Haldimand and Norfolk Counties

With helpful critique and input from David O'Reilly.

Background

Towards the mid-19th century, Haldimand and Norfolk Counties were destined for abundant attention from railway builders and promoters, as these Counties'  geographic location was pivotal to the emerging importance of southwestern Ontario for both portage (between Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario) and border-to border (between Niagara Falls/Fort Erie and Windsor/Sarnia) traffic. The major players were the Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich (later the Buffalo & Lake Huron), Great Western, Grand Trunk and Canada Southern Railways. 

Border-to-Border Transshipment
and the Issue of Gauge

For all of the counties of southwestern Ontario between New York and Michigan States, the US realization of faster shipping between those two states through what is now Ontario, stimulated railway development in a frenzy of competition involving the consequent operating challenge between the enforced 5’6” Broad or “Provincial Gauge” in what was then Upper Canada, and the already-adopted 4’ 8½” Standard Gauge (with the notable exception of the Erie Railroad with a 6’ gauge that was not converted to the Standard Gauge until 1880) of the surrounding major US railroads.

Briefly, the issue in Upper Canada was that railways seeking government loan interest guarantees were obliged to adopt the 5' 6" gauge. The reasons for, and the complications and outcome of, the adoption of that gauge are examined in detail at my page Railway Gauges in Ontario.

Development

Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich Railway

The first railway to cross the former Haldimand County was the Provincial Gauge Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich Railway (BB&G). Its original purpose was to function as a portage railway between Goderich on Lake Huron and Buffalo on Lake Erie, and was not therefore initially a contestant in the border-to-border traffic sweepstakes. It was chartered as the Brantford & Buffalo Joint Stock Railroad Company in 1851, and became the BB&G in 1852. Brantford, miffed at being bypassed to the north by the projected Great Western Railway, commissioned a survey southeast to Fort Erie. This interest was reciprocated by Buffalo, and the railway opened to Brantford on December 20, 1853, financed in large part with municipal bonuses backed by the Province of Canada Railway Guarantee Act (elaborated on in Railway Gauges in Ontario), but also with some UK financing. Of all the railways that came to traverse Haldimand and Norfolk Counties, the BB&G was one of three early major local (i.e., promoted by local civic business interests) enterprises, the others being the Hamilton & Lake Erie and the Port Dover & Lake Huron Railways. (See further below.)

The BB&G entered Haldimand County at Lowbanks, with major stations at Dunnville, Canfield and Caledonia. The line was extended from Brantford to a junction with the Great Western Railway at Paris in 1854. At that point the BB&G was out of money, and the debts continued to pile up in 1855.

In 1856 the Buffalo & Lake Huron Railway (B&LH), with backbone UK financial support, was incorporated to take the BB&G over. The railway was completed to Stratford in 1856, and despite the financial crash of 1857, to its ultimate destination at Goderich in 1858. By 1861, the road needed a substantial capital infusion for much-needed improvements in order to stay in business; and in order to boost revenues, was  considering  acquisition of the Hamilton & Port Dover Railway (see below), to give it immediate access to Lake Ontario and potentially to an intermediate harbour on Lake Erie. (While the Hamilton interests were ready to have someone take the Port Dover project off their hands, this proposal fell through, because the B&LH was by then close to bankruptcy.)

The B&LH offered to lease itself to the Great Western Railway, but this proposal was rejected unanimously by the Great Western's London, England board of directors. So it was that the B&LH became inclined into the orbit of the other major competitor in southwestern Ontario, the Grand Trunk Railway. 

It was the Grand Trunk that was keen to offer competition to the Great Western, and had come up with a plan to capture transit traffic more effectively by laying an inside Standard Gauge rail to its Provincial Gauge track between Stratford and Sarnia, with the B&LH to provide the corresponding third rail between Fort Erie and Stratford.

The object of course was to facilitate through traffic with Standard Gauge cars to save the time and expense of unloading and reloading. Unfortunately, although this plan was also very much to the benefit of the B&LH, it could not come up with the capital, and thus in 1864 entered into a joint management agreement with the Grand Trunk to help bring the plan about. Even then, the B&LH could not pull its financial weight, and after some  infighting, bickering and acrimony, in accordance with an agreement ratified in 1870, the Grand Trunk acquired the B&LH under a perpetual lease [i.e., outright] effective July 1, 1869. (See also Railway Gauges In Ontario and the "Grand Trunk Railway [GTR]" below.) The inside rail never came about for the B&LH, and therefore not for the GTR either.

Grand Trunk Railway (GTR)
 
The British-owned and backed GTR had emerged in 1852 as a major railway that was coincidentally destined to become a dominant economic and social force in Upper Canada, even though its grand design was to be a trunk railway link between Portland, Maine and a US Midwest terminus at Chicago, Illinois. The Grand Trunk had already adopted the 5'ft 6" gauge (see Railway Gauges in Ontario) for legislative, political and competitive reasons at its Portland, Maine starting point.  Construction on its geographically-necessary Montreal-Toronto main line began in 1853, and the first trains in each direction passed each other in October 1856.

