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 Paint schemes of the Hamilton Street Railway

Paint schemes of the Hamilton Street Railway

In the over 135 years of the Hamilton Street Railway, at least nine different paint schemes have been used on its buses and streetcars. This article is an attempt to describe them all, which can be difficult because many photos were taken in a pre-colour film world.

One important note is that the dates listed are the dates that a paint scheme was in use. In more modern times buses are only repainted when necessary in order to save money. For example, the Ticat paint schemes were retired in 1985, but buses wearing Ticat paint schemes were still in service as late as 1999.

Special thanks goes to Andy Hyslop for his info on the HSR in the 1970s & 1980s


Horsecar schemes (1874-1899)

When the Hamilton Street Railway began operations in 1874, the horsecars were not all painted the same colour. In those days it was common to paint horsecars based on the route they travelled, making the first HSR paint scheme not really a scheme at all. The HSR’s first two routes were the Western branch with red cars, and the Eastern branch with green. In 1878 service on York St began with the cars also painted red, while service on James Street began with cars painted in a red & green Plaid or Check scheme.


Cataract Colours (1899-1927)

With the takeover of the HSR by the Cataract company in 1899, all streetcars were delivered/repainted in the Cataract colours of Pullman Green with gold lettering and pin stripes. Oddly, no identifying names or logos were added to the streetcars or to any of the Cataract’s radials, a feature that was very rare in North America, if not unique to Hamilton.


Olive Green & Cream (1927-1946)

The HSR’s Olive Green & Cream paint scheme was first used on the first batch of the National Steel Car Streetcars (#500-547) when they entered service in 1927. The car body was painted olive green, with the windows and roof in cream. A cream pinstripe was added below the windows running around the streetcar, but this was later removed. Additionally, some wooden streetcars had doors and window trim painted light brown. This paint scheme was the first to show the HSR’s ‘Entwined Letters’ logo, still in use today.

HSR 527 at Sanford Yard, date unknown.

HSR 527 at Sanford Yard, date unknown.

HSR 525 at James St N and Cannon, Dec 12, 1945

HSR 525 at James St N and Cannon, Dec 12, 1945. This is what the Olive Green & Cream paint scheme looks like in black & white. (From Dave’s Electric Railroads, used with permission)


Canada Coach Lines two-tone green (1946-1950)

With the purchase of the HSR by the Canada Coach Lines in 1946, all buses and the NSC streetcars were quickly repainted in the colours of the CCL, Dark Green and Pale Green.

The NSC streetcars were painted Dark Green as the primary body colour with Light Green as a trim around the windows. A thin orange stripe was placed underneath the window, however some streetcars had this stripe either removed or it was never added.

Buses were painted in nearly equal amounts of Dark Green & Light Green, with Dark Green on the body below the windows, and light green around the windows and for the roof.

HSR 511 in the Sanford yard, during a summer in the late 1940s.

HSR 511 in the Sanford yard, during a summer in the late 1940s. In the background are HSR Ford buses. (From Alan Gryfe’s collection, used with permission)

HSR 520 in the Sanford yard, date unknown.

HSR 520 in the Sanford yard, date unknown. This is what the Canada Coach Lines two-tone green scheme looks like in black & white. (From the Stephen M. Scalzo collection, used with permission)


Cream/maroon (1950-1972)

This paint scheme did not originate with the HSR; it was actually the colours that the Brill Company used on its gas bus demonstrator models. The HSR liked it so much that they borrowed it (Calgary and Saskatoon did as well).

There were four versions of this paint scheme. Exact dates of when these versions are unclear, and it is not certain if all buses were repainted from one version into another as the photographic record is spotty. It is likely that additional buses were in the versions listed below.

The first version was a direct copy of the Brill demonstration scheme: A cream roof and maroon body with a wide cream stripe that wrapped around the ends of the bus, and curved down to the bottom in the front of the bus. This version is known to have appeared on the following buses:

The second version of this paint scheme removed the curved portion on the front of the bus, resulting in a stripe that wrapped around the entire bus. This version is known to have appeared on the following buses:

HSR 712 on King St E. at West Ave

HSR 712 on King St E. at West Ave in May 1969, along with HSR 305. HSR 712 is painted in the first version of the Cream/maroon scheme, HSR 305 is painted in the second version.(Photo by Mike Harrington, used with permission)

The third version reversed the colours, with a cream coloured body and maroon stripes. This version is known to have appeared on the following buses:

HSR 559 at Sanford Yard

HSR 559 at Sanford Yard, date unknown. (Photo by Bob Hussey, used with permission. From Esbdave's Fotki Page)

The fourth version was applied to buses that had corrugated sides. These corrugations were left unpainted, while the rest of the bus body was cream with maroon stripes. This version is known to have appeared on the following buses:

HSR 850 in Sanford Yard.

HSR 850 in Sanford Yard, date unknown. (Photo by Bob Hussey, used with permission. From Esbdave's Fotki Page)


Ticat scheme (Yellow with black stripes) (1972-1985)

Consisting of a yellow body with black stripes, the colours of Hamilton’s football team the Tiger-cats, the HSR’s Ticat scheme was introduced in 1972 with the delivery of the first of the E700A trolley buses. There were three versions of this paint scheme.

Grey Version (1972-1985)

The first version was used on buses that had corrugated sides. These corrugations were painted grey, while the rest of the bus body was yellow with black stripes. This version appeared on the following buses:

HSR 756 at Main & MacNab, September 1975

HSR 756 at Main & MacNab, September 1975 (By Joseph Testagrose, used with permission)

Non-Grey Version (1972-1985)

For buses that did not have corrugated sides, the second version was used, which painted the entire body yellow with black stripes. This version appeared on the following buses:

HSR 80 inside the Sanford yard shop, date unknown.

