The Cars of the HRER
Between the start of operations in 1896 and its closure in 1929, the Hamilton Radial Electric Railway used a number of interurban cars built by several different manufacturers.
When the HRER began operations, it numbered its cars starting at #10, in increments of 5. In order to eliminate confusion with HSR streetcars with the same numbers, in 1901 the cars were renumbered by adding a one to the existing number (HRER #25 became #125), although there were exceptions. This was followed by a system wide renumbering of all Cataract company streetcars and radials around 1910, in which HRER freight cars were numbered into the 120s and 390s, and passenger cars into the 300s, again with exceptions.
The Patterson & Corbin Cars
The passenger cars will be something big, from the shops of Patterson & Corbin, St. Catharines. Each car is 51 ft long, double trucked, fitted with Westinghouse air brakes, and has a seating capacity of 60. the seats are placed on each side of an aisle, as in a railway coach, and are of rattan. There are smoking compartments in them. The cars are finished in cherry, and cost nearly $4,000 each. There are four here ready for use. A combination car, with a baggage department in front and a trailer will be run together in each trip. Each car is equipped with two 50 horse-power motors.-Hamilton Spectator, September 1, 1896, pg 5
The first four HRER cars were single ended. HRER #20 was the first car to see service on the HRER, used for the ceremonial first run on September 7, 1896, and was described by the Hamilton Spectator as being "finished in mahogany on the exterior, with a silver strip along the top and bottom." HRER #10 was lost on March 13 1899 when the HRER's Beach carhouse burned down. After the fire, the surviving trailer was rebuilt and motorized.
HRER #125 at the Queen's Hotel in Burlington, circa 1905. The Queen's Hotel still stands today, at the corner of Elgin & Brant St. (Photo courtesy of the Burlington Historical Society, used with permission)
Postcard of one of the HRER's Patterson & Corbin built cars during the construction of the Oakville extension. The message on the back of the postcard reads "The first Elect. Car in Oakville. With best wishes for a Happy Yule-Tide, Mary!", suggesting that the image was taken in late fall/early winter of 1905. No number is visible, but from the car histories I suspect that this is HRER #125. (From the Oakville Historical Society, used with permission)
The Crossen Cars
In 1897 the HRER received four combine cars (delivered in May) and a rotary snowplow (delivered January 6) from the Crossen Car Company of Cobourg, Ontario. "They are beautifully finished and are a great improvement over the old cars. There are eighteen double seats, upholstered in matting, with a smoking compartment in the rear. The cars each have four 40-horsepower motors, and are guaranteed to run 40 miles an hour. The coaches are painted an olive green and will be put into service at once"-Hamilton Spectator, May 21, 1897, pg 1. The snowplow was never numbered, but was named 'Ruggles' after the American company that designed it (the Crossen company was one of the Canadian companies that held manufacturing rights). HRER #304 (formerly #140, formerly #40) was lost on December 20, 1924 when a fire broke out at the HSR's East Barn.
HRER #302 at West Hamilton station on the H&D in 1920. From left to right, either Jim Jardine or Mr. Jennings coming down the steps, Stan Jones, unknown, David Searles, George Searles, Lizzie Prescott (Haye), three unknown, Flora Duffus (Huckstep), Mrs. Coope, unknown and Harry Filer. (Photo from West Hamilton, a Village and a Church.)
HRER #303 at the H&D Dundas station, date unknown.
HRER #303, at the Hamilton Terminal Station circa 1920. (From the Richard Vincent collection, used with permission)
The 1899 Ottawa Cars
The first cars that the HRER received after being bought by the Cataract Company in 1899 were two cars from the Ottawa Car Company in 1899, an interurban car and a trailer. The interurban was numbered 10, the second HRER car with that number, to replace the car destroyed in the March 13 1899 carhouse fire. The Hamilton Spectator described it as "finished in oak and upholstered in red plush. The car is equipped with a swing bolster truck, which makes traveling over sharp curves very easy." -August 3, 1899, pg 8
The 1906 Ottawa Cars
The HRER received two more interurban cars from the Ottawa Car Company on August 1 1906. The finished car bodies were delivered without trucks or motors, and they had been originally intended to arrive in June. The Hamilton Spectator stated that "These new cars will be closed, and a trifle longer than those now used. There is no baggage compartment. The seats are of rattan, and the cars will be finished simply, but comfortably."-August 3, 1906, pg 1. Numbered 300 and 305, they were not renumbered in 1910, instead most other HRER cars were renumbered to match these two.
HRER #300 stuck in a snow bank on the H&D near Main St W and Leland in Hamilton, Feb 13, 1911.(Photographer unknown)
HRER #305 at the H&D Dundas station around 1906.
HRER #305 at the B&H Ancaster stop in 1908. (From the Ross Gray collection, used with permission)
HRER #305 at Appleby Road in Burlington in the summer of 1909. The couple in the foreground are the motorman, John Dudley Williamson, and his wife Eleanor. (Photo courtesy of the Burlington Public Library, used with permission)
HRER #305 at the Hamilton Terminal Station around 1925.
The Preston Cars
The last cars that the HRER received were two interurban cars built by the Preston Car Company in 1910. These cars were both originally numbered Hamilton Terminal Company (HTC) #600 and #601, and were transferred to the HRER and renumbered 308 and 309 sometime in the mid 1920s.
HRER #309 at the Hamilton Terminal Station in the summer of 1928. (Photographer unknown)
The HRER Freight Cars
The HRER had a number of freight cars. The first were 3 36 ft boxcars built by the HRER around 1896, and numbered 121-123. One of these cars eventually became part of the Brantford Freight shed in 1921, while another was possibly rebuilt into a flatcar numbered 141. These were followed by five fruit trailers numbered 393-398, built in 1906 possibly by the Ottawa car Company, and a flat car of unknown origins numbered 399.
HRER #123 at the E. D. Smith plant west of Winona, March 1911. Note the unusual doors at the end of each car. (Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, used with permission)
An HG&B train loads fruit at Clough's siding at King & Mountain in Stoney Creek. On the left is one of the flat cars owned by the Hamilton Radial Electric Railway, #393-398. In the centre is one of the CPR 'blower' cars. On the right edge of the photo looks like a standard express car of the era. No date, but the HRER flatcar means this is after the HG&B was bought by the Cataract Company in 1905.
A clip of one of the fruit cars (HRER #393-398) has been found online, inside a short 1920 film on fruit picking in the Niagara Peninsula called 'Where Nature Smiles.' It can't be linked to directly, but here's how to find it:
"Nine Street Cars Burned in Barn Fire" Dec 20, 1924, Section 2, pg 1
“Second Of The Radials - Something about the Electric Railway to the Beach” Sep 1, 1896, pg 5
Mills, John M. Cataract Traction; The Railways of Hamilton. Toronto: Upper Canada Railway Society/Ontario Electric Railway Historical Association, 1971