By late 1856, the GTR had reached Sarnia via Guelph and Stratford. It became the second railway presence in the former Haldimand County with its deal-making with the faltering B&LH (see above under the "Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich Railway [BB&G"]). The GTR interchanged  border-to-border traffic  between Buffalo and Sarnia via Stratford, with the co-operation of the BB&G/B&LH on the Buffalo-Stratford stretch. As noted above, as the GTR's overall competition with the GWR intensified, to expedite this traffic with the through movement of US railroad Standard Gauge cars rather than by means of the expensive unloading and reloading, the GTR initially planned on laying an inside Standard Gauge third rail between Stratford and Sarnia, with the intended understanding for the B&LH to do the same between Buffalo/Fort Erie and Stratford. When the B&LH could not raise the capital for its obligation under this agreement, it agreed to joint management with the GTR in 1864 in exchange for the necessary financial support. For all practical purposes this brought the B&LH under the control of the GTR, which subsequently acquired it under a perpetual lease in 1870.

The GTR's eventual solution to the "mixed gauge" challenge was the use of an ingenious moveable axle system, and later the exchange of bogie trucks (complete two-axle wheel assemblies) on the car bodies.

The overall length of the GTR's Buffalo - Stratford - Sarnia route was 197 miles.

Great Western Railway

Please read in conjunction with Railway Gauges in Ontario.
The GWR was, although substantially financed by British investors (as most early railways in Canada were), an all-Canadian venture. Conceived as early as 1834 as the London & Gore Railroad, the passing of the Railway Guarantee Act in 1849 was the trigger for the newly-transformed GWR to start construction in the expectation of becoming the premier railway gateway to the American Midwest as the southwestern Ontario trunk link between the New York Central and the Michigan Central Railroads. Its intended major purpose from the outset was the US border-to-border traffic between Niagara Falls and Windsor (with a branch from Komoka to Sarnia in 1858). 

The GWR  opened in 1853/4 from Niagara Falls via Hamilton, Paris, Woodstock, London, Komoka, Glencoe, Chatham and Windsor. The Provincial Gauge had not been in its best interest from the outset, as its main source of traffic was intended to be U.S. (Standard Gauge) border-to-border traffic. Despite that, the GWR did well at first, even though the cost of transshipment was a significant impediment to economy and speed. When competition for the US border-to-border traffic intensified in 1864 with the GTR's agreement with the Buffalo & Lake Huron road, by 1867 the GWR had installed a third rail all the way along its main line route to facilitate US (Standard Gauge) through traffic, with the same object of saving the time and expense of unloading and reloading.  

When the proposed Canada Southern Railway (see below) promised to increase competition for this lucrative traffic even further with a substantially shorter route than the GWR's main line; despite its own systemic financial strictures, the GWR, not so far a player in Haldimand-Norfolk, had no choice except to come up with its own more direct route. 

In 1869, the GWR obtained a charter for its "Canada Air Line", to diverge from its main line at Glencoe (southwest of London) and to cut across southwestern Ontario, entering the former Norfolk County just south of Tillsonburg, with stations at Courtland, Delhi, Nixon, Simcoe, Renton, then in Haldimand County at Jarvis, Nelles Corners, Decewsville, Cayuga and Canfield. There it had hoped to come to an arrangement with the Buffalo & Lake Huron for running rights over the latter's track to Fort Erie. With that railway however now part of the competing GTR, the GWR had to run its own line all the way through to the international border at Fort Erie (also obtaining running rights over a portion of the Welland Railway from Welland Junction to reach equidistant Niagara Falls as well).

Completed and opened in 1873 almost simultaneously with the Canada Southern Railway (CSR), the "Canada Air Line" more or less paralleled the Canada Southern's track, passing out of Haldimand County east of Moulton station. Both the CSR and the GWR's Air Line were built to the Standard Gauge.

The GWR's faster overall route between Windsor and Fort Erie was now slightly shorter (226 miles) than that of the CSR between Windsor and Fort Erie (228 miles).

Canada Southern Railway

In 1868, an Ontario charter for the Erie & Niagara Extension Railway Company was approved, with powers to build from Fort Erie via St. Thomas to either Sandwich or Windsor on the Detroit River. A year and a half later, this charter was parlayed into the Canada Southern Railway (CSR). Built to the 4 ft 8½ in Standard Gauge, its object was also the US border-to-border traffic. The Canada Southern consisted of two divisions, the Western and the Eastern. Construction began from both ends in 1871, and the two met at Townsend on February 20, 1873. From the west, the new line entered Norfolk County at La Salette, with stations at Windham, Waterford, Townsend (Centre) and Villa Nova, passing into Haldimand County at Hagersville, then on to Dufferin, Cayuga, Canfield, and passing out of Haldimand County into Niagara County between Attercliffe and Perry stations. 

While nominally a Canadian road at the outset, it was under the influence of US backers as represented on its Board of Directors from the outset, and when it floundered in the chronic economic depression of the 1870s, came under control of the Vanderbilt empire in 1876.

