Hamilton Street Railway

Location: 330 Wentworth Street North, Hamilton, Ontario

Horse-drawn car, 1870'sIn 1873 a group of citizens met for the purpose of discussing the organization of a street railway system for Hamilton. Successful railway systems had already been implemented in the cities of Toronto and Buffalo.

The Act Incorporating the Hamilton Street Railway Company (R.S.O., 1873, Cap C) was assented to on March 29, 1873.

The first meeting of the provisional directors was held on September 8, 1873 followed, two weeks later, by the first shareholders meeting on September 23, 1873. The first board of directors consisted of Louis Springer, E.G. Patterson, Lyman Moore (President), John W. Murton, H.C. Hammond, Hugh Cossart Baker and Martyn C. Hebert.

City Council, on December 22, 1873, passed By-law No. 63 and it was under this By-law that the operation of The Hamilton Street Railway commenced in 1874. The By-law was ratified by the Board of Directors of the company on January 3, 1874.

On January 16, 1874, the President of the company, Lyman Moore, was authorized to accept and sign a contract with Mr. Hathaway to build about 3 1/2 miles of track on James Street North from Stuart Street to King Street, at a cost of $7,000 per mile. At the same meeting, the purchase of six cars "with all the latest improvements" was authorized. Each car was to have a seating capacity of 14 passengers. This contract was awarded later that month to Stevenson & Company, a Hamilton firm, with their bid of $850 per car. Each car was to be equipped with scrapers for snow and with moveable wire gates to prevent passengers from descending from the wrong side. Eleven fare boxes were also purchased from Brierly & Graham at $20 each.

On February 5, 1874 the purchase of two lots of land, 60' each, at a price not to exceed $2,000 was authorized. This land on Stuart Street East was to house the stables for the horses and the car house. Horses were purchased (not to exceed in cost over $135 each) and drivers were hired.

In February Mr. Hathaway was further contracted to build another track, at the same rate, from King Street to the Grand Trunk Railway Station on Stuart Street.

During March of 1875 the stables and car house were constructed.

On April 2, 1874, Mr. Joseph Rutherford was hired as superintendent at a salary of $500 per year. He was sent to Toledo for training in the duties of a street railway superintendent.

Mr. Hathaway was further contracted to construct tracks on King Street West, from James Street to Locke Street with two switches and a spur at Locke Street. The first cars began travelling the King Street route as far as Wellington Street on May 21st.

Six new cars were delivered by June 1 and began running on the tracks from Stuart Street to the corner of King and James Streets and on King Street West to Locke Street on June 5th. Each car in operation required $6 per day to meet expenses. The company owned 10 cars and 22 horses, therefore daily expenses were $60. Receipts from fares were from between $90-100 daily so the venture had begun by turning a profit.

On October 1, 1874 a motion was passed by the board of directors that led to the HSR's first controversy. The motion read: "Resolved that the Superintendent be instructed to run cars on Sundays over the whole road as soon as possible, commencing with the East Hamilton branch and fixing the time-table to accommodate as far as possible the people attending the various churches but, until further instructions, only at such times as to accommodate church-goers, going to and returning from the morning and evening services."

The Evangelical Alliance objected to their plan to run cars on Sundays and requested an interview. This request was turned down since the Evangelical Alliance had already made their views quite clear in the press.

In 1875 King Street East was double-tracked as far as Mary Street and King Street West as far as Bay Street. The car house and stables were extended and a board room and waiting room added. Advertising began to appear on the outside of street cars. The superintendent's salary was doubled to $1,000 per year. This year also saw the elimination of conductors in the cars. Passengers were now required to deposit their fares in a box at the front of the car upon entering.

In 1876 new track was laid on King Street West from Bay to Locke Street completing a double-track from James to Locke Street.

The winter of 1877 saw heavy snow and service had to be suspended for several days due to the city plowing all the snow onto the tracks. They had not yet acquired sleighs so they tried putting one car body on runners but it was too heavy, at 2,500 pounds, for 2 horses to pull. The next step was to hire 5 sleighs, at 75 cents per day and to start an immediate search for sleighs to purchase. On October 10, 1877 three sleighs, at a cost of $1,000, were purchased from Mr. Jones of Troy, New York. Two were green and one was red.

In 1878 the York Street branch was constructed from James Street to the western gate of the cemetery with a single track and switches. Single track was also laid on James Street South from King Street to Hannah (now Charlton) Street and double track was laid on King Street East to the switch east of the steam railway track. The James Street North line was extended to the foot of James Street at McKay's Wharf.

