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Hamilton Radial Electric Railway Company

March 2020

In the downtown core of Oakville, Ontario, sits a small three-story, century -old building with a link to the early era of modern public transportation in southern Ontario.

Built in 1906, this building was the eastern terminus station for the Hamilton Radial Electric Railway Company (HRER).

The HRER began business when they received their charter on 27 May 1893. It was one of four electric radial railways that ran from the Hamilton area to Oakville, Beamsville, Dundas and Brantford.

The HRER originated at Catherine Street South and King Street East, travelling east along King Street East and weaving its way up to Burlington Street and eventually travelling along the Hamilton Beach Strip parallel to the current Queen Elizabeth Way.

It then traveled eastbound through downtown Burlington, past what was then the Hotel Brant and later the site of the infamous Brant Inn, running parallel to what was then Highway 2, now Lakeshore Road.

By 1903, the line was extended into Oakville, with the eastern terminus at the present-day Randall Street and Thomas Street area, where a station was built. The building was designed with two distinct portions; a one-story public rail station with a roof sloping up to the two-storey repair and workshop portion behind it.

The busiest years for the HRER were during World War I, with Hamiltonians using the radial to get to Hamilton Beach to escape the city heat in the summer.

The beginning of the end for the HRER came on 3 August 1925, when the line between Port Nelson (the present-day Guelph Line area) and Oakville. The line between Port Nelson and Burlington was abandoned in 1927 and the rest of the HRER line on 5 January 1929.

All the tracks west of Kenilworth were transferred to the Hamilton Street Railway.

Over the next fifteen years, the rail lines were torn up, with the last of the HRER tracks crossing the Burlington Canal Bridge on the Hamilton Beach Strip, being torn up in 1946.

The former HRER line across the Hamilton Beach Strip was eventually acquired by the Hamilton and North-Western Railway, which was later absorbed by Canadian National Railway.

Under the H & NW Railway, the line was diverted north when it came to the Brant Inn, joining up with the Grand Trunk Railway line at the Freeman Junction (Brant Street-Plains Road East). CN Railway abandoned this line in 1982, ending the era of rain traffic along the Hamilton Beach Strip.

The former rail line in now a “Rail-Trail” for cyclists, walkers and runners.

Today, the Oakville station is the only remaining station of the Hamilton Radial Electric Railway and one of the few visible remnants that the HRER even existed. The station sat abandoned for several years, but was finally restored and converted into an office space, with a third-floor addition added to create a living space.

Most of the former rail line now carries cars or pedestrians, but a small section of the HRER right-of-way remains in use as a short-line railway in Hamilton’s north industrial area, from the Gage Street North-Burlington Street East area to the Parkdale Avenue North-Nikola Tesla Blvd area.

Sources: https://hikingthegta.com/2015/10/05/the-strawberry-fields-werent-forever/?fbclid=IwAR1GkvZPtGWa-Ho0JIM0F3FzcL1kEYzAEsoePU18VKutRhN-b60RyhWmcFk, http://www.trainweb.org/hamtransithist/HRER.html, http://ataarchitectsinc.ca/project/oakville-radial-railway, https://building.ca/adwire-post/page/922, https://www.google.com/maps/@43.445942,-79.6706497,3a,71.7y,130.06h,94.55t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s3qc-XIB5Yr6eCnrDivGvoQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192, http://www.railpictures.ca/upload/back-in-hamilton-this-spur-is-what-remains-of-the-hamilton-radial-electric-railway-right-of-way-leased-by-ontario-hydro-jointly-to-thb-and-cnr-in-1947-since-then-heavier-rail-was-laid-the-right.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/hamilton-radial-electric-railway-company/

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