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Ottawa Street Incline Railway

Hamilton Transit History

Ottawa Street Incline Railway

In January 1922 it was announced that a group of developers had acquired 1200 acres of farmland on the east mountain in the vicinity of Upper Ottawa Street, and planned to build a new town on what was then the edge of the City of Hamilton. In order to access this area, the developers planned to build an incline railway from the head of Ottawa Street up the mountain.

As proposed, the OSIR would have been similar to the Hamilton and Barton Incline Railway in appearance, being built on a large steel trestle in order to clear the railway lines and proposed roads along its route. The major difference would have been the size of the cars. It was intended that the cars would be large enough to transport HSR streetcars up the mountain, and additional trackage would then be built so that the streetcars could travel through the new town.

Very good transit connections would have been available at the base of the OSIR. The Hamilton, Grimsby, & Beamsville Electric Railway (HG&B) ran along Lawrence Rd, and adding a stop at Ottawa St would have resulted in a non stop 15 minute trip to downtown Hamilton from the foot of the incline. Even if the planned new streetcar service up the mountain didn't come to pass, the Bartonville streetcar was about a 500 m walk north on Ottawa Street, with the Belt Line streetcar a further 400 m away.

The Ottawa Street Incline Railway was granted it's provincial charter on June 13, 1922. As part of the charter, the OSIR had no authority to run over city streets or expropriate city land, and so it was necessary to negotiate with the City of Hamilton over these issues. After nearly two years of negotiations over rents for crossing city property and franchise terms, an agreement was struck on June 13, 1924. It was at this point that public opposition to the project from residents of the Delta began to make itself heard. At a meeting held on June 28 local residents raised concerns about dust, noise, declines in property values and increased traffic congestion in the existing neighbourhood north of the proposed incline's base. Enough local opposition was raised that the project was ultimately shelved.

Author's note. I suspect that had the project gone ahead, the OSIR would have been short lived, perhaps becoming the first of the incline railways to go bankrupt. The closure of the Bartonville streetcar in 1929 and the HG&B in 1931, along with the opening of Sherman Access in 1931 would have reduced the convenience of the OSIR as a means of getting to downtown Hamilton. Also, the OSIR was tied to the new town on top of the Mountain, which would have been heavily hit by the Great Depression. If the development was incomplete when sales dried up due to the economic collapse there would be a smaller population on the top of the mountain than expected. And that number would drop due to people defaulting on their new mortgages and leaving. Lastly, the OSIR would still be paying off construction related debts such as bonds and any other financing that were arranged to pay for construction. The other incline railways didn't have this problem, their construction related debts were long paid back when the depression hit.



Hamilton Spectator

"New Incline Railway Proposition Outlined" January 31, 1922, pg 1
"Incline Seems Certainty Now" June 13, 1924, pg 1
"People Opposed to an Incline at Ottawa Street" June 30, 1924, pg 9

Osbaldeston, Mark. Unbuilt Hamilton; The city that might have been. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2016