Rubber tokens were experimented with to replace tickets but were found unacceptable as they were easily counterfeited.

Four more sleighs were ordered this year.

In 1880 two open cars were purchased for warm weather service from J.M. Jones & Company These cars had a seating capacity of 24.

Car No. 8 began regular East End service starting from the Great Western Railway Station on Stuart Street to East Hamilton.

Turntable at King and James Streets, 1870'sIn 1881 it was felt that a turntable at the corner of King & James Street was essential and staff were sent to Buffalo to investigate their working of the turntable installed there.

In 1883 a single track with switches was completed along the centre of Herkimer Street from James Street to Queen Street. The turntable at the corner of King and James Streets was installed in 1884. Also, that year saw a disruption of service when the city replaced the macadamized roads with cedar blocks, necessitating rebuilding the tracks at great expense. By 1885 the company agreed that it was now necessary to have a Manager who could devote his full time to the affairs of the Company. Therefore, on June 1st, Mr. M.C. Dickson was hired at a salary of $1,500. This year also saw the rental of a downtown ticket office at 11 James Street North.

At the beginning of 1886 two open cars, with a seating capacity of 30 passengers, were purchased. This put the total number of cars owned and operated by the HSR at 8 open and 14 closed cars. The regular employees of the company also got their first raise since the incorporation. Operators were given a raise of 50 cents for a weekly salary of $8. Foremen were also given a 50 cent raise for a weekly salary of $9.50.

The King Street track was extended as far as Sherman Avenue. After 16 months Mr. Dickson resigned and was replaced by Mr. Tunis Bruce Griffith as Managing Director and Secretary-Treasurer.

Ticket prices were fixed at Adults, 6 tickets for 25 cents, Children, 10 tickets for 25 cents. This year also saw the settlement of the first law suit brought against the HSR for damages caused by an accident caused by the street railway. Mr. William McLean was awarded $800 for damages and costs for injuries sustained by him while riding on a street car that July.

Advertising was now quite common on the outside of the cars. Inside the cars saw the addition of a notice saying: "Passengers are not allowed to get on and off the cars while in motion. Passengers riding on car platforms do so at their own risk of accident."

In early spring, two more open cars were purchased.

In 1887 the old stable was replaced by a substantial brick building. Four single-track closed cars and two open cars were purchased.

Increased business kept the HSR booming with new cars being added for faster service. In 1888 the Company began operations on Barton Street from James Street to Wentworth Street. This year, for the first time, stoves were placed in the cars for heat in the winter. A new two-storey car shed and stable was built on the south side of Stuart Street between James and Macnab Streets. In 1889 they purchased land on Sanford Avenue and built a new two-storey building to house the cars and horses and the Stuart Street building was converted into an electric repair and paint shop which remained in use until 1928. This same year, 1889, the Company opened its new office at 7 King Street West only to move the following year to 6 James Street North.

In 1890 the tracks laid on Wentworth Street and Main Street were removed, the turntable at King and James Streets was removed and double steel curves installed and King Street was double-tracked from James Street to Locke Street. Momentously, this year also saw the first mention of the use of electricity come up and the following year the system was electrified. The horse drawn cars were discontinued and replaced by electrically driven trolley cars. This modernization was begun in March and the electric cars were running by July 1892. On July 21, 1892 they sold all their horses. The cost for converting totalled $197,000. The electric power at first was generated by steam.

In early days street cars were painted on the outside in plaid but the citizens liked to be able to identify the cars from different routes so the company began painting them different colours. With electrification red and green signal lights were tried out.

Open car #65, circa 1900The annual report for 1894 noted that the HSR carried 2,814,516 passengers that year.

In 1895 the cars were painted red and green for different routes.

In 1896 the controversy over streetcars running on Sundays was settled finally when Mr. Justice Rose ruled that running trolley cars on Sunday was not a violation of the Lord's Day Act.

By the end of 1898 all tracks of the old horse-car days had been removed and replaced with standard 87 bb girder rails.

Ex-horse car #39, circa 1900In 1899 the Wentworth Street tracks were completed to connect with the East End Incline Railway. The year also saw the HSR absorbed by the Hamilton Electric Light & Power Company, October 16, 1899. The Five Johns (John M. Gibson, John Moodie, John W. Sutherland, John Dickenson, John Patterson) had pioneered this enterprise to develop electric power at Decew Falls and transmit it to the city 36 miles away. Their first power substation was at the corner of Main and Catherine Streets.