The Great Western's "Air Line" and the Canada Southern Railway were the first to traverse Norfolk County.

Hamilton & Lake Erie Railway (H&LE)

In 19th century Ontario, all lakeshore communities recognized the development of their harbours as the key to local prosperity, even before the emergence of railways as the dominant force in the development of commerce. As early as 1835, while still a town, Hamilton had chartered the Hamilton & Port Dover Railroad in  recognition  of the need for traffic to be brought to its harbour to stimulate local trade of goods, produce and natural resources. At that time, the charter's intended purpose was to establish a portage link between the harbours of Port Dover and Hamilton to divert traffic from what was then the fledgling and hence very slow and congested Welland Canal.

Nothing came of that charter because of the generally unsettled economic conditions in Upper Canada at that time, until the passing of the Railway Guarantee Act (elaborated on in Railway Gauges in Ontario). This Act ushered in Canada's railway building boom, including the construction of the Great Western Railway (see above), which arrived in what was by then the City of Hamilton, on its way to Windsor. The GWR, however, was a "through" rather than a "feeder" railway. While any railway was good for business, the GWR did not address the needs of the local economy that depended on a vibrant market and its "spin-off" benefits of local trade and manufacture, lower retail costs and the attendant creation of additional local employment. (Noted however that, as it turned out, the GWR and its locomotive and car shops proved to be the foundation of Hamilton's steel industry.)

So it was that in the same year as the arrival of the Great Western Railway in Hamilton (1853), the original pioneer charter of the Hamilton & Port Dover Railroad was reactivated as the Hamilton & Port Dover Railway (H&PD. [The H&PD, unlike the GWR, did not qualify under the Railway Guarantee Act on account of its short length and was built to the Standard Gauge from the outset]). 

One of its objects was still to establish a portage link between the harbours of Port Dover and Hamilton as a short-cut to passage through the Welland Canal, but by 1856 its other aims were now "to facilitate and increase the local traffic [i.e., trade]", "to secure a portion of the freight and passenger business of the Buffalo & Lake Huron Railway and of the Grand River" [at Caledonia], and to "form a connection with the proposed [Canada Southern Railway (see above)] considered to be most strategic to capture the traffic from the broad agricultural belt along that proposed line". (Note: The reference to "the Grand River" is likely to the Grand River Navigation Company,  one of many canal companies that were being driven into bankruptcy as the railways started to take their business away.)
  
If the H&PD had been completed in the 1850s, it would certainly have succeeded in its original intention of establishing a portage link between Port Dover and Hamilton, but construction did not begin until 1856. Unfortunately the cost of scaling Hamilton Mountain had been grossly underestimated, with the result that construction ceased in 1858 for lack of funds and a dispute with the contractor, and the railway had not even reached Caledonia

The project then languished and was not revived until 1869 as the Hamilton & Lake Erie Railway (H&LE) when construction resumed with a new contractor. Aside from its chronic struggle with financing, the H&LE then also had to negotiate with the Grand Trunk Railway (successor owner of the B&LH) at Caledonia and with the Canada Southern at Hagersville to cross their respective tracks. At Jarvis it also had to arrange for joint station facilities with the GWR's Air Line. Traffic commenced from Hamilton to Jarvis in 1873, with Jarvis becoming the  temporary terminus.

It was not until 1878 that the railway passed from Haldimand County through to Norfolk County when its last leg from Jarvis to Port Dover was completed under the auspices of the Hamilton & North Western Railway (H&NW), which had assumed the H&LE in 1875 and then built its own station at Jarvis. This last leg had by then lost its original object of capturing the lake-to-lake portage traffic. There were three reasons for the port's failure to develop for significant  lake traffic:  the much improved third Welland Canal by then in progress;  the harbour's tendency to silt up; and the necessary  circuitous access to it from the Lake Erie shipping lane because of the Long Point sandbar. 
  
Indeed, all that was left to the H&LE/H&NW was the prospect of business to be generated from local trade, but then to add to its misfortune, a rival railway (the Port Dover & Lake Huron [see below]) had ensconced itself in Port Dover three years earlier. Not only did that railway secure for itself the prized and "convenient to down-town" harbour location (obliging the former to terminate with its own station at a more distant spot on the east bank of the Lynn river), but it was also a fact of pioneering railway competition  that the first railway into any place usually retained the higher volume of local traffic. 
(However, Hamilton did come to benefit  substantially from the railway's other later objects to attract traffic to its city [and in the early years, to some extent, its harbour]), especially with the Canada Southern at Hagersville, and to some degree with the Grand Trunk at Caledonia and Jarvis.
 
(For more information on the H&LE and the H&NW, please click here for information about Hamilton's Other Railway; or for a quick summary, click here for the H&LE, and click here for the H&NW.)

