How Many HSR Horsecars Were Converted To Streetcars?
With the electrification of the HSR in 1892, several of the HSR's horsecars were converted to electric operation, through the addition of a wheelset or 'truck' underneath the car with electric motors, the installation of a trolley pole to collect electricity and operator controls at each end of the car. Several cars were also converted into unpowered trailers, which would be pulled by a streetcar on busy routes. What is uncertain is the total number of cars that were converted, and what were the numbers on these cars.
The book Cataract Traction says that by 1892 the HSR had bought 46 horsecars from several different manufacturers. 45 were in service, with one car retired. 15 cars were converted to electric operation (5 open, 10 closed) using Brill trucks. As well, 15 new closed cars were built by Jones in 1892, 5 new closed cars (built by either Jones or the Ottawa Car Company) and 10 new open cars (builder unknown) were built in 1893, giving a total of 45 electric streetcars in service by the middle of 1893. Cataract Traction states that the converted cars were renumbered into blocks as shown in the following table. Rather than start the new streetcar numbering at #47 or #50, the HSR reused two numbers and the brand-new streetcar numbers started at #45
During the electrification of the HSR, the Hamilton Spectator reported that thirty motors had been bought from Westinghouse, which would be used in trucks provided by Brill to run 15 former two-horse horsecars (5 open, 10 long closed), and 15 new car bodies being built by J.M. Jones of Troy, NY. Ten open horsecars would be covered into trailers, for a total of 40 cars. The equipment began arrivng in early May 1892, and conversions were underway by late May. The new car bodies began arriving on June 20. On June 29 the first electric car to operate was a former horsecar.
On February 20, 1893 it was announced that fifteen more cars had been ordered from Troy, NY. Five of them would be closed, and the rest open. The closed cars were delivered by rail on May 29, and the ten new open cars entered service en masse on the 1893 Canada Day weekend, for a total of 55 cars (45 motorized, 10 trailers) in service by mid-1893.
At this point everything seems to match up with the details in Cataract Traction, but further details reveal a problem.
During this time period it was fairly common for newspapers to mention the number of a streetcar or horsecar involved in an accident. In the following table is a listing of horsecars and streetcars described in the Hamilton Spectator from the start of 1891 with a number below #90, along with the date of the reference. One cautionary note, these are for the most part one time only references, and typos are always a possibility. There are two exceptions to this. HSR #39 was mentioned several times as one of the final streetcars run by a non-union crew in the days after the strike of 1906. HSR #40 was involved in a collision with a Grand Trunk Railroad freight train at King & Ferguson on November 12, 1907, and mentioned in multiple articles. As part of the subsequent coroner's inquest, HSR officials testified that HSR #40 was one of the converted horsecars.
Cataract Traction's description of the horsecars being renumbered into blocks after their conversion is born out by the fact that HSR #31 is mentioned as being in service on January 20, 1891. That's the wrong time of year for an open horsecar, and so the horsecar HSR #31 cannot be the same vehicle as the streetcar HSR #31.
However, there is a problem with the number of horsecars converted. Before the electrification of the HSR in 1892, the highest horsecar number mentioned in the Hamilton Spectator is #40. After the electrification of the HSR, the lowest streetcar number mentioned is #27, which is outside the range mentioned in Cataract Traction. In 1892, the highest streetcar number mentioned is #59, with #63 mentioned a year after electrification. This suggests that the range for the converted/new streetcars would be roughly #25-65, or 40 streetcars. None of the descriptions in the Hamilton Spectator give any possibility of the mentioned streetcars being used as a trailer, and in fact #28 is mentioned as pulling a trailer. References to HSR #37, #39, #40, #42, #44, #45, #50, #52, #55, #56, and #59-#62 are made in the winter months, making these closed cars and confirming the closed car number ranges given in Cataract Traction.
Street Railway Journal
For the 1895 annual meeting of the American Street Railways Association in Montreal, the Street Railway Journal (SRJ) published a special souvenir edition in October 1895, focusing on Canadian street and radial railways (available online at Archive.org). One of the articles was a description of the HSR, including a paragraph on the HSR's fleet at the time (mid-1895).