In 1904 a committee to investigate the condition of the cars and facilities declared them not adequate and in need of improvement.

November of 1906 saw Hamilton in the midst of one of the most violent strikes in its history. A dispute had arisen between the Cataract Power, Light and Traction Company and its employees at the Hamilton Street Railway. On November 5, 1906 a strike was called. The general manager of the company was determined that the streetcars would run and the strikers were equally determined that they would not. There was property damage done to the car barns and the photograph below shows the result of rocks being thrown through the office windows of the company building.

Windows had rocks thrown at them during the strikeThere was a sharp increase in hooliganism and hurling rocks at streetcars became a popular sport. Although many of those who supported the strike by wearing their blue "We Walk" buttons were peaceful the rowdy element saw the strike as an excuse for lawlessness and were seen as a serious threat. The Police Chief Smith told Mayor Biggar that his department was unable to protect the public or private property. At the request of the Mayor regular troops were sent from Toronto's Stanley Barracks to Hamilton. They arrived on Wednesday, November 21st. The force consisted of mounted men of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, the Royal Canadian Dragoons and infantry of the Royal Canadian Regiment. The next day more troops arrived from London bringing the total to 15 officers and 162 men.

Friday night of that week saw the worst outbreak since the beginning of the strike. Any streetcars running were met with a hail of missiles until 9 p.m. when they were all taken off the streets. A detective attempting to make an arrest after a store window was smashed was beaten to his knees. The officer who went to his assistance was forced to draw his revolver to hold off the mob.

A street car with broken windowsAt 7:15 p.m. on Saturday, November 24, 1906, Mayor Biggar appeared at the front door of City Hall to face a mob. They were held in check by police and soldiers. Sheriff Middleton, in formal dress was standing beside the Mayor. Then, for the first time in Hamilton's living memory, the Sheriff read the Riot Act.

"Scarcely had "God Save the King" concluded the formality than police and soldiers went in with clubs swinging and with fixed bayonets - and the huge mass dissolved in flight. Cavalry rode on the sidewalks, driving the crowds before them, and as usual the innocent bystander bore much of the brunt. Citizens were pursued into stores, men staggered along with bleeding faces. One Benjamin Kerr was clubbed as he sat on his piano stool in a restaurant. Jones Lewis, on his way to work at the Hamilton Herald, was pursued even into the editorial sanctum. A patient leaving Dr. Roseburgh's, at King and Hunter, suffered a broken head and was soon back for medical attention.

Cavalry galloped down King East to Walnut to round up a group that had cornered and was destroying a barricaded car. [illustrated below]

A drawing of some of the activities that took place during the strike

Rescued from a patrol wagon, a rioter was hit by a stone that ricocheted from the helmet of Police Sgt. Knox. Constables Hallisey, and John Bleakley were seriously injured by bricks and an old lady connected with a club when she sought shelter in the Times office on Hughson and King William. Hans Hansen, on his way to work, was felled by a blow and getting up was knocked down by another. A citizen dragged his injured wife up the City Hall steps to protest to the Mayor. Infantry with bayonets chased people up and down. Charles Dodsworth, of the Henry Irving company, on his way to play at the Grand was chased for blocks and then injured. Many stores suffered damage - the People's Furniture, Chadwick Bros., J. Truman and Company, McPhails and J.O. Hopes. The riot kept up for hours. Never had there been such a night in this city's annals.

As a result much popular sympathy swung to the strikers. A few days later a settlement was reached - and in December some rioters were sentenced. The great car strike left an aftermath of bitterness which only time could efface." (Hamilton Spectator, November 18, 1963, pg. 26)

The Hamilton Street Railway was always a popular topic in the local press. For example, The Hamilton Times on July 30, 1910, printed an article entitled "Pests of Summertime - The Street-Car Rowdy."

Belt line carIn 1914 the City of Hamilton's offer to buy the HSR was turned down. That year also, as a safety measure, they installed Westinghouse air-brakes. Before this there were only hand brakes. This year also saw a by-law passed for an extension of the HSR through the McKittrick survey in the West End although the extension was not actually built until later.

The Pay-As-You-Enter system began on August 5, 1918.

Open cars continued to run until about 1920 when they were discontinued.

During the war new cars could not be purchased as all materials were requisitioned for war purposes.