Port Dover & Lake Huron Railway

The Port Dover & Lake Huron Railway Company (PD&LH) had established itself in Port Dover in 1875, three years before the belated arrival of the H&LE/H&NW (see above). The PD&LH's forerunner, the scandal-ridden Woodstock & Lake Erie Railway and Harbour Company, had been created in 1848 by Woodstock interests, to build "either a track iron or wood railroad or way over any part of the country lying between the Town of Woodstock and the harbours of Port Dover and Port Burwell inclusive on Lake Erie". Revived in 1872 as the PD&LH, the road was completed (using the Standard 4' 8 ½" Gauge) from Port Dover via Simcoe to Woodstock by the end of 1875, making judicious use of the earlier earth works. (It crossed the GWR Air Line just north of Simcoe and passed out of Norfolk County at La Salette, intersecting there with the Canada Southern Railway). In 1875 the federal government sold the Port Dover harbour facilities to the railway for a nominal figure. In 1876, the line was opened further to Stratford, and the "Lake Huron" component (actually Harriston, Chesley and Wiarton) of the route was completed by means of the Stratford & Lake Huron Railway, which leased its operations to the PD&LH. 

Other Railways

The South Norfolk Railway (SNR) was incorporated by local civic interests on June 23, 1887 to build from Port Rowan via the Town of Simcoe to a point on [the] Canada Southern Railway". It was in fact built in 1888 between Port Rowan and Simcoe, connecting there with the Port Dover line, and was acquired by the Grand Trunk Railway the following year. 

Many years later, a latecomer to the scene was the Lake Erie & Northern Railway (LE&N), incorporated by Brantford business interests in 1911, to build from Port Dover via Simcoe and Brantford to Galt. It was acquired by the CPR in 1914, the same year that construction began, the line being completed by 1915. Service as an electric interurban (passenger and express  [and later, freight]) line was inaugurated in 1916. At Port Dover, it joined the right-of-way of the former PD&LH (see above) to reach the GTR station (until 1947, after which the LE&N used its own station). Passenger service on the Lake Erie & Northern Railway ended on April 23, 1955.

In addition, there were two other railway lines that traversed the former Norfolk County. In the northwest corner, the Tillsonburg, Lake Erie & Pacific Railway (TLE&P) briefly intruded into Norfolk County on its way from Tillsonburg to Port Burwell in 1896. Also further east, the Brantford, Waterloo & Lake Erie Railway (BW&LE) was incorporated in 1885 to build from Berlin (Kitchener) via Brantford to Lake Erie. The section between Brantford and a connection with the Canada Southern at Waterford was opened in 1889, entering Norfolk County near Scotland. The line faltered after a change of ownership in the same year, and was acquired in 1892 by the newly-formed Toronto, Hamilton &Buffalo Railway (TH&B). The Brantford-Waterford stretch in fact became the TH&B's first operating section of track.

To the east, in Haldimand County, once the TH&B had built its main line from Hamilton to Welland, the citizens of Dunnville petitioned the TH&B for a branch from Smithville, and this resulted in the incorporation of the Erie & Ontario Railway Company (E&O) to build from Port Maitland to Smithville via Dunnville. It was promptly assumed by the TH&B and opened for traffic in 1916. The TH&B by means of its TH&B Navigation Company then operated a freight ferry service between Port Maitland, Ont., and Ashtabula, Ohio from 1916 until 1932.

 


 

 

Original BB&G route

Lowbanks in the GTR era - the first stop westbound of the pioneer Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich Railroad in Haldimand County.

Lowbanks in the GTR era - the first stop westbound of the pioneer Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich Railroad in Haldimand County.

An eastbound GTR passenger train at the Dunnville station on the former Buffalo & Lake Huron line. Circa 1900.

An eastbound GTR passenger train at the Dunnville station on the former Buffalo & Lake Huron line. Circa 1900.

Canfield GTR courtesy Bruce Mercer

Canfield GTR courtesy Bruce Mercer

This location was for many years one of the busier railway crossings in southern Ontario. In this view, the eastbound Dunnville Sub. of the former Buffalo & Lake Huron Railway bisects in quick succession the former Canada Southern Railway, and also the former GWR "Air Line". The station is a country Grand Trunk Railway station with a generous angular platform serving both its Fort Erie-Dunnville-Caledonia-Brantford-Goderich and its Fort Erie-Cayuga-Jarvis-St. Thomas lines. The tower guards the Canada Southern/Michigan Central (later CASO Sub.) It was destroyed in a derailment ca 1959.

Canfield GTR courtesy Bruce Mercer

Canfield GTR courtesy Bruce Mercer

The former Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich railway station in the Grand Trunk era at Caledonia, with the former Hamilton & Lake Erie line branching off to the left. Sometime between 1888 and 1898. Collection of the late Herbert Bentley

The former Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich railway station in the Grand Trunk era at Caledonia, with the former Hamilton & Lake Erie line branching off to the left. Sometime between 1888 and 1898. Collection of the late Herbert Bentley

Original H&LE route

Caledonia GTR 1907

Caledonia GTR 1907

Hagersville CNR ca 1954. Keith Sirman Collection

Hagersville CNR ca 1954. Keith Sirman Collection

Garnet flagstop GTR. Likely built 1900-1914.
Closed circa 1937. Photo Mrs. Minnie van Zant, courtesy Mrs. Margaret Clause.

