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 Hamilton Union Station

Hamilton Union Station

When the Toronto, Hamilton, & Buffalo Railway (TH&B) was originally constructed in the 1890’s, its Hamilton- Welland mainline ran at grade through central Hamilton down the middle of Hunter Street. This soon proved to be troublesome, as complaints about noise and soot quickly mounted. With the advent of the automobile, and the TH&B’s trains blocking traffic, pressure mounted for a separation of road and rail.

In the 1910’s, the city of Hamilton attempted to convince the federal government’s Board of Railway Commissioners (the BRC) to have the TH&B tracks along Hunter Street abandoned, and to have the Grand Trunk allow the TH&B to run on their tracks along the waterfront. This was later squashed in the courts, but the message was clear. The TH&B began drawing up plans to elevate the tracks above the surrounding land. However, the City of Hamilton wanted to have the tracks placed in a tunnel, and so both parties submitted reports to the BRC on the two plans. The BRC approved the TH&B track elevation due to its lower cost. Undaunted, the City commissioned another report, this time advocating the total elimination of the TH&B’s route through the middle of the city.

The city proposed that all trains be routed along the Grand Trunk’s mainline. The tracks would be increased to four tracks, to handle traffic not only from the TH&B and the Grand trunk, but for the proposed Canadian Northern route from Toronto to Niagara Falls, and for the provincial government’s proposed radial railway network (two of the tracks would be electrified to handle Radial cars).

The centrepiece of this proposal was to be a massive union passenger station that would be used by all trains in Hamilton. The report evaluated three sites; on James Street at the Grand Trunk mainline; At Cannon and Ferguson; and at King William and Ferguson.

The James Street site was the cheapest to construct, but it had the disadvantage of being the farthest from the city centre. The Cannon and Ferguson site cost more to build, and would require all trains to back out of the station up to the Grand Trunk mainline. The King William and Ferguson site was right downtown, but was the most expensive option. To avoid trains having to back out of the station for more than 2 km, it was planned that all eight station tracks would be built on a large underground loop.

The Hamilton Union Station was never built due to several factors. The Canadian Northern went bankrupt in 1917, and was taken over by the federal government, while the province decided not to build the radial railway network. This reduced the amount of traffic that would have serviced Union Station. The collapse of the Grand Trunk and its government takeover in 1923 resulted in the formation of the Canadian National Railway. In protest of the government taking over its rivals, Canadian Pacific, minority shareholder of the TH&B, convinced the TH&B management to break off discussion on the Hamilton Union Station project. Over the next decade, Hamilton’s two railroads would go their separate ways. The Canadian National would build its new Hamilton station at the James Street site, while the TH&B would construct their Hunter Street station next to the elevated tracks that the city of Hamilton had fought against for so long.