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 Mount Hamilton Incline Railway/Wentworth Incline Railway (East-End Incline)

Mount Hamilton Incline Railway/Wentworth Incline Railway (East-End Incline)

With the success of the Hamilton and Barton Incline Railway, demand grew for a second incline railway to be built further to the east. The East Hamilton Improvement Company was founded by local landowners to build the Mount Hamilton Incline Railway (MHIR). The company received a provincial Charter on January 18, 1894.

Near the head of Wentworth St a spot was found that would require very little cutting or filing of the slope to create an incline railway (unlike the HBIR, which ran on an elevated track). A construction crew of between 20 and 30 men began grading on the site in October 1894. Contracts for the machinery and cars were issued in December. Poor weather in the spring of 1895 and a landslide on April 21 1895 caused by melting snow delayed the opening of the MHIR by several weeks. The track installation was completed by July 3 and the cables arrived and were installed on July 10. The first test run of the MHIR was made on the evening of August 1.

The MHIR opened on August 5, 1895, hauling passengers during the August civic holiday long weekend. After the long weekend, the MHIR did not permit passengers to ride, but did allow wagons with work crews. On August 9 the MHIR had its first accident, when the brake on the downward car did not properly engage, and the heavily loaded car speed downhill at a faster than designed speed. The car hit the bottom with a crash, but there were no reported injuries or damage. On August 26, 1895 the MHIR officially opened to the public, with free rides all day by an estimated 5 000 people.

The MHIR consisted of two 13-ton cars measuring 9.1 x 6.25 m, running on a 218.5 m long track at a 45% grade. The cars carried passengers and wagons, for a maximum load of nine tons, 92 metres up to the top of the escarpment. At the base of the MHIR was a two-storey brick pumping station to transport water up the escarpment for the boilers located at the top. At the top of the incline was the engine and boiler house which held a 150 hp steam engine and 2 2780 litre boilers. Also at the top of the railway housing for the operating engineer. The original cars were replaced around 1905 with cars that had a curved roof on the passenger shelter instead of a flat roof.

Early in the morning of April 24 1906 the MHIR powerhouse and engineer's residence caught fire, destroying all equipment inside. With no source of power for the incline operations were halted until the equipment could be replaced. On May 30 1906, the MHIR was sold to an unknown party. There was much speculation as to who the new owner was, with names such as the Cataract Company and the Hamilton, Caledonia & Lake Erie Railway being tossed around. In early June the new owner was revealed to be George Webb. Webb built a new power house and installed an electric engine to replace the steam engine destroyed in the fire. Service resumed on July 24.

Webb would also renamed the company to the Wentworth Incline Railway (WIR). Regardless of the name change, Hamiltonians continued to refer to the line as 'The East-End Incline.' On November 3, 1913, a heavy storm unleashed a landslide that wrecked the inclined railway and put it out of commission for several months until April 1914.

The East-End Incline, as seen from Wentworth St.

This photo shows the devasted WIR after the landslide. Photo from the Archives of Ontario, L 23 Newspapers, N 184 reel 193, Hamilton Spectator, Nov 4th 1913, pg 1

In 1929, the Sherman Access was constructed from the Sherman Cut to John St, to allow for better traffic access for mountain residents. Work crews dug under the WIR while cars rumbled by on the tracks overhead, as business was too heavy to shut the line down. Unfortunately, the opening of this new road would cause such a drop in people using the railway that the company went bankrupt in 1936. Attempts by local residents over the next 13 years to get the railway working again were in vain, as the city refused to assume the company’s debts. The railway was dismantled in 1949

As of May 2019, the Wentworth Stairs are now on the site of the railway, roughly in what was the space between the two sets of tracks. There are several old concrete bases along the sides of the stairs, but at first glace it's difficult to pick out the smaller ones as they are grey square edged concrete blocks surrounded by grey square edged limestone rocks. A historical plaque about the railway is to the west of the railway at the top of the hill.

Janet Forjan-Freedman has a large number of postcards of the East-End Incline Railway on her website

ooking down the Wentworth stairs on the site of the inclined railway, May 16, 2019

Looking down the Wentworth stairs on the site of the inclined railway, May 16, 2019

A historical plaque about the railway.

A historical plaque about the railway. This website was one of the sources the City used to create this. May 16, 2019

Surviving pieces of the eastern observation deck. Surviving pieces of the eastern observation deck. Surviving pieces of the eastern observation deck. Surviving pieces of the eastern observation deck.

A few surviving pieces of the eastern observation deck are still in place at the top of the escarpment. May 16, 2019

Old concrete bases.

Old concrete bases along the east side of the Wentworth stairs. May 16, 2019

natural rock outcrop with metal bar.