Garnet flagstop GTR. Likely built 1900-1914. Closed circa 1937. Photo Mrs. Minnie van Zant, courtesy Mrs. Margaret Clause.

Jarvis. Newly-built "union" station in 1906, serving both the "Air Line" and the Hamilton-Port Dover traffic. The train in the left distance is from Port Dover and is just leaving for Hamilton. Courtesy William Fess.

Jarvis. Newly-built "union" station in 1906, serving both the "Air Line" and the Hamilton-Port Dover traffic. The train in the left distance is from Port Dover and is just leaving for Hamilton. Courtesy William Fess.

Port Dover. The Hamilton & North Western Railway station on the east bank of the Lynn river, established 1878, and closed in 1896. The train is just leaving for Jarvis. Collection of the late Donald A. Buscombe.

Port Dover. The Hamilton & North Western Railway station on the east bank of the Lynn river, established 1878, and closed in 1896. The train is just leaving for Jarvis. Collection of the late Donald A. Buscombe.

Port Dover station in the heyday of a popular tourist destination. Wm Gordon photo, collection of the late Donald A. Buscombe

Port Dover station in the heyday of a popular tourist destination. Wm Gordon photo, collection of the late Donald A. Buscombe

Original PD&LH route

Tenwheeler #1541 is about to leave Port Dover with the last train on October 26, 1957. Robert J. Sandusky photo.

Tenwheeler #1541 is about to leave Port Dover with the last train on October 26, 1957. Robert J. Sandusky photo.

Simcoe "downtown" station. October 1969. Dave Spaulding photo.

Simcoe "downtown" station. October 1969. Dave Spaulding photo.

Original Air Line route

Moulton station of the former GWR "Air Line", in the GTR era.

Moulton station of the former GWR "Air Line", in the GTR era.

Cayuga station on the former GWR "Air Line".

Cayuga station on the former GWR "Air Line".

Nelles Corners GTR ca 1910 Ross Gray Collection

Nelles Corners GTR ca 1910 Ross Gray Collection

Jarvis "Air Line" station built by the GWR 1873. Burned 1906. Note that the freight shed is the former Hamilton & North Western station at Jarvis. Courtesy William Fess.

Jarvis "Air Line" station built by the GWR 1873. Burned 1906. Note that the freight shed is the former Hamilton & North Western station at Jarvis. Courtesy William Fess.

The prestigious Simcoe Air Line station in the GTR era, ca 1900 - 1920. This station burned in July 1930.

The prestigious Simcoe Air Line station in the GTR era, ca 1900 - 1920. This station burned in July 1930.

Simcoe Jct. on the "Air Line" (Cayuga Sub.) in 1969. William D. Thompson photo.

Simcoe Jct. on the "Air Line" (Cayuga Sub.) in 1969. William D. Thompson photo.

Delhi station in 1973, on the former GWR "Air Line" Railway. Al Paterson Collection

Delhi station in 1973, on the former GWR "Air Line" Railway. Al Paterson Collection

Original South Norfolk Railway route

Vittoria station on the former South Norfolk Railway, between Simcoe and Port Rowan.

Vittoria station on the former South Norfolk Railway, between Simcoe and Port Rowan.

Vittoria GTR ex SNR. Ross Gray Collection

Vittoria GTR ex SNR. Ross Gray Collection

St. Williams GTR ex SNR. Ross Gray Collection

St. Williams GTR ex SNR. Ross Gray Collection

St. Williams, on the former South Norfolk Railway, last stop before Port Rowan. 1957.
Al Paterson Collection.

St. Williams, on the former South Norfolk Railway, last stop before Port Rowan. 1957. Al Paterson Collection.

Port Rowan station, terminus of the former South Norfolk Railway. Ca 1950. Al Paterson Collection.

Port Rowan station, terminus of the former South Norfolk Railway. Ca 1950. Al Paterson Collection.

Port Rowan terminus in 1918, looking north to Simcoe. Collection of the late Donald A. Buscombe.

Port Rowan terminus in 1918, looking north to Simcoe. Collection of the late Donald A. Buscombe.

Original Canada Southern route

A composite picture of the former Canada Southern at the crossing with the former Hamilton & Lake Erie Railway at Hagersville. Around 1910. Al Paterson Collection

A composite picture of the former Canada Southern at the crossing with the former Hamilton & Lake Erie Railway at Hagersville. Around 1910. Al Paterson Collection

Waterford station, in gracious retirement on the former Canada Southern Railway (CASO Sub.) Note the station design features of its US heritage.

Waterford station, in gracious retirement on the former Canada Southern Railway (CASO Sub.) Note the station design features of its US heritage.

La Salette. View looking east on the former Canada Southern Railway (CASO Sub.), with the crossing of the former Port Dover & Lake Huron Railway just in front of the locomotive and the "union" station.

