The Grand Trunk Railway

Location: Across Canada and into midwestern U.S.; 1859-1923, headquartered in Montreal, Quebec

The Grand Trunk Railway (G.T.R.) was officially opened between Sarnia, Ontario, and Portland, Maine, on November 21, 1859. This first version of the G.T.R. did not run through Hamilton, Ontario; instead, it ran north of Hamilton through Toronto and Guelph. It was not until the G.T.R. amalgamated with the Great Western Railway (G.W.R.) that it came to Hamilton.A postcard depicting the Grand Trunk Railway station in Hamilton (click for a closer look)

In 1845, the cities of Montreal, Quebec, and Portland, Maine, agreed to build two railways that would meet at some point between them. John A. Poor, on behalf of Portland, chartered the Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railway Company (A.St.L.). Alexander Galt of Sherwood, Quebec, chartered the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railway Company (St.L.A.). However, construction was often delayed due to financial concerns, especially on the Montreal side.

Meanwhile, in 1852, the Canadian government and British contractors began planning what was going to be, at the time, the longest railway in the world. The government wanted to build a main rail line (or "trunk") connecting all settled areas of Canada to railways with an Atlantic port. Existing railways were not expansive enough, and canals were useless when they froze over in the winter. The first conception of this "grand trunk" railway would have stretched from Hamilton (and the Great Western Railway) to Montreal (where it would connect with the St.L.A.). However, an unfinished line from Montreal to Toronto, Ontario, inspired Prime Minister Hincks to change his plans for the G.T.R.

Instead of simply connecting various other lines, the G.T.R. would amalgamate or lease these lines under its own name. The G.T.R. was re-conceived along the following lines:

An advertisement for the Grand Trunk RailwayThe G.T.R. would, at that point, stretch from Sarnia on the western border of Southern Ontario, to Quebec City in the east, and south-east to Portland, Maine.

The original plan for a 330-mile line from Montreal to Hamilton had grown into a 1,100-mile expanse across some of the most-populated areas of the country. The expected cost rose from £3 million sterling to £9.5 million.

Unfortunately for residents of Hamilton, the new plan did not include their city. They would have to wait until the G.T.R. amalgamated with the Great Western Railway.

The two railways amalgamated in 1882. The reasons for the union were, essentially, efficiency and cost-saving. By bringing the two railways together, they could eliminate duplication of directors and other officials. Also, the G.T.R. could save mileage by using the more direct routes of the G.W.R., especially those routes through Hamilton.

While the G.T.R. took over all the assets of the former G.W.R., it did not make any changes to the routes or stations in Hamilton. The station at Stuart Street continued to serve in this company as it had in the last one.

On April 28, 1889, an accident occurred in close proximity to the site of an earlier tragic accident that had involved the Great Western Railway. Over 20 people were killed, and another dozen were injured, when a train derailed at the "Y" junction between Copetown and Dundas, Ontario. According to the coroner's jury, a combination of a broken wheel and exessive speed was to blame for the loss of life. The Canadian National Railway tracks, as seen from the Stuart Street bridge (July 2000) (click for a closer look)

In 1919, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (G.T.P.R.), a holding of the G.T.R., became unable to continue profitably. The G.T.R., its parent company, was having troubles of its own and was not able to save the G.T.P.R. The Dominion Government took over the stock of the two rails, and all of the G.T.R.'s other holdings, in 1919. In 1923, the G.T.R. and G.T.P.R. became amalgamated with the Canadian National Railways.

An interesting fact about the G.T.R. is that Thomas Alva Edison worked at the Stratford branch as a telegraph operator. He was fired for neglecting his work in favour of his hobby, inventing.




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