"The rolling stock is all imported from the United States, in spite of the duties, the feeling being that American cars are known to be thoroughly reliable, and the disposition being to avoid experiments. The motor car bodies were all built by J. M. Jones' Sons, and consist of thirty-five closed car bodies 24 ft. in length over all; ten, 10-seat open car bodies 30 ft. over all, and five 8-seat open cars 24 ft. over all. Removable vestibules are used on all closed cars. The open trail cars, fourteen in number, were built by the J. G. Brill Company, and there is one closed car made from two Brill 10 ft. horse cars, the latter being found in sufficiently good condition to warrant further use. The company owns thirty Brill No. 13 trucks, with 6 ft. wheel base, and five McGuire Columbian trucks with 6 ft. 6 in. wheel base. The motors are of the Westinghouse No. 3 type, of 25 H. P. each."
This gives a total of 51 cars and 14 trailers. The 'ten 10-seat open carbodies 30 ft' are HSR #65-74. The 'one closed car made from two Brill 10 ft. horse cars' is HSR #75. The fact that 'the company owns thirty Brill No. 13 trucks, with 6 ft. wheel base, and five McGuire Columbian trucks with 6 ft. 6 in. wheel base' with a fleet of 51 cars means that at the start of summer the HSR would lift a closed carbody off the truck, and switch it with an open carbody, rather than have expensive electrical equipment sit idle for an entire season.
The real uncertainty are the statements that 'the motor car bodies were all built by J. M. Jones' Sons, and consist of thirty-five closed car bodies 24 ft. in length.' and 'five 8-seat open cars 24 ft.' Cataract Traction does not say who manufactured the original horsecar bodies, so it may very well be J. M. Jones who built them. But based on the references in Cataract Traction there should be 30 closed (10 converts, 15 Jones-built and 5 uncertain) and 5 open car bodies, not 35 closed and 5 open car bodies.
It is possible that the 'five 8-seat open cars 24 ft.' are not the converted open horsecars, but the first five cars of the batch of streetcars numbered #76-88. No date of delivery is known for these cars, and the first newspaper reference for any of the cars in this series is dated September 9 1899 (#85) so this could be the first half of the 10 car order. If so, then the '35 closed car bodies' is an error, the converted open cars were included among the converted closed cars.
Ontario Railway and Municipal Board testimony
In 1906/07, the HSR was under investigation by the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board due to complaints made about the quality of service provided. During the testimony given before the board, manager Clyde Green stated that:
"the company had 48 open cars, and about 48 closed cars. Seven or eight were leased by the street railway company. The car rental was a dollar a day, winter and summer. These cars were the long "ninety" class. The same trucks were used year round, the company having 48 sets of trucks. There were no reserve trucks or motors."
From the 48 open cars mentioned, we can deduct the 5 Jones Open DEST Streetcars (HSR #100-104), the 10 Stephenson DEDT Streetcars (HSR #90-99), and the 23 Open DEST Streetcars (HSR #65-74, 76-88), leaving us with 10 open cars. Assuming the Cataract Traction roster is correct, removing the 5 open former horsecars still leaves 5 more open streetcars.
From the 'about' 48 closed cars mentioned, we can deduct the 12 Jones Closed DEST Streetcars (HSR #105-116), and the unique HSR #75, leaving us with about 35 closed cars. Assuming the Cataract Traction roster is correct, removing the 5 Jones or Ottawa DEST Streetcars (HSR #60-64), the 15 Jones built DEST streetcars and the 10 closed former horsecars still leaves 'about' 5 more closed streetcars.
Several photographs and postcards exist of HSR streetcars and horsecars with numbers in the approximate range.