La Salette. View looking east on the former Canada Southern Railway (CASO Sub.), with the crossing of the former Port Dover & Lake Huron Railway just in front of the locomotive and the "union" station.

Chronology of entry of railways into Haldimand-Norfolk:

 Year  Railway  County (-ies)
 1853  Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich  H
 1869  Hamilton & Lake Erie  H
 1870  Grand Trunk (acquired the B&LH)  H
 1873  Air Line (Great Western)  N and H
 1873  Canada Southern  N and H
 1875  Port Dover & Lake Huron  N
 1878  Hamilton & North Western  N
 1888  South Norfolk  N
 1889  Brantford, Waterloo & Lake Erie  N
 1896  Tillsonburg, Lake Erie & Pacific  N
 1914  Lake Erie & Northern  N
 1916  Erie & Ontario (TH&B)  H
Engineering Challenges
The construction of railways everywhere involved the challenges of integrating a straight-as-possible roadbed of usually no more than a two-percent grade into the local natural features. Many railways had to pick-axe or blast this roadbed through rocky terrain with deep gorges and forbidding mountains. Arguably the biggest challenge for railway civil engineers, in Haldimand County at least, was the spanning of the wide Grand River. In Norfolk County, the spanning of the shallow valley at the Waterford Pond.
A southbound Hamilton & Lake Erie Railway train crosses the Grand River bridge just south of Caledonia, sometime shortly after its opening in 1873. The Haldimand-Norfolk Museum and Archives

A southbound Hamilton & Lake Erie Railway train crosses the Grand River bridge just south of Caledonia, sometime shortly after its opening in 1873. The Haldimand-Norfolk Museum and Archives

A work train believed to be on the newly-built GWR Air Line trestle just west of Cayuga, also ca 1873. (Research continues to verify this.) University of Guelph.

A work train believed to be on the newly-built GWR Air Line trestle just west of Cayuga, also ca 1873. (Research continues to verify this.) University of Guelph.

The eastbound Amtrak "Niagara Rainbow" Train 94 on the Canada Southern Railway (CASO Sub) Grand River bridge just north-west of Cayuga in 1977. Robert J. Sandusky photo.

The eastbound Amtrak "Niagara Rainbow" Train 94 on the Canada Southern Railway (CASO Sub) Grand River bridge just north-west of Cayuga in 1977. Robert J. Sandusky photo.

The Lake Erie & Northern Railway bridge, in Norfolk County, looking east at the Waterford Pond. The Canada Southern Railway (CASO Sub) right-of-way is under the truss section of the bridge.  Ca 2002.

The Lake Erie & Northern Railway bridge, in Norfolk County, looking east at the Waterford Pond. The Canada Southern Railway (CASO Sub) right-of-way is under the truss section of the bridge. Ca 2002.

Amalgamation, Decline and Rebirth

Amalgamations and take-overs
As a result of all this frenzied competition, these were inevitable: 

1870 - The Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) acquires the Buffalo & Lake Huron Railway outright.

1875 - The Hamilton & North Western Railway absorbs the Hamilton & Lake Erie Railway. 

1876 - A major player in Haldimand and Norfolk was the Canada Southern. The railway had floundered in the depression of the 1870s, and is now controlled by the U.S. railway baron Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt and his New York Central & Hudson River Railroad. 

1879 - The Northern Railway of Canada and the Hamilton & North Western Railway merge to become the Northern & North Western Railways.

1881 -  The Port Dover & Lake Huron (including the Port Dover harbour), Stratford & Huron and the Georgian Bay & Wellington Railways come under GTR control with the formation of the subsidiary Grand Trunk, Georgian Bay & Lake Erie Railway (which in turn was fully amalgamated with the Grand Trunk Railway in 1893).

1882  - The first major rationalization occurs when the Grand Trunk finally took over its Great Western Railway rival.  

1882 - The Canada Southern is leased to another Vanderbilt railroad, the Michigan Central. (The double-tracking of the railway through Haldimand and Norfolk was completed between 1905 and 1910.) 

1888 - The GTR acquires the Northern & North Western Railways (of which the H&NW was now a part). For many, if not most, communities this was the end of competitive railway service in southern Ontario. In the same year, the GTR built a connecting curve at the intersection of the GWR Air Line and the PD&LH route (both already acquired by or under the control of the GTR) just north of Simcoe to make a direct connection from points east to downtown Simcoe and on to Ports Dover and Rowan, with a new station (Simcoe Jct.) at the Airline end of the curve. 

1889 - The short South Norfolk Railway is added to the GTR stable by means of the wholly-owned Grand Trunk, Georgian Bay & Lake Erie Railway subsidiary.

1893 - The Grand Trunk Railway formally amalgamates its Grand Trunk, Georgian Bay & Lake Erie Railway subsidiary.

1895 - The Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway comes under control of four railway interests, the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad, the Michigan Central, the Canada Southern (these three being commonly owned, as noted above) and the Canadian Pacific.

1905 - The Canadian Pacific Railway leases the Tillsonburg, Lake Erie & Pacific Railway.

