The Western Branch
Start of service: May 18 1874
The Western Branch was one of the first routes operated by the HSR, starting on May 18, 1874. The Western Branch ran from the Great Western Railway station at Stuart & Caroline to King & James via Stuart and James. The cars on the western branch were painted red, with the route described on the side of the horsecar, above the windows.
In June of 1874, track construction began next to the Crystal Palace at Locke & King, running eastwards along King St West. On July 1 the Western Branch was extended west along King to Locke.
The Western Branch had few alterations during its lifespan. The route was cut back on Stuart from Caroline to Bay at some point around 1875, as it was found that the hill on Stuart was too steep for fully loaded horsecars. On May 26 1877, the Western Branch was renamed the Red route, to match the colour of the cars.
HSR 1 on King St West between MacNab & Park in 1875 (now the site of the Ellen Fairclough Building). The text above the windows reads ‘G.W.RY STA. (Great Western Railway Station) & KING ST. WEST' identifying this as a red car on the Western Branch. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
Bird's-eye view of Stuart St in 1876, looking southeast. In the centre is the original HSR car and horse barn built in 1874. The large building in the lower right corner is the Great Western Railway's Hamilton station, built in 1875. Notice that the tracks do not reach the station because it was found that the hill next to the station was too steep for horses to pull a fully loaded horsecar. (Image taken from a larger map located here).
"Street Railway - Special arrangements for Dominion Day and the Races" June 29, 1874, pg 3
Mills, John M. Cataract Traction; The Railways of Hamilton. Toronto: Upper Canada Railway Society/Ontario Electric Railway Historical Association, 1971