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Hamilton’s historic TH&B Railway Station given a fitting new life

October 2020

Hamilton, Ontario, is like many older cities around the world that have lost historic buildings to neglect and re-development. Happily, many still stand and some have even been restored to their former glory after years of neglect.

Back when the railways were king, Hamilton had one of its own railway companies, the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo (TH&B) Railway. Headquartered in Hamilton, the TH&B existed from 1892 until 1987, initially as a separate railway serving the Toronto-Hamilton-Niagara rail corridor, but after 1895, was a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific and New York Central Railways.

The TH&B opened a new larger train station for passenger service on 26 June 1933, on the south-side of Hunter Street East, between James Street South and John Street south, replacing an earlier station, built in 1895, at the north-east corner of James Street South and Hunter Street East. This first station was demolished shortly afterwards and is now commemorated by a historical plaque.

Built with a cut-limestone exterior in the Streamline Art Moderne-style, with Art Deco influences, the new station had a two story podium, with a four story tower rising up in the centre of the structure. It was one of the few railway stations of this style in Canada.

The lower floors featured waiting rooms, ticket office, baggage room, mail room and news stands, with office space on the upper floors for the TH&B headquarters staff.

Like many railway stations, the TH&B station was a departure point for thousands of military personnel during World War II, as they left for training camps and overseas deployments.

Passenger rail service continued at the station for the next half century, until the TH&B service was terminated on 26 April 1981. In January 1987, the TH&B ceased to exist when its assets were officially merged with CP’s London Division. The Hunter Street station was abandoned in December 1990, as CP Railway had no interest in maintaining it, but the dilapidated station wouldn’t remain empty for long.

Prior to 1996, GO Transit bus and rail service operated from two sites; the Canadian National Railways station for on James Street North for rail service, and the Rebecca Street Bus Terminal for bus service. In the early 1990s, the City of Hamilton began planning for the consolidation of GO Transit bus & rail service, Greyhound Bus service and the city’s own Hamilton Street Railway bus service, leading to the re-activation of the former TH&B station.

On 30 April 1996, dignitaries officially re-opened the renovated TH&B station as the centre of commuter bus and rail service in Hamilton. Officially named the Hamilton GO Centre, the station also serves as a terminus for the city operated Hamilton Street Railway, which despite a name that dates back to when it operated streetcars on rail, now operates only buses.

A museum dedicated to the TH&B can be found on the station’s mezzanine level.

Other former TH&B stations still in existence:

The TH&B’s Brantford Station, opened in 1906 and closed in 1969, was converted into a restaurant in 1970. The station is now abandoed and boarded-up.

The TH&B’s Smithville Station, opened in 1903 and closed in 1981, was restored in 1996. It is now used as the headquarters of the West Lincoln Historical Society and the West Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Smithville Christian Preschool. It still sits beside an active CN Rail line.

The TH&B’s Jerseyville station, opened in 1897, was re-located to the Westfield Heritage Village near Rockton, along with preserved TH&B steam locomotive #103. The station was originally located on Jerseyville Road, west of Sunnyridge Road.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto,_Hamilton_and_Buffalo_Railway, http://www.thbrailway.ca/, http://www.forgottenbuffalo.com/forgottenontario/thbtrainstation.html, https://www.heritagetrust.on.ca/en/oha/details/file?id=4187, https://ctr.trains.com/railroad-reference/fallen-flags/2020/06/remembering-the-toronto-buffalo–hamilton-railway, https://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=6531, https://www.thespec.com/entertainment/2016/07/19/paul-wilson-twenty-years-on-th-b-treasure-needs-more-trains.html, http://www.trainweb.org/hamtransithist/hunter.html, http://www.exporail.org/can_rail/Canadian%20Rail_no404_1988.pdf, http://historicalhamilton.com/ancaster/jerseyville-th&b-station.

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/hamiltons-historic-thb-railway-station-given-a-fitting-new-life/

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