car numbers that are mentioned by the Hamilton Spectator and in photographs agree with the CT roster. It is also assumed that the builder of the radial cars is in fact the Ottawa Car Company, a subsidiary of Ahearn & Soper
HG&B #16 in the summer of 1895, location unknown. Built in 1894 by the Ottawa Car Company, after the Cataract Company’s takeover of the HG&B it was numbered 156. It was scrapped in 1932. (Photo published in October 1895 as part of the Souvenir Edition of the Street Railway Journal, printed for the American Street Railway Association's annual meeting in Montreal, available online from Archive.org)
HG&B #156 along with HSR 407 and HSR 423 at Sanford yard, date unknown. (From the Richard Vincent collection, used with permission)
The Open Passenger Trailers/Cars
RTGC states that in December 1893, the HG&B ordered ‘4 open passenger trailers each thirty-six feet long’ from Ahearn & Soper of Ottawa. However, the roster only identifies three cars, #10-12, with no mention anywhere else that there was a fourth car. RTGC goes on to state that #10-12 were renumbered #167-169 by the Cataract Company after the takeover, and that #167 was burned before 1920, while the other two cars were scrapped in 1927.
CT lists that the HG&B bought “four open trailers”, and that “three of the opens were later electrified as #10-12 and the other probably became a closed freight car.” The photos below seem to confirm this, as the freight car has the same general dimensions as the open car below it, and also has the same roof and trucks, which would be expected if a trailer was converted. What this fourth car was numbered is unclear, but it was not given a number in the 1x series, as it was not an electric car. CT also states that #10-12 were renumbered #167-169 by the Cataract Company after the takeover, and that #167 was burned, while the other two cars were scrapped in 1927.
HG&B Freight car being pulled by Freight motor. (Photo from "Grimsby, Ontario, Canada and district: including Beamsville, Winona and Stoney Creek, illustrated and descriptive souvenir" published in June 1901, available online from Archive.org)
HG&B #168 (ex HG&B #11) at Sanford Yard in 1925 (the caption says that this photo was taken in May, but the snow and icicles make me doubtful).(From the Al Paterson collection, used with permission)
The SRR article lists "three open trailers".
Hamilton Spectator articles describe the cars as being "36 feet long in body, double trucked" with no additional details. An article from the Hamilton Spectator does tell us that the trailers were motorized in the Spring of 1897.
As stated previously, the SRJ article on the HG&B suggests, but does not confirm that there are four 36 ft Open Passenger Cars. The article states that "they are double truck cars, each equipped with two 30 H. P. No. 12 Westinghouse motors."
The CEN article only states that the original fleet includes "two very fine open cars, probably the longest in Canada."
It is unclear as to the number of open trailers when the HG&B began operations. As there was a single trucked car numbered 13 as mentioned above, then the trailers would have to be numbered below that. Likely #9-12 if there were four trailers, or #10-12 of there were three trailers. Three of the cars kept their numbers when motorized, while #9 (if it existed) lost its number when rebuilt into a freight car.
HG&B #10 at Hamilton Station at Main & Catherine in the summer of 1895. (Photo published in October 1895 as part of the Souvenir Edition of the Street Railway Journal, printed for the American Street Railway Association's annual meeting in Montreal, available online from Archive.org)
The Freight Motors
Here’s where things get difficult. All sources agree that the HG&B had large double trucked freight motors (electric cars that handled only freight) to handle freight traffic, either carried within the freight motor itself, or in box cars pulled by the freight motor. However, the sources disagree on the number of freight motors. Also, there is the previously mentioned single-truck freight motor that was rebuilt from a single-truck small car.
RTGC states that 3 freight motors were ordered in Dec 1893. However, the roster lists 5 freight motors: #5, 6, 21, 22, & 24. The roster states the following:
Now comes the interesting part. In the margin of my copy of RTGC are pencil written notes, left by some unknown author. Some of the notes are updates to a particular description or fact. Others however are corrections to the original text. The margin notes state that there were three motors originally, #4, 5, & 6. The notes also mention that #5, 6, 21, & 22 were destroyed in the Hamilton Freight Station fire on July 6, 1913.
As mentioned above, RTGC states that one of the 28ft Closed Passenger Cars was rebuilt into a single truck freight motor, and given the nickname ‘Redbird’. Apparently this altered the car’s stability, resulting in a bobbing motion as the car moved along the tracks, and ultimately leading to the car being wrecked at the Red Hill Creek when it ran down the slope out of control. No date is given for this accident.