HSR 80 (ex HSR 94) inside the Sanford yard shop, date unknown. (Photo by Bob Hussey, used with permission. From Esbdave's Fotki Page)

Rebuilt Version (1982-1985)

After the discovery of extensive corrosion of the E700A frames, the HSR began a large scale bus rebuilding campaign. To identify rebuilt buses, the HSR created the third version of the Ticat paint scheme. This was similar to the first version, except that the grey area was extended around to the front of the bus. This version appeared on the following rebuilt buses:

HSR 810 in Sanford Yard.

HSR 810 in Sanford Yard, date unknown. (Photo by Bob Hussey, used with permission. From Esbdave's Fotki Page)


Hamilton-Wentworth scheme (White with yellow & blue stripes) (1985-present)

The HSR’s current paint scheme is also the most varied; as there have been a number of variations over the years.

Black Accent Version (1985-1994)

The first version appeared in 1985 with the delivery of the first of the TC40-102N’s in the 8500 series. This version consisted of a white body with a wide yellow stripe and a narrow blue stripe wrapped around the body, and with black accenting the windows and the bottom of the frame. This paint scheme was applied to the following new buses:

And to some of the following buses after their mid-life rebuilding:

HSR 975 at Gore Park.

HSR 975 at Gore Park, date unknown. (Photo by Bob Hussey, used with permission. From Esbdave's Fotki Page)

New Flyer Version (1996-present)

The second version of this paint scheme has appeared on all New Flyer buses, with the exception of the DE60LFR’s. As before, the body colour is white with a wide yellow stripe and a narrow blue stripe wrapped around the body, but there are no accents around the windows or base. This paint scheme was applied to the following buses:

HSR 0709 at King and John, May 29, 2008

HSR 0709 at King and John, May 29, 2008

LFS Transit Version (1997)

The third version of this paint scheme has only been used on the Nova Bus Company’s LFS Transit buses. The body colour is white, but the yellow and blue stripes are identical in width. As well, the windows are accented in black, while the bottom of the bus is accented in dark gray. This was actually a design feature, and not a choice by the HSR. These gray panels were intended by Nova to be easily replaceable in the event of wear or damage, and to reduce costs by Nova the panels were available in only one colour: gray.

HSR 9709 waits to turn at Stirling, Oct 24, 2001

HSR 9709 waits to turn at Stirling, Oct 24, 2001

Equal Stripe version (1999-2003)

The fourth version consisted of a white body with yellow and blue stripes of the same width. This version only appeared on the following buses:

HSR 518203 (ex 8203) at McMaster University, April 16, 2004

HSR 518203 (ex 8203) at McMaster University, April 16, 2004

‘Fools Gold’ version (March 2008)

The fifth version was created when the HSR decided to have the 0800 series of D40LF’s painted in a scheme similar to the New Flyer Version, except that the yellow stripe was changed to gold and the blue stripe was changed to metallic blue. As the 0800 buses started arriving in early March 2008, the HSR changed its mind and decided to keep the previous white with yellow and blue stripes. The first seven buses were repainted before being put into service, giving the ‘Fools Gold’ paint scheme a lifespan of about 4 weeks! (The remaining 0800 D40LFs were delivered to the HSR in the New Flyer Version.)

HSR 0805 and HSR 0810 at the Mountain Regional Transit Centre, March 21, 2008

HSR 0805 and HSR 0810 at the Mountain Regional Transit Centre, March 21, 2008. HSR 0805 is in the shortlived 'fools gold' paint scheme, while HSR 0810 is in standard HSR colours. (Photo by Kevin N, used with permission)

LFS Transit Version (2015)

The sixth version of this paint scheme has only been used on the Nova Bus Company’s LFS Natural Gas buses. The body colour is white, but instead of yellow a gold stripe and a thinner blue stripe. As well, the windows are accented in black, while the bottom of the bus is accented in dark gray. This was actually a design feature, and not a choice by the HSR. These gray panels were intended by Nova to be easily replaceable in the event of wear or damage, and to reduce costs by Nova the panels were available in only one colour: gray.

HSR #1510 & #0501 at the Hamilton GO Centre, Aug 12, 2016

HSR #1510 & #0501 at the Hamilton GO Centre, Aug 12, 2016. Notice the difference in colour between the yellow stripes on the two buses.


Articulated Bus Scheme (Silver with Blue & Yellow stripes) (2007-present)

This special paint scheme is used in parallel with the regular HSR colours, but only on the articulated buses. The HSR did not create this scheme, but instead held a contest to design a unique paint job for these buses. The winning design by David Kuruc consists of silver with blue and yellow arcs. The yellow arc represents the Niagara Escarpment, while the blue arc represents Lake Ontario, two of the major natural features of the Hamilton area. This version only appeared on the following buses:

HSR 0616 at King and John, May 29, 2008

HSR 0616 at King and John, May 29, 2008


Old Time Trolley scheme (Maroon & Cream) (2007)

This is the least used paint scheme in the HSR’s history, appearing on only two vehicles, the Dupont Industries Champlain 1608 Low Floors. These two buses are used during the summer on the 99 WATERFRONT Shuttle, and for special occasions. Conflicting reports have been made about this paint scheme, calling it an homage to either the earliest horsecars, the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway (TH&B), or to the HSR's first cream/maroon scheme. It is unclear if this scheme will be used again.

HSR 70 at Pier 8, March 19, 2008

HSR 70 at Pier 8 as part of the official unveiling, March 19, 2008 (Photo by LikeHamilton, used with permission)