Belt line car #401, January, 1920This year they decided to switch to a pay-as-you-enter system of fare collecting.

The relationship between the City of Hamilton and the HSR during this period was strained. Payments made to the city negated any profit. The directors of the HSR proposed that the City take over the HSR and run it or give the HSR more favourable terms for continuing to run the street cars. By-laws supporting these two options were voted on at the municipal election of December 7, 1925. Both were voted down so the directors announced that the HSR would cease operations at midnight, December 10, 1925. The city called in the manager of the HSR to propose a temporary agreement to keep the streetcars running. This year the HSR purchased the property of the Hamilton & Dundas Street Railway Company for $107,952. They also purchased part of the Radial Electric Railway.

Snow sweepers on King Street East, circa 1910On May 25, 1926 the purchase of the first buses was authorized and the first bus began operation on the Main Street - Balmoral Avenue route on August 26, 1926.

In 1927 car barns, garage, machine shops etc. were erected on the Wentworth Street North site. That year 24 new cars, built by National Steel Car were purchased. They had a colour scheme of green and cream and had automatic door openers. They were the first front entrance rear exit cars.

In 1928 the HSR purchased the assets of Mount Hamilton Bus Lines for $40,000.

Part of the problem the HSR was having with the city of Hamilton revolved around the jitneys.

Jitney is an old english word meaning nickel. Around 1914 to 1916 the term was applied to a personalized transportation system which was part way between taxicabs and buses. The jitney was often a private car used to tranport passengers along a semi-fixed route parallel to streetcar lines. The jitneys became quite popular in Hamilton and drew many riders away from the streetcar service because of their greater speed and convenience. At first unregulated they were seen as a significant threat to the monopoly of the Hamilton Street Railway. City officials were encouraged to pass legislation which severely limited the operation of the jitneys. This problem was not unique to Hamilton and most large urban centres were faced with jitney/streetcar rivalries. Most did as Hamilton did, imposing such unreasonable and restrictive requirements that the jitneys were forced out of business.

Some of the restrictions included:

Requiring liability bonds (often equal to 50% of the jitney's net earnings)
Requiring minimum route lengths
Requiring minimum operating hours
Requiring jitneys to carry all city employees free of charge
Confining jitney operations on certain days to odd-numbered license plates and even numbered on others
Requiring jitneys to adhere strictly to their assigned routes or charge double or triple fares
Excluding jitneys from high-ridership areas
Prohibiting jitneys from using streetcar stops or stopping close to intersections
Prohibiting jitneys from waiting at the curb for riders
Requiring a 10 mph speed limit for jitneys
Requiring jitneys to come to a full stop at all intersections

After Hamilton City Council was persuaded to pass increasingly restrictive legislation during the late 1920's the jitneys quickly went out of business.

They began operating one man cars in 1929 and, despite strenuous objections by the city and the Employees Union, all cars were one man operations by January 2, 1932 although the Belt Line Route was delayed one year.

1930 saw the end of the Dominion Power and Transmission Company when all its assets were acquired by the Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario. The old board of management resigned en masse and board meetings of the HSR were now convened in Toronto.

In 1936 five light-weight modern-type 21 passenger Ford buses were purchased from Wentworth Motors for $3,288.46 each. Gradually the street car tracks were being abandoned as buses replaced the street-cars but the overhead system of wires and poles was left in place to be used if and when a trolley bus service might be used.

Hamilton Street Railway bus, circa 1942On September 16, 1946 the assets of the HSR were sold by Ontario Hydro to a private Hamilton syndicate of Alan V. Young, W.D. Black, Francis Fairwell for $1,400,000. They announced a five year plan to motorize street transportation in Hamilton leading to the end of electric street cars.

The first trolley buses arrived in Hamilton in April of 1950 and the trolley buses went into service December 10, 1950.

The new colour scheme for the HSR in 1950 was maroon and cream.

In 1951 City Council voted to eliminate the 4% franchise tax imposed on the HSR. In return the HSR promised to do away with street cars, replacing them first with diesel buses and later, when the necessary overhead wires had been installed, with trolley buses. The old Belt Line would cease to exist. Estimates put the cost of modernizing the system at $2,000,000.

"My last trip. Good-bye forever."In February 1951 the HSR ordered 10 diesel buses and 30 trackless trolley coaches from Canadian Car and Foundry Company Limited of Montreal.

