As my personal Canada150 project I’m building a large scale model of the Great Western Railway station in Stoney Creek as it might have looked in 1867. It should be ready for display by the beginning of the fall school term, and I hope to make a presentation to the Stoney Creek Historical Society about the town’s railways over the years. One that had great promise was the electric train that ran from Hamilton to Beamsville , a remnant of which is the well-known Powerhouse Restaurant. There is eerie similarity between the promise of that railway to today’s LRT.
When the grand opening of the Hamilton Grimsby and Beamsville Railway took place in October 1894 the newspaper reports of the day stated that the electric radial railway system “…is looked upon as the chief factor in Hamilton’s future growth.” Huge benefits would also accrue to Grimsby according to an editorial which stated “….that the railway will be of great benefit to Grimsby is beyond a paraventure (chance). Hamilton millionaires will fill the pretty little town’s peach shaded vacant lots with handsome villas…..the Grimsby independent will blossom out into a daily….the streets of the town will be full of Hamilton tourists.”
After some initial success, deficits began to appear on the books in 1921. Ontario Hydro bought out the company in April 1930 for the purpose of abandoning it. The inevitable protests were made, and we know from William Blain’s excellent history the following story. One group who came to oppose its closing was asked how many had come to the meeting by the train. Of twelve people only two said yes and the Hydro spokesman replied, “That gentlemen….is the reason why we are abandoning the line.”
Its real legacy was the hydro-electric power that John Patterson and his colleagues provided when they built the Decew Falls generating station to supply electricity to the railway. As soon as the power became available manufacturing companies chose Hamilton as a location and the ones already here abandoned their steam-driven powerhouses in favour of hydro. The little electric trains however lost out to the private automobile.
There is however great potential for the GO train which only requires a relatively modest investment to utilize infrastructure that is now in place or nearing completion. I was present for the final day of the CN station on Lake Avenue and with luck I’ll be here when its replacement opens at Centennial. That service, given adequate frequency, will take cars off the highway.
Bob Bratina MP