Haldimand & Norfolk Counties
Page 1: Background and the Issue of Gauge
Page 2: Development
Page 3. Amalgamation, Decline and Rebirth
Page 4: Sources and Recommendations for further reading
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 referred to above, but also with some UK financing.
It 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 readyto have someone take the Port Dover project off their hands, this proposal fell through, presumably 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.
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 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 "The Issue of Gauge" above and the "Grand Trunk Railway [GTR]" below.)
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 at first 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 U.S. railroad Standard Gauge cars rather than by means of the expensive unloading and reloading, the GTR laid 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.
Also as noted above, 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 1869.
The overall length of the GTR's Buffalo - Stratford - Sarnia route was 197 miles.
The Great Western Railway (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 U.S. 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 obviously not been in its best interest from the outset (see "The Issue of Gauge" above), 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 U.S. border-to-border traffic intensified in 1864 with the GTR's agreement with the Buffalo & Lake Huron road, in 1867 the GWR similarly installed a third rail all the way along its main line route to facilitate U.S. (Standard Gauge) through traffic, with the same object of saving the time and expense of unloading and reloading.
Completed and opened in 1873 almost simultaneously with the Canada Southern Railway (CSR), the "Air Line" more or less paralleled the Canada Southern's track, passing out of Haldimand County east of Moulton station. As the Provincial Gauge legislation had been repealed in 1870, 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).
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 U.S. border-to-border traffic. The Canadian portion of the CSR consisted of two divisions, the Western and the Eastern. Construction began from both Canadian 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.
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 (referred to in "Background" Page 1 above). 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.)
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
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.
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).
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.
Page 1: Background and the Issue of Gauge