On April 6, 1951 a special "Last Run" of the last two trams celebrated the end of the street car in Hamilton. Mayor Lloyd D. Jackson and a host of local dignitaries were on hand for the ceremonial last trip.

Thirty trolley buses began service on the King-Barton route October 24, 1951 marking the final phase of the HSR's modernization.

When the HSR announced a fare increase to 10 cents in 1952 the City of Hamilton was outraged and fought against it at the Ontario Municipal Board hearing in February. The OMB allowed the increase making the fares 10 cents for adults and 5 cents for students and children.

"Last run" of last two trams, April, 1951.In October of 1955 the HSR acquired the Dundas bus route from Canada Coach Lines Limited That same month saw the delivery of 12 larger 46 passenger buses to replace the small buses on the Aberdeen route. On November 16, 1955 the HSR took over the suburban bus routes formerly operated by Canada Coach Lines. Limited

Sunday October 28, 1956 saw the radical overhaul of some HSR routes to conform to Hamilton's new one-way street system. Nine-twelfths of the system changed overnight at an estimated cost of $40,000.

In May of 1959 the HSR and its subsidiary Canada Coach Lines was put up for sale. The city hired three experts to look into the implications of the city's acquiring the company. The asking price as $4,250,000. City Council voted to submit a private members bill (The City of Hamilton Act, 1960) to the Ontario Legislature which, if passes, would allow the city to purchase the HSR. They had also recommended the purchase at a cost of $3,250,000.

On February 19, 1960 Hamilton City Council voted 16-5 to purchase the HSR. On February 23, 1960 City Council approved a 3-member transit commission to administer the HSR without remuneration. The commissioners were to be appointed for 3 year terms and approved by council.

Cream and maroon coloured busOn March 7, 1960 Hamilton's private members bill was unanimously approved by the Legislature's private members bill committee then went to the House for second and third reading. Ontario Municipal Bond approval was received Oct. 4, 1960. The money to purchase the company was to be raised through the sale of 20-year debentures. On Oct. 21 the first Hamilton Transit Commission members were appointed: Francis Farwell, Chairman (former President of the HSR), Norman Weir (retired manager of the CIBC in Hamilton) and Thomas Rice (retired Vice President of International Harvester Company of Canada). They were confirmed at the city council meeting October 25, 1960.

In 1963 the HSR introduced special fares for pensioners.

In 1965 City Council turned down an offer to sell Canada Coach Lines.

1967 saw only the second strike in the HSR's history but it only lasted 2 days before being settled on July 21.

Hamilton's third bus strike began May 15, 1971 and lasted a gruelling 69 days with buses running again on July 26.

In September of 1971 a pilot project was announced, to start November 1, allowing persons 70 years of age or older to buy a $2.50 pass giving them unrestricted travel on the HSR seven days a week. If successful the plan would allow them to purchase 12 monthly passes for $10. This was quite a change from the half price fare they were paying at the time. The plan was a great success and the first yearly passes were issued April 1, 1972. In the first 2 weeks 4,500 passes were sold.

In 1972 the HSR ordered 40 new trolley buses worth $1.75 million to replace all but 7 of the old trolley buses. They were 3 feet longer and seated 45 passengers. They had wide aisles and new fluorescent lighting to ensure that "12 o'clock trade from the pubs will not stumble".

In the fall of 1972 DeLeuw, Cather & Company, consultants, were hired to do a study of city public transit. The study was scheduled to take 30 weeks.

In November 1972 the colour scheme on the new trolleys was unveiled. They were predominantly yellow with black stripes on the front, back and sides. Plans were for all of the 241 bus fleet to sport the new colours.

On December 31, 1973 a special "free" bus service was offered between 7 pm and 2 am sponsored by cigarette manufacturer Peter Stuyvesant Canada Limited at a cost to them of $5,000.

In 1974 the City of Hamilton Proposed transferring public transit to the region. On April 23, 1974 Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Council voted 19-7 to accept regional transportation in principle but to delay taking over the HSR until January 1, 1975. Provincial legislation was required to amend Bill 155 to give the Region authority to operate a public transit system. The board to administer the Regional transit system would consist of 7 members, up from the 5 for the HSR.

On September 13, 1976 buses went to an exact fare system.

September 28, 1976 City Council voted unanimously to hand over operation of the HSR and Canada Coach Lines to the region.

Regional Council endorsed the plan in which each area municipality pays into the system on a route deficit plan.