CT states that two freight motors were obtained in 1894, with another car built in 1895 and a fourth one built in 1898. As mentioned already, it also states that the HG&B bought “one smaller single-truck car (no. 13, probably intended for a projected suburban service),” which was later converted into a freight car. A freight schedule dated June 10, 1912 shows four cars, numbered 171-174. “171 and 173 may have been twins, and 174 was described as a ‘heavy-duty’ car.” The roster entries are below:
The SRR article mentions "one combination car ... and three freight cars, with one large freight car motored for freight business."
Hamilton Spectator articles mention "3 express cars", with no further details.
The SRJ article on the HG&B states that the HG&B has "four single truck 16 ft. and 18 ft. trail cars, used for freight. Some of these cars are combination, and the company has also purchased cars exclusively for freight and similar in general appearance to a railroad box freight car."
The CEN article mentions only that "There are four freight cars"
Based on the 11 original cars mentioned by all sources, and with the already accounted for four double-trucked cars, single trucked car, and trailers, It appears that there were two or three freight motors on the original roster, with two or three more added as the 1890s progressed. It also appears that some of the original HG&B freight motors were renumbered into the 17x series when the Cataract Company took over the HG&B. Unfortunately, exact renumberings have been lost, and the photographic evidence is virtually non-existent. Until more information or new photos surface, the story of all the HG&B freight motors will remain a unresolved.
One of the HG&B's freight motors running on Main St in Grimsby. From a postcard postmarked Aug 23, 1910
So to summarize all the various sources:
Interesting that the SRJ's math is off, they have identified 12 cars instead of 11.
Until better information arrives, this is my best attempt at creating an original HG&B roster, trying to match the information above as best as possible. I've included the renumberings that occurred after the HG&B was bought by the Cataract Company. This is only an educated guess, and may be completely wrong:
Later Freight Motors
As the 1890s progressed and fruit shipments on the HG&B increased it was necessary to purchase additional freight motors. As previously mentioned, CT and RTGC both mention freight motors that are not part of the HG&B's original fleet, but very little data exists. At the 1898 Shareholder's meeting of the HG&B, the board of directors stated that in the coming year the would "secure a strong electric locomotive capable of hauling four or five CPR cars at a fair speed"-Hamilton Spectator, Januaray 25 1898, pg 8. An order was placed for a new freight motor in July. A brief mention of "another freight car has been added to the equipment [of the HG&B]" is made in the August 1898 issue of The Railway and Shipping News, and in early September it was reported by the Hamilton Spectator, that "the new freight car being built for the HG&B in the Main St station building is fast nearing completion. It is larger than the company's present cars." Also, on July 27 1899 the Hamilton Spectator, reported that the HG&B "has turned out a new fruit car with a capacity of 15 tons. It went into commission to-day." Based on the limited data I've created a roster, but again this is only an educated guess.
HG&B #22 was involved in a collision at the Red Hill Creek on November 20, 1905. It was described by the Hamilton Spectator as being "of 200 horse power and is a heavy car, also being considered very fast. Whether or not this is supposed to be the wreck of the 'Redbird' described above is uncertain. The location is correct, but the description of #22 doesn't sound like that of a single truck freight motor that moved with a bobbing motion.
The Closed ‘Named’ Passenger Cars
RTGC and CT both agree that there were five large enclosed passenger cars. RTGC states that they were all built by the Ottawa Car Company in 1904, but this is an error in at least two cases. A photo of the 'Clinton' has appeared in a June 1901 Souvenir of the town of Grimsby, and the below photo of the 'Winona' in an ad for the HG&B's 1901 season.
CT states that the cars were built by different manufacturers and at different times, as shown in the roster below. The cars were unusual in that they were given names. Some of these cars were also given numbers, but it is unknown if all the cars numbered, and if so when this was done. When the Cataract Company bought the HG&B in 1905, they originally numbered the named cars in the high 300s, with numbers ending in 5 or 0. Similar numbers were issued to the cars belonging to the Brantford & Hamilton Electric Railway (B&H), so it appears that at the time the Cataract Company wanted all of their large, high-speed radial cars to be numbered the same. By 1910 the company had changed its mind and numbered the cars by railroad.
