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 Numbering scheme of the Hamilton radials and the HSR

Numbering scheme of the Hamilton radials and the HSR

Streetcars and Radials

In the beginning, each of the Hamilton radials and the HSR was an independent railway, with its own unique numbering scheme. After the takeover of each radial by the Cataract Company, renumbering of a few cars occurred in order to avoid multiple cars with the same number. Some of this renumbering was straightforward, such as the HRER’s cars that had most of their cars renumbered by placing a one in front of their previous two-digit number (i.e. HRER 25 became 125). It appears that there was also some effort to organize cars by type, as some high-speed cars from the HG&B and the B&H were numbered in the 300s, with numbers ending in 0 or 5.

However, as renumbering occurred only where needed, the Cataract company’s roster became confusing, with cars of all different types mixed together. In order to straighten this out, a system wide renumbering occurred around 1910. It appears that blocks of numbers were assigned to each of the Cataract’s properties. Based on the available rosters, the blocks were assigned as follows

  • 1-119 HSR (snow sweepers and small ex-horse cars and single truck cars)
  • 120-125 HRER (small boxcars)
  • 130-149 HTC (work cars that were used system-wide)
  • 150-179 HG&B
  • 180-199 H&D
  • 200-299 B&H
  • 300-399 HRER
  • 400-599 HSR (for future streetcars)
  • 600-699 HTC (for future radial cars and heavy freight motors)

This list is only an approximation. For example, there was only one H&D car at this time, which became H&D 181. This and the fact that there were no other cars in the 180-199 block suggests that it was reserved for the H&D, but this is only a theory.

This roster would continue to be followed well after streetcars and radials had been retired. The first two batches of HSR trolley buses were numbered in the 700s, following this pattern. Only with the delivery of the E800A’s numbered 78xx would this numbering scheme be finally retired.


When the HSR purchased its first buses in the mid-1920s, it numbered its buses starting at one, and kept going in a rough sequence (the horsecars and streetcars that had been assigned these numbers originally were retired by this time). Gaps were left between bus models, so that by the mid 1970s, HSR buses were in the high 900s.

Starting in 1977, the HSR began numbering its buses based on year of ordering and order received, with the first two digits of a bus’s number representing the year of ordering. For example, HSR 9715 was the 15th bus that was ordered in 1997. Any buses that were bought secondhand were numbered according to year of manufacture, but instead of the bus numbers starting at yy01, they started at yy51. (i.e. HSR 8251 was built in 1982 and was the first bus bought secondhand)

Following the amalgamation of Hamilton with the other communities of Wentworth County in 2001, this numbering scheme was slightly modified as the new city numbered all city owned vehicles in a common six-digit scheme. HSR buses were given a '51' prefix to go in front of the already existing four-digit number. In order to save money, older buses were not renumbered unless they were repainted (For example, the rebuilt GM Artics). The '51' was dropped in the spring of 2007, and over the next few months those buses that had been delivered with the six-digit numbers were "renumbered" (the 51 was scraped off) to four digits.

In recent years there have been a few exceptions and tweaks to the numbering scheme. The 34 buses delivered in 2006/2007 were all part of a single order, but the HSR decided to split the numbering of the buses based on the type of propulsion used. The diesel buses were numbered in the 0700s, and the hybrid buses were numbered in the 0600s. The diesel buses were delivered first, and they all arrived by the end of Dec 2006. The hybrid buses arrived in early spring 2007, resulting in the 2006 buses being numbered in the 0700s, and the 2007 buses numbered in the 0600s.

The second batch of DE60LFRs were numbered starting at 920, because of the batch of D40LFs that were also purchased that year and numbered starting at 901. The HSR has decided to continue with this practice, and so starting in 2015 the HSR is numbering articulated buses starting at yy20.