The transfer was to take place January 1, 1977. Legislation to authorize this was forwarded to the province in November for approval.

The formal transfer actually took place February 16, 1977 as the new Regional Transit Commission assumed office. This new board consisted of 9 councillors (5 from the city and 4 from the outlying municipalities) with the Regional Chairman as a non-voting member.

Articulated bus, 1977.In May 1977 the HSR tested an articulated bus and agreed to test them in the city.

In October of 1977 the first adult bus pass (costing $14 per month) was inaugurated. After a three month trial it was made permanent.

In April of 1978 zoning was approved for a satellite bus depot south of Rymal Road on Upper Wellington to relieve the overcrowding at the Wentworth Street depot. This year also saw a proposal to implement computerization of the system using ERICA (Easy Rider Information with Computer Assistance) at a projected cost of $2.2 million.

In March of 1979 the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Transit Commission approved a new $9 million Mountain headquarters for the HSR (west of Highway #6, a 13 hectare site between Dickenson Road and Highway #20) and a $4 million renovation of the Wentworth Street North yard. This same month an agreement to test 6 articulated buses for three years was reached.

January 1, 1980 the semi-autonomous Regional Transit Commission became a department of regional government and therefore accountable to council.

December 18, 1980 the Regional Transit Committee authorized the first phase of a $3.5 million computer system to monitor the location and passenger load of buses.

On May 11, 1982 an overwhelming 93% of the members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107 rejected the HSR's final contract offer. When mediation failed the buses stopped running at 3 a.m. June 11, 1982. The main sticking point in negotiations revolved around proposed changes to the COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) formula and wages. After the strike reached the 33 day  point, the Ministry of Labour set up mediation talks in Toronto to try to settle the strike. After 11 hours of mediated negotiations, however, the talks were adjourned indefinitely.

The effects of the bus strike hit many are retailers hard during an already depressed economy as customers were unable to reach the downtown shopping area. After 42 days, downtown stores were reporting a 30% reduction in sales and stores had begun to lay off staff and cut hours.

A proposal to provide free buses with unpaid drivers and fare boxes taped shut was not accepted by the union.

Another attempt at mediation failed and the bus strike hit 48 days. In August the Ministry of Labour appointed a special advisory committee to convene further discussions with both sides to try to negotiate a settlement. After 68 days of the strike renewed cries for legislation to force the workers back were heard from area M.L.A.'s Sheila Copps and Eric Cunningham.

Negotiations during the 1982 HSR strike.On August 24 the provincial disputes advisory committee met with the region to try to get negotiations moving again. For the first time since May, and 76 days into the strike, both sides agreed to meet September 1st. The two main issues were still the COLA and wage increases. The committee tables a "take it or leave it" recommendation for both sides to consider on Saturday, September 4th. The two members of the provincial committee, Terry Meagher and Robert Joyce, were credited with keeping the talks going. Regional Council did not get the reduced COLA allowance they wanted but they did get a cap put on the amount payable and approved the agreement by a 16-11 vote on September 8. On September 9 the union voted 82% to accept the agreement. Neither side really got what they had wanted and the strike had polarized the community, leaving many bitter feelings on both sides.

On September 11 at 4 a.m. the buses started rolling again, putting an end the Hamilton's longest transit strike which had lasted 92 days.

1982 also saw the region authorize a study to see whether they should continue operating the HSR or contract it out to private enterprise.

In October 1982 articulated buses began a three year demonstration project on Hamilton streets.

On January 22, 1984 an open house was held to mark the opening of the $11 million Mountain Regional Transit Centre on Upper James Street. That same month also saw a drastic change in bus routes leading to numerous complaints from the public.

This year also saw the beginning of the implementation of T-I-C-C-S (Transit Information Communications and Control System), a computerized information system which was also being installed in Ottawa and Mississauga. A telephone computer system was also to be implemented to tell callers when the next two buses would be at particular stops. Radios were also added to the buses to increase safety and efficiency.

In 1985 fifteen new state of the art buses were added to the fleet with a new colour scheme: yellow, white and blue. The HSR also entered into a contract worth $1 million to equip its 250 buses with microcomputers to run the AVLC System (Automatic Location & Communication). The system was to be installed and operational by the end of 1986. A test run of the system began on 8 mountain routes in August of 1985.

In July of 1985 the first women bus drivers were hired.

In November 1985 the HSR tested the first natural gas vehicle (NGV) bus in North America on their routes with great success. By mid-1986 they were to place 5 more of these fuel efficient buses in the system.

