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 The King & James Turntable

The King & James Turntable

During the 1870s, the intersection of King & James contained the most complex section of trackwork on the HSR's network. Originally consisting of just a pair of curves so that horsecars could turn onto James St from either way on King, by 1878 the intersection contained multiple switches and diamonds, to allow horsecars travelling south on James to turn onto King West, King East, or to continue south, as well as return from all three directions. This complex trackwork combined with poor roads and wooden wheels resulted in frequent damage to the horse-drawn carriages and wagons of Hamilton.

In response to mounting complaints and repair costs, the HSR decided to replace the complex trackwork with a small hand operated or 'Armstrong' turntable in the centre of the intersection. Double tracks would merge into a single track a few meters away from the turntable. Construction began on the turntable on May 17, 1881, and was in service by the end of May.

The turntable would be in service for less than a decade. By the late 1880s horsecar traffic on the HSR had risen to the point that the turntable and the short sections of single track next to it were delaying horsecars. In 1890 the decision was made to remove the turntable and return to the previous trackwork. Removal was delayed until after the busy summer season and began on September 30, with the new track in service by the evening of October 9.

HSR 2 at King & James between 1881 and 1885

HSR #2 at King & James between 1881 and 1885. The horsecar is on top of the turnable.

HSR 4 at King & James in the mid-1880s.

HSR #4 at King & James in the mid to late 1880s. Notice the turntable along the bottom edge of the photo. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)

Gore park and King Street east

Stereoscopic photo of Gore park and King Street east, showing both the turntable and the track layout on King St. One of a series of stereoscopic photos taken of Hamilton in the mid to late 1880s by William Farmer.

looking east along King from west of James.

Stereoscopic photo looking east along King from west of James. Notice the track layout approaching the turntable on King East in the lower left corner. One of a series of stereoscopic photos taken of Hamilton in the mid to late 1880s by William Farmer.

Two horsecars at King & James between 1886 and 1890 during winter

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)

Sources

Hamilton Spectator
"New Turntable" May 17, 1881, pg 4
“Brief Local Items” April 18, 1890, pg 8
“That Turn-table Must Go-The Spirit of Progress in the Street Railway Company” May 8 1890, pg 5
“Brief Local Items” September 30, 1890, pg 8
“Brief Local Items” October 1, 1890, pg 8

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