HSR #1 on King St West between MacNab & Park in 1875 (now the site of the Ellen Fairclough Building). The text above the windows reads ‘G.W.RY STA. (Great Western Railway Station) & KING ST. WEST' identifying this as a red car. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
HSR #4 at King & James in the mid-1880s. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
On August 1, 1879 the McInnes building on the SW corner of King & John was gutted in a massive fire. In the lower right corner is HSR #14, which has been blocked by the firefighters and the crowd of spectators. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives, used with permission)
HSR #14 at King & James on February 2, 1887. The archway over the intersection was part of the 1887 Winter Carnival.(Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
Two horsecars at King & James between 1886 and 1890 during winter. HSR #35? is heading north after having been turned on the turntable, while the other horsecar is being spun. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
HSR #38 on King at Hughson circa 1884.
HSR #33 at James & King. Based on the storefront signs on James St North and on the ads on the streetcar fenders, this photo is most likely the August civic holiday, August 6, 1906. From an old uncirculated postcard.
HSR #34 at James & King, Based on the storefront signs on James St North and on the ads on the streetcar fenders, this photo is most likely early June 1906. From an old uncirculated postcard
HSR #39 at Stuart St & Caroline circa 1900. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
HSR #41 at Gore park in August 1892. This is one of the earliest photos of an electric streetcar in Hamilton, taken as part of an avertising pamphlet about the City of Hamilton for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (Photo courtesy of the Toronto Public Library, Digital Collections)
HSR #45 on November 25th, 1906, the morning after the Great Riot of 1906. Another version of this photo has the caption 'Street Car en route to Car Sheds after encounter with mob during Strike'(sic) (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
HSR #48 on York St, circa 1915. (The cemetary office is on the left side of the photo) (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
HSR #50, probably inside the Inspection barn at the East Barn. The caption reads ‘13276 Hamilton St Ry. Single Truck Motor Pas. Car. #37-50. July 1920’
HSR #59, probably on the scrap track at the storage yard next to the East Barn. The caption reads ‘13282 Hamilton St Ry. Single Truck closed Trailer cars #46-_-52-58-59. July 192_’
HSR #65 at Guise Loop, circa 1900. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
HSR #74 at Gore Park, circa 1910.
HSR #84 circa 1904, location unknown. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
It appears that none of the early small horsecars were converted, as all of these horsecars had only five windows per side and no clerestory (the raised central portion of the roof to let in air and light) on the roof, only vents. Later horsecars had six windows and a clerestory. A comparison of the photos of HSR #38, #39, #41, #45, #48, #50 and #59 doesn't reveal any difference in features, other than the enclosing of the motorman's compartment which occurred on all closed HSR streetcars in 1894.
Based on the photographs and the car numbers mentioned in the colder months, it looks like the car numbers for converted closed streetcars (HSR #35-44) and the 1892 Jones streetcars (HSR #45-59) are as stated in Cataract Traction. Based on the references in the Street Railway Journal and the Hamilton Spectator, the builder of both the closed and open cars in 1893 is J. M. Jones.
For the converted open streetcars, we should have five streetcars: HSR #30-34. But below #35 we have seven streetcars mentioned by number or photographed: HSR #22, #27, #28 and #31-#34. Photos of HSR #33 and #34 and summer-time references to HSR #31 and #32 suggest that the car numbers for converted open streetcars (HSR #30-34) are as stated in Cataract Traction.
As well, the total number of streetcars mentioned in the Street Railway Journal and in the testimony before the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board is higher than can be accounted for in the rosters given. Therefore the HSR must have converted additional horsecars, electrifiying some existing trailers or abandoned horsecars. The Hamilton Spectator reference to HSR #28 means that these conversions happened before the summer of 1893. It looks like around 5 more horsecars of both types were converted. As the photo of HSR #22 is of an open car, then presumably HSR #20-24 were another set of open converted horsecars, and HSR #25-29 were another set of closed converted horsecars.
Closing Notes & Sources
If additional photos or details come to light, it may be possible to determine which group(s) of horsecars were converted into streetcars in 1892. So to any researchers out there, if you come across any photos or references to any streetcar numbers in the double digits, or to any horsecars in general, please let me know.
"A Street Car Run Down - A Collision Between a Car and a Train Yesterday" January 21, 1891, pg 1
Mills, John M. Cataract Traction; The Railways of Hamilton. Toronto: Upper Canada Railway Society/Ontario Electric Railway Historical Association, 1971