The aging 56 trolley buses were targeted for replacement with diesel buses following a consultant's report in the spring of 1986. Public opposition to the plan surfaced immediately. The city's transportation and environment committee voted unanimously to save them as did the regional transportation services committee and regional council in November, 1986.

In August of 1986 the Beeline service was inaugurated. This was an express bus running between Eastgate Mall and McMaster University with only 5 stops in between.

Electronic fare boxes were approved to replace the mechanical boxes to begin use in 1987. In March of that year "FRED" was installed (Fare Reading Device). This was the first time that electronic cash boxes were used in Canada.

1987 saw a suggestion to rename the HSR. The three choices citizens were polled on were Hamilton Area Regional Transit (HART), Greater Hamilton Transit (GTR) or Hamilton Street Railway. The original name won in a landslide.

The new HSR headquarters, originally estimated to cost $16 million by mid 1987 had jumped to $20 million. This facility was to replace the old Wentworth Street offices as well as house maintenance and bus storage facilities. When the tenders came in over that amount the revised cost became $22.9 million. In Sept. 1987 regional council voted to put the project on hold and in October rejected the project and sent it back to the transportation services committee for a "quick re-design" before re-tendering. Re-tendering in March of 1988 brought in tenders almost $10 million lower at about $18 million.

In August 1988 the question of trolley buses rose again when staff recommended  a $1.32 million retrofit to put auxiliary engines in 16 trolleys to adapt them for the new transit garage. Regional Council approved the expenditure.

In 1990 new uniforms were chosen to replace the old brown and gold uniforms. The new colours were navy blue and grey.

Cost increases relating to removal of contaminated soil at the new transportation centre site pushed the cost up to about $25 million by October, 1988.

May 16, 1988 Regional Council voted 10-9 to review the trolley bus issue, again.

On June 21, 1989 Regional Council approved the purchase of the first 15 air-conditioned buses which went into operation in the spring of 1991.

Interior view of an HSR busIn August regional council approved a $24 million three year plan to upgrade the trolley buses.

The new Transportation Centre opened for business in January of 1990.

In March 1990 Regional Council again opened the debate on trolley buses and the public expressed its opinion (strongly in favour of them) over the next few months. The HSR commissioned a $410,000 study and the results were discussed in open meetings in June of 1991. While not recommending eliminating trolley bus service the report concluded that it was the most expensive option.

In January of 1992 15 new natural-gas fuelled HSR  buses began running on the mountain routes. Regional Council the next month again renewed its commitment to trolley buses as well as to the new natural gas buses as being environmentally sound.

In December 1992 the HSR announced that the provincial licenses for the remaining 15 trolley buses would not be renewed and the trolleys would be taken off the streets for two years until new equipment could be brought into service.

On February 2, 1993 Regional Council voted 22-5 to sell Canada Coach Lines and on June 15th approved the $2.65 million sale to Trentway-Wagar.

In November 1993 staff was directed to look at buying second-hand trolleys from Edmonton to revive the trolley system.

In January 1994 25 low-floor buses were ordered to help the elderly and people with disabilities to use public transit.

February 21, 1994 Hamilton-Wentworth Transportation Services Committee rejected buying or renting used trolleys. At the Regional Council meeting of March 1, 1994 councillors voted 20-7 against trolley buses, opting instead for natural-gas powered buses. The trolley bus era in Hamilton was now officially over.

HSR bus, "Powered by Clean Natural Gas", August, 2000In August of 1996 its was announced that the Mountain Regional Transit Centre, built for $13 million in 1983 was now surplus and for rent.

ALF (Accessible Low Floor) buses were introduced in Hamilton in August 1996 and began operating on September 23, 1996. These buses featured no step entry/exit and wheelchair ramps. The driver could lower the bus and extend a ramp.

There was a brief bus strike in 1996 lasting six days from November 17-22. However, the next strike in 1998 was a long one.

On March 31, 1998, the union contracts expired for the two HSR union locals. The negotiating teams met 8 times and at the last meeting the provincial mediator determined that the two positions were too far apart to continue. The buses stopped running at 3:30 a.m. on Monday, November 2, 1998.

The region proposed a car pooling incentive and students at both McMaster University and Mohawk College set up car pools.

Downtown business noted at least a 30% drop in business in only the first 10 days of the strike.

Strikers blocked all the entrances to