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 The Hamilton Terminal Station

The Hamilton Terminal Station

The Beginning

When first built, each of the Hamilton area electric radials had their own stations located in Downtown Hamilton.

As the Cataract Company brought all of the radials under its ownership, it decided to centralize operations. As none of the existing sites were large enough to handle the combined current levels of traffic, not to mention the traffic that would be generated by proposed future radials, it decided to build a brand new downtown terminal. The site ultimately chosen for the new terminal was on the southeast corner of King St at Catherine. This location was downtown, and accessible by all three existing radials as well as the then underconstruction Brantford & Hamilton. The building architect was Charles Mills of Hamilton, and the contractor was the Canadian White Company of Montreal. Construction began in January of 1907, and the terminal opened on November 17, 1907.

Architectural Details

The Terminal building exterior was a mixture of masonry and terra cotta brick. The first story of the building was done in Indiana blue limestone, with the main entrance from King St flanked by two bronze lamps on stone pedestals. The second to fourth storys were of pressed brick with architectural decorations of Perth-Amboy terra cotta. The building roof featured a clock six feet in diameter, topped by a flag pole. The sidewalk along Catherine St was a 12 foot wide covered walkway, allowing sheltered access to the back of the building and to Bennett's Theatre on Main st, which was built concurrently with the Terminal Station.

The main floor consisted of one large room 68 by 108 feet, with a 20 foot high ceiling. The walls were covered to a height of 10 feet with English veined Italian marble, and the floor was laid with ceramic tile. In the center of the floor was a large monogram, DP&T Co., for Dominion Power & Transmission Company. The interior columns and beams were reinforced concrete surrounded by terra cotta blocks. A person entering the Terminal from King St would find the ticket counter directly in front of him, with the general waiting room to the left and the ladies waiting room to the right. Five double doors led to either the tracks on the east side of the building, or to a covered outdoor waiting area at the back of the building. To the right of the main entrance was an elevator leading to the upper floors. The offices on the second to fourth storys had hardwood floors with Terrazzo for corridors and other public places. Office walls were in Oak or Mahogany, depending on the importance of the office occupant.

One feature that was originally planed for the Hamilton Terminal Station but never constructed was a large glass trainshed over the through tracks. This trainshed appeared in numerous early artist's conceptions and postcards, leading to the mistaken idea that the trainshed was built, but removed within a few years.

The Hamilton Terminal Station received widespread recognition for its size, layout and architectural beauty, to the point that it was used as a point of comparison to major interurban terminals built elsewhere in North America.

Operations

One unusual thing about the Cataract Company was that as it took over each of the Hamilton radials there was little or no integration of operations. Rather than merge operations into that of a single company, each radial company existed much as it had before. To further complicate things, in November 1907 the Cataract Company created a new subsidiary called the Hamilton Terminal Company (HTC) to own and operate the Hamilton Terminal Station, and to become the owner and operator (for the most part) of any new cars purchased for the Cataract's radials. The HTC made money by charging the other radial lines for use of the Terminal (at 25¢ per car per use), by charging rent for office space on the upper floors, and by ‘renting’ out its radial and freight cars to the other radials.

The station yard consisted of two through tracks, with four storage tracks on the west side. The western most track was relocated to the east side of the yard within a few years of the Terminal station's opening. Radial cars could access the terminal from either Main or King Streets. Radials bound for Grimsby & Beamsville, Dundas, or Brantford would exit the terminal onto the radial tracks on Main St, while radials for Burlington & Oakville would exit onto the streetcar tracks on King St, travelling on the streetcar tracks as far as Sanford until reaching the radial line.

By 1927 some of the radial companies had purchased buses and used them to suppliment radial service, and bus platforms were built behind the terminal building. After the end of the radial era in 1931, the Hamilton Terminal Station was converted into Hamilton's 2nd intercity bus terminal, replacing the original bus terminal at John & King, and used by such companies as Canada Coach Lines and Gray Coach Lines. The terminal was closed on August 3, 1955, and replaced by the Rebecca St Bus Terminal. In 1959 the Hamilton Terminal Station was demolished, and the Terminal Towers development (now Effort Square) was built on the site.

(All photos © Tom Luton, except where noted)

Artist's conception of Hamilton Terminal Station, 1907

This is an artist's conception of the Hamilton Terminal Station before its construction. Of note is the large glass trainshed on the left, which was never built. This image was sold to postcard companies, and postcards of the Hamilton Terminal Station were available even before the station was completed. (The earliest postmark found so far is July 2, 1907, four and a half months before the station's opening) (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)

Terminal Yard in the early 1920s

This view of the Terminal Yard taken during the early 1920s shows just how busy the Terminal Station used to be. The three cars along King St are HTC 610, HRER 302, and probably HTC 608. From the signs, 302 is headed for Oakville, and 608 is bound for Dundas.

Colourized postcard from 1910

This colourized postcard shows the handsome stone and brick station in all its glory. In the background is Bennett's Theatre. The earliest postmark found for this card is June 22 1909

The Hamilton Terminal Station

The Hamilton Terminal Station and the neighbouring Waldorf Hotel. The earliest postmark found for this card is August 17, 1913

postcard from 1909

This postcard has been 'photoshopped' to turn the daytime scene into a cold winter's night. The earliest postmark found for this card is April 20, 1908.

undated postcard

This postcard shows the Hamilton Terminal Station in relation to the Terminal Yard. On the storage track on the left is either HG&B 171:2 or HTC 677, which is waiting to be called out for snow clearing duties. In the middle is one of the radials in the HTC 603-608 series. The radial on the right looks to be one of the Crossen-built HRER cars, numbered 302-304 & 306. The earliest postmark found for this card is Oct 12, 1916.

Bus platforms during WWII

This is a photo of the Bus platforms at Hamilton Terminal Station during World War II, about a decade after the end of Radial Service. The buses at the platform and to the right are both from Canada Coach lines. The one at the platform is a Ford Transit. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)

Aerial photo of King St, October 1945

This aerial photo taken of King St East in October 1945 shows the Hamilton Terminal Station in the centre left, just down the steet from the Royal Connaught Hotel. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)

Aerial photo of Main St, October 1945

Taken as part of the same flight as the photo above, this aerial photo shows the Hamilton Terminal Station bus platforms. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)

This 1946 colour documentary about Hamilton has a segment staring the former Hamilton Terminal Station in its later role as the intercity bus terminal. The segment starts at 4:25, and shows the bus terminal full of several different types of Canada Coach Lines buses.

Portrait of a City from Brian Potstra on Vimeo.

Sources

"Electric Railway Union Station for Hamilton, Ont" Electric Railway Review Vol 17, No 4, (January 26 1907) pg 122

Mills, John M. Cataract Traction: The Railways of HamiltonCanadian Traction Series Vol 2, Toronto, 1971

Moore, Edward T. "Dallas Railway Completes Seven-Track Interurban Terminal" Electric Railway Journal Vol 48, No 13, (September 23 1916) pg 525

"New Terminal Building at Hamilton" Electric Railway Review Vol 18, No 18, (November 2 1907) pg 736

Wilson, Paul "Lighting Up a Second Electric Age" Hamilton Spectator November 11 2007, pg G4