In at least one case the builders of the East end Incline took advantage of a natural rock outcrop instead of pouring a concrete base. Note the metal bar sticking out of the rock. May 16, 2019

concrete retaining wall on the north side of the Sherman access

The concrete retaining wall on the north side of the Sherman access was built in 1929. May 16, 2019

Steel girders are still embedded in the retaining wall.

Steel girders are still embedded in the retaining wall. May 16, 2019

Below Sherman Access

Below Sherman Access, the number of remains increases. May 16, 2019

Looks like Stonehenge

In some places it starts looking more like Stonehenge. Not all of these concrete pieces would have been built at the same time, some are from 1894, others are from the repairs after the landslide in 1913. May 16, 2019

Historical photos

A ticket for the East-End Incline Railway

A ticket for the East-End Incline Railway. George Webb is listed as the company president, so it's from sometime after 1906.

Another ticket for the East-End Incline Railway

Another ticket for the East-End Incline Railway.

A letterhead for the Wentworth Incline Railway

A letterhead for the Wentworth Incline Railway. Based on the phone number (GArfield (42)-341) we can date this to between 1919 (When the Garfield telephone exchange opened) and 1928 (When Hamilton switched to using 6 digit phone numbers).

The East-End Incline, as seen from Wentworth St.

The East-End Incline, as seen from Wentworth St. HSR #22 is in the foreground heading towards the downtown core on the WENTWORTH route. The earliest postmark found for this card is 1907.

Undated stereoscopic card of the East End Incline.

Undated stereoscopic card of the East End Incline.

The Wentworth Street Incline Railway

The Wentworth Street Incline Railway. The earliest postmark found for this card is June 2, 1913

The East-End Incline, as seen from the base.

The East-End Incline, as seen from the base. The earliest postmark found for this card is July 12, 1907 (from Vintage Postcards of Hamilton, used with permission)

The East-End Incline with a close-up of the pumping station at the base.

The East-End Incline, with a close-up of the pumping station at the base. The earliest postmark found for this card is January 26, 1909 (from Vintage Postcards of Hamilton, used with permission)

The East-End Incline in action, around 1905.

The East-End Incline in action, around 1905. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives, used with permission)

The East-End Incline in action, sometime in the 1920s.

The East-End Incline in action, sometime in the 1920s. Note the automobile being transported. From an unused postcard.

The East-End Incline in action, sometime in the 1920s.

The East-End Incline in action, sometime in the 1920s.

The East-End Incline in the 1920s.

A time-lapse night shot of the East-End Incline sometime in the 1920s. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives, used with permission)

A close-up of one of the Mt Hamilton Incline cars

A close-up of one of the Mount Hamilton Incline cars circa 1905. Note the horse-drawn wagons on the car. From an unused postcard.

A Mount Hamilton Incline Car

A Mount Hamilton Incline Car reaches the top. This photo appears in the article in the September 15 1895 Street Railway Review linked in the Sources section below, and so must have been taken on opening day, August 5, 1895. The earliest postmark found for this card is August 26, 1904.

A postcard of both Incline Railways

A postcard of both Incline Railways, copyright 1902. The earliest postmark found for this card is December 18, 1903.

A loaded car climbs the mountain.

A loaded car climbs the mountain, circa 1899. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives, used with permission)

The East-End Incline in action, sometime in the 1920s.

The East-End Incline in action, sometime in the 1920s.

Nearing the top of the East-End Incline.

Nearing the top of the East-End Incline, circa 1899. In the background are the engine and boiler house, and the residences. All of these would be severely damaged in the 1906 fire. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives, used with permission)

Nearing the top of the East-End Incline, before 1905.

Nearing the top of the East-End Incline. No date, but since the shelter for the car has a flat roof it must be before 1905.

Nearing the top of the East-End Incline, circa 1905.

Nearing the top of the East-End Incline, circa 1905. From an unused postcard.

The old gates at the top of the East-End Incline

These are the old gates at the top of the East-End Incline, on March 6 1954. The gates and fencing were left behind for safety reasons when the East-End Incline was dismantled in 1949. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives, used with permission)

The second powerhouse for the East-End Incline.

The second powerhouse for the East-End Incline, built when the line converted to electric operations, March 6 1954. This powerhouse was located on the south side of Mountain Park Ave, directly across from the top of the East-End Incline. This building survived until March 1983 when it was torn down and replaced by the apartment building named 'Incline Place'. Surprisingly, the fence on the left is still there today.(Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives, used with permission)

Sources

"East End Incline Ry., Hamilton" Canadian Railway and Marine World December 1913: pg 578

Fensom, John. "The Mount Hamilton Incline Railroad at Hamilton, Ont." Street Railway Review September 15 1895: pg 631-633

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

Mountain Memories; A Pictorial History of Hamilton Mountain. Hamilton: Hamilton Mountain Heritage Society, 2000

"The New Incline Railway at Hamilton, Ont." Street Railway Review February 15 1895: pg 94