Hamilton & North Western/Lake Erie Railways
The Hamilton & North Western Railway (H&NW)
When the Hamilton & North Western obtained its charter in 1872, the transcontinental railway was well under debate, and
Even before the push to the north could get under way, in 1875 the H&NW absorbed the ailing Hamilton & Lake Erie Railway and undertook to build the last leg of that line to Port Dover that should have been completed two decades earlier.
Hamilton’s ambition of a connection to the forthcoming transcontinental railway was going to be realized chiefly at the expense of the citizens of Simcoe County who were desperate for an alternative to the Northern Railway of Canada whom they perceived to be a gouging monopoly and disdainful of serving the western portion of the county. The Northern, seeing its interests threatened, put up a game fight with the promise of a line diverging from
However, railway politics, big city civic ambitions and economic reality were bound to intervene. The Northern Railway of Canada was also endeavouring to reach the proposed transcontinental line, and the construction-hostile
So it was that in 1879, the Northern and the H&NW came to a joint management agreement as the Northern & North Western Railway (N&NW), and in effect became one railway. In Simcoe there was once again, horror of horrors, a dread monopoly. The realization now dawned that
The joint working of the two railways proved to be a stormy marriage from the outset, the major reasons being the self-interests of the two sponsoring cities, the institutionalized Northern chairmanship of the N&NW joint executive committee, the split loyalties of the H&NW board in its preference for the GTR and the CPR, and the overriding “bone of contention” of the Northern’s control of the Northern & Pacific Junction Railway, the tool of extension of the transcontinental connection project north of Gravenhurst.
The near-monolithically powerful Grand Trunk Railway saw a house divided against itself and had bided its time. On January 24, 1888, the GTR took over the 494 miles of track of the Northern & North Western and its leased lines. With its passage into the GTR, the N&NW was at first described as the N&NW Division, but by the beginning of the 20th century it had been fully integrated into the GTR system of operating districts. Almost surprisingly, in 1923, the Canadian National Railways inherited the original N&NW network pretty much the same way as it had gone into the GTR 35 years earlier.
For more information and for some images of the H&NW, please consult:
and Simcoe County.
The Hamilton & Lake Erie Railway (H&LE)
In 19th century
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 by Hamilton’s Sir Allan “railways are my politics” MacNab, as the Hamilton & Port Dover Railway (H&PD).
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 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" [Caledonia], and to "form a connection with the proposed [Canada Southern Railway] considered to be most strategic to capture the traffic from the broad agricultural belt along that proposed line".
All the interest in a railway to the south arose from Hamilton’s fear that it would be left isolated by the diversion of trade from the north to Toronto by means of the Northern Railway of Canada (the former Ontario, Simcoe & Huron Union Railroad) and, similarly, that the lucrative trade from southwestern Ontario would be diverted to Buffalo. This was a perfectly legitimate concern in view of the construction of the
In 1856, the Hamilton & Port Dover Railway acquired a venture which had incorporated in 1855 “to build from
If the H&PD had been completed in the 1850s, it would certainly have succeeded in its original intention of creating a portage link between Port Dover and Hamilton, but construction did not begin until 1856, and the cost of scaling
The project then languished and was not revived until 1869 with some new civic movers and shakers as the Hamilton & Lake Erie Railway (H&LE), by which time it also had to negotiate with the Grand Trunk Railway (successor owner of the Buffalo & Lake Huron Railway) at Caledonia and with the Canada Southern at Hagersville for permission to cross their respective tracks. For both of these railways, access to Hamilton was a business opportunity, especially for the Grand Trunk who were by then in very keen competition with the GWR, and then with the GWR's Air Line at Jarvis for joint station facilities - all just to get as far as Jarvis in 1873.
It was not until 1878 that the last leg into Port Dover was completed under the auspices of the Hamilton & North Western Railway (H&NW), which had assumed the H&LE in 1875. This last leg had really lost its point by then, as the much improved third