1914 - The Canadian Pacific Railway acquires the Lake Erie & Northern Railway.

1917 to 1923 - The Grand Trunk, Grand Trunk Pacific, Intercolonial, Canadian Northern and National Transcontinental Railways merge as Canadian National Railways.

1978 - The Canadian Pacific Railway acquires the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway.

1985 - The CN/CP Niagara-Detroit Consortium assumes control of the former Canada Southern Railway.

Service Cessation, Track Removal and Abandonments 
These followed in stages:

1935 - CNR: the direct Jarvis - Port Dover line (originally Hamilton & North Western Railway). Traffic had already ceased in 1931. (Trains from Hamilton to Ports Rowan and Dover then went via Simcoe Jct., using the connecting curve into Simcoe that had been installed by the GTR in 1888 [see above].) 

1936 - CNR: - at a point north of the connecting curve into Simcoe that had been installed by the GTR in 1888 [see above] and Otterville (originally Port Dover & Lake Huron Railway). 

1955 - April 23. Passenger and Express service ends on the Lake Erie & Northern interurban railway.

1957 - October 26. Passenger (Mixed) service ends between Hamilton, Simcoe, Ports Dover and Rowan (formerly sections of the Hamilton & Lake Erie and Port Dover & Lake Huron Railways, and the South Norfolk Railway).

1960 - April 23. Passenger (Mixed) service ends between Fort Erie and Stratford (formerly the Buffalo & Lake Huron Railway).

1962 - The Lake Erie & Northern between Simcoe and Port Dover.

1965 - The Lake Erie & Northern from Simcoe north through Waterford to Brantford (whereupon remaining LE&N freight traffic between Waterford and Brantford used TH&B rails with CPR diesels. Electric operation on the LE&N had ended in 1961). 

1965 - CNR: The Simcoe-Port Rowan branch (originally the South Norfolk Railway).

1978 - CNR: between Garnet and Jarvis (originally Hamilton & Lake Erie). (Also see below under "Rebirth 1970 - Today - THE NANTICOKE DIVERSION").

1985 - CNR: Track removal between Caledonia and Dunnville (and on to Fort Erie). (Originally Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich RR. See also below under "Rebirth 1970 - Today - THE NANTICOKE DIVERSION").

1987 - CPR: Track removal between Tillsonburg and Port Burwell (originally the Tillsonburg, Lake Erie & Pacific Railway). 

1988 - CNR: Track removal between Simcoe (downtown at Mile 7.32) and Port Dover (originally the Port Dover & Lake Huron Railway). 

1989 - CPR’: Track removal between Hamilton and Waterford (the section from Hamilton to Brantford originally Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway, and the section from Brantford to Waterford, originally the Brantford, Waterloo & Lake Erie Railway, later acquired by the TH&B).

1989 - CN/CP ND (Niagara-Detroit) Consortium: CASO Sub (originally Canada Southern Railway) was reduced from double track to single track.

1994 - CNR: Abandonment between Hamilton & Caledonia (originally Hamilton & Lake Erie Railway - (see below under "Rebirth 1970 - Today - THE NANTICOKE DIVERSION" below). The only remaining segment of the former H&LE now is that between Caledonia and Garnet.

1996 - CNR: Abandonment: Sections of the former "Air Line" (the CN Cayuga Sub., originally Great Western Railway) through Haldimand-Norfolk, from Feeder West (near Welland) at Mile 22 to Nelles Corners at Mile 54.07; and between Jarvis at Mile 62.67 and Delhi at Mile 81.0. (Re the stretch between Nelles Corners and Jarvis, see below under "Rebirth 1970 - Today - THE NANTICOKE DIVERSION".)

1997 - CNR: Abandonment: Section of the former "Air Line" (the CN Cayuga Sub., originally Great Western Railway) through Haldimand-Norfolk, from Nelles Corners at Mile 54.07 to Jarvis at Mile 62.67. (See below under "Rebirth 1970 - Today - THE NANTICOKE DIVERSION".)

1998 - CNR: Abandonment: Section of the former "Air Line" (the CN Cayuga Sub., originally Great Western Railway) through Haldimand-Norfolk, from Delhi at Mile 81.0 to Mile 115.0 east of St. Thomas put up for sale, acquired by the (shortline) Trillium Railway, also known as the St. Thomas & Eastern Railway. 

2001 - CPR: Abandonment: The Smithville-Dunnville portion of the TH&B branch, but the thus-created remaining spur from Dunnville to Port Maitland was still in use in 2002 by means of a newly-added connecting curve between Dunnville and the CASO Sub eastbound.

2003 - CN/CP ND (Niagara-Detroit) Consortium: CASO Sub (originally Canada Southern Railway) track removal between St. Thomas and Attercliffe Station (just west of the former TH&B crossing near Dunnville).

2013 - The Trillium Railway ceases operations (see 1998), and the Ontario Southland Railway takes over the service from Trillium. (Courtesy Niall MacKay).

