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UCRS Bulletin 50 was published in July 1958
written by John F. Due author of
The Intercity Electric Railway Industry in Canada


Sir Adam Beck fought fearlessly to bring affordable hydro electricity to people everywhere in Ontario under his slogan "Power for the People", convinced of the prosperity it would bring. A successful businessman and mayor of London he became the MPP in 1905, as well he was the first chairman of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario. With the Ontario Hydro system well established Beck turned his attention to radial railways powered by that same hydro electricity to bring what could have been described as "transportation for the people" likewise convinced of the good it would bring. While he was right about power for the people there was considerable doubt about the benefits of the railways in light of the advent of the automobile which was rapidly spreading everywhere changing the landscape forever.

To showcase what modern electric railways could do for both people and freight, Beck modernized in 1915 the London and Port Stanley Railway which the city of London controlled making it fast and efficient. It prospered and remained vital to the people it served for many years.

The period 1912-22 saw proposals made and changed a provincial government change and eventually with delays caused by foot-dragging on the part of the government and its eventual refusal to guarantee municipal bonds for the radial railways it all came crashing down. Beck died sick and broken in 1925 and with him died the great hydro radial proposal.

It is interesting to speculate just what might have happened had these modern electric railways been built and had they survived the coming of the automobile and trucks as well as the Great Depression. Nearly a century later, would we have had fast efficient public transportation over much of Ontario that today would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the endlessly growing congestion that plagues our streets and highways?


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