The Hamilton Spectator described the 'Winona' like so: The new car, which is 51 feet long, and will seat 60 people, is the finest ever turned out by the Ottawa company. Outside it is finished in regular Pullman car color [Dark green], and instead of being known by a number has a name of its own - Winona. On either end appears the emblem V. R. [Victoria Regina - Queen Victoria in Latin, the royal emblem to indicate that the car carries mail] The seats are moveable, and the upholstering is in blue plush. Electric call buttons are placed at each seat, and card tables are also attached. The car is lighted with fourteen electric lights. Instead of dropping in the frame the windows lift up, and each window has cut into its glass the monogram "H., G. and B."-Hamilton Spectator, December 17, 1897, pg 8. The car arrived in Hamilton on December 20, was shipped to Grimsby on the HG&B on December 22, and began regular service on January 13, 1898.
Two of the named cars were lost in service. HG&B #155 was destroyed in the Hamilton Freight Station fire on July 6, 1913, and HG&B #151 was destroyed in the Beamsville car barn fire on December 29, 1919. Two of the cars were scrapped in 1933, while HG&B #152 became the HSR's ticket office and lost & found department in Sanford Yard for several more years
HG&B #151 derailed near Beamsville, during the First World War. (From the Richard Vincent collection, used with permission)
HG&B #154 at the Hamilton Terminal Station, date unknown.
The Laconia Car
Around 1908 HG&B #159 was retired for reasons unknown. The Cataract company replaced it with one of the six Laconia-built cars that it had recently purchased, the rest going to the HSR. Assigned the same number as it's predessecor, HG&B 159:2 was rebuilt in 1912 with its sisters, and scrapped in 1936. This date is so much later than the end of the HG&B that it suggests that the car may have been transfered to the HSR in 1931, and run in city service for a few more years.
The 1913 Replacement Freight Motors
On July 6, 1913 the the Hamilton Freight Station caught fire. Several cars were destroyed, including most of the HG&B Freight Motors. With only weeks until the fruit harvest, the Cataract Company acted quickly and ordered four new freight motors. Two were from the Preston (Ontario) Car & Coach Company, while the other two were from the brand new Tillsonburg (Ontario) Electric Car Company. HG&B 172 was salvaged and rebuilt into a trailer, keeping its original number. As a result, only three of the new freight motors were given HG&B numbers, the fourth became Hamilton Terminal Company #677.
The Tillsonburg Electric Car Company was so new that the factory was not yet finished when it received the order on July 22, and the fact that an order would be given to this brand new company is an indication of just how desparate the Cataract Company was. HG&B 173:2 was shipped on September 8, and was described as "...A very handsome and substantial one measuring fifty feet in length, mounted on extra heavy freight trucks, and constructed of the very best material and workmanship. The outside color is the standard Pullman [Dark Green] with gold lines and lettering, which stand out in bold relief and give it a very attractive appearance. The interior is of chestnut, with natural finish, the ceiling being white."-Tillsonburg Liberal, August 28, 1913, pg 1.
HG&B #173:2 at Sanford Yard in the early 1920s. (From the Richard Vincent collection, used with permission).
HG&B #173:2 in use as a storage shed at the HSR Sanford shops. The date is unknown, but the streetcar tracks in the foreground place it between the early 1930s and the early 1950s. (From the Richard Vincent collection, used with permission)
Closing Notes & Sources
As shown above, there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty about the HG&B's early fleet. However, the answers are probably available with some work. Newspapers of the era have much greater detail than modern ones do, and regularly would mention radial car numbers involved in picnics, celebrations, or accidents. The problem is the amount of time required to visit libraries and read the old microfilms of area newspapers to find the information.
Bailey, William and Parker, Douglas. Streetcar Builders of Canada, Volume One. Montreal: The Canadian Railroad Historical Association, 2002
Blaine, William E. Ride Through the Garden of Canada; A Short History of the Hamilton, Grimsby & Beamsville Electric Railway 1894-1931. Grimsby, Ontario: Grimsby Historical Society, 1967
“The H., G. and B. Operations - The Line Will Be Completed to Grimsby in Two Weeks” Aug 23, 1894, pg 8
Mills, John M. Cataract Traction; The Railways of Hamilton. Toronto: Upper Canada Railway Society/Ontario Electric Railway Historical Association, 1971