2014 (Nov) - The Courtland - Delhi section of the service is discontinued and that section is abandoned.
Its future is unknown as of Aug 2016. (Courtesy Niall MacKay)

 

Rebirth
1970 - Today - THE NANTICOKE DIVERSION
         The Lake Erie Industrial Park (Nanticoke), also simply the "Nanticoke Industrial Park" development began in the late 1960s and was serviced by the CNR out of Hamilton. It used the former H&LE route to Jarvis, and then south to the Nanticoke plant via a short stretch of the Cayuga Subdivision (the original Air Line) east of Jarvis, to the newly-built Nanticoke Plant Spur. For a direct connection at Jarvis, the earlier-constructed from-north-to-east wye was employed at that location. The Diversion was first used to convey materials to the Ontario Hydro Nanticoke Generating Station, and then expanded to service what became the Industrial Park.
         In 1978, the CNR realigned its Hagersville Subdivision between Garnet and Jarvis to provide more direct access to the new industrial growth centre of Nanticoke. It disconnected the old H&LE road south of Garnet, and on its new alignment out of Garnet the “Nanticoke Diversion” ran south in a direct line to cross the Air Line and to join the original spur off the Air Line in a straight line as it continued south to Nanticoke. A new loop was built from-west-to-north at the Air Line, so that together with the original from-west-to-south curve off the Air Line, the junction became a wye. (When the Air Line was abandoned, the original from-west-to-south loop, together with a short length of Air Line in the direction of Jarvis, remained intact for the storage of tank cars, safely away from habitation.)
         By 1987, it was no longer feasible to operate the Nanticoke Diversion traffic through Hamilton city streets and the Mountain incline on the former Hamilton & Lake Erie Railway route, and the CNR applied to re-route this traffic through Brantford, using the original Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich RR right-of-way between Caledonia and Brantford, and there to connect with today's Toronto-Windsor main line. To facilitate this change, a from-west-to-south curve was installed at Caledonia.
          South of the former Air Line, the Nanticoke Diversion services three major industrial complexes - U. S. Steel Canada Lake Erie Works, Ontario Power Generation Nanticoke Power Generating Station, and Imperial Oil (Esso).
For information as of 2001, consult Hamilton's Other Railway, p 370.

Diagram of the Nanticoke Diversion south of Caledonia.

Diagram of the Nanticoke Diversion south of Caledonia.

Sources and recommendations for further reading:
 
For additional information on most of the railways referred to above, please also consult my Quick Histories, especially Numbers 4a, 4b, 4c, 20, 22, 24, 24a, 27, 27a.
For reference to 1880 County Atlases, please click here and then click on 6 for Norfolk County and on 7 for Haldimand County.

Andreae, Christopher: Lines of Country: An atlas of railway and waterway history in Canada, The Boston Mills Press, Erin, ON (Then an Affiliate of the Stoddart Publishing Co.) 1997

Clegg, Anthony and Corley, Ray: Canadian National Steam Power, Trains & Trolleys, Montreal, QC 1969

Cooper, Charles: Hamilton's Other Railway, The Bytown Railway Society, Ottawa, ON 2001

Currie, A.W.: The Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, U of T Press, Toronto ON 1957.

Dorman, Robert: A Statutory History of the Steam and Electric Railways of Canada 1836-1937, Canada Department of Transport, Ottawa, ON 1938

Gilhuly, Brian: The True Story of the Provincial Gauge, Branchline (May/June 2017), Bytown Railway Society, Ottawa, ON.

Helm, Norman S.: In the Shadow of the Giants: The Story of the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway/2, Preston House Publishers, Toronto, ON 1996.

Hopper, A.R. and Kearney, T.: Synoptical History of Organization, Capital stock, Funded Debt and other General Information CNR Accounting Department, Montreal QC, 1962

Lavallée, Omer S.A.: The Rise and Fall of the Provincial Gauge, Canadian Rail (February 1963), CRHA, St. Constant, QC.

Mills, John M.: Traction on the Grand - the Story of Electric Railways along Ontario's Grand River Valley. Railfare Enterprises, West Hill, ON 1977.

Roth, George and Clack, William: Canadin Pacific's Electric Lines: (Grand River Railway and the Lake Erie & Northern Railway), BRMNA, Calgary, Alberta. 1987 

Scrimgeour, Pat: Historical Outlines of Railways in Southwestern Ontario, UCRS Newsletter (July) 1990, Toronto ON

Stevens, G.R.: Canadian National Railways, Volume I, Clarke Irwin, Toronto, ON 1960

Taylor, Roderick: The CASO line: Rising from the Grave? Branchline June 2000, The Bytown Railway Society, Ottawa, ON

Tennant Jr., Robert D.: Canada Southern Country: The Boston Mills Press, Erin, ON 1991.

Trout, J.M. and Edw.: The Railways of Canada, Toronto ON 1871 (reprinted 1970, 1974)

White, James: Altitudes in Canada: Commission of Conservation, Canada. Second Edition, Ottawa, ON 1915.

Worthen, S.S.: Referred to the Committee: Canadian Rail (May 1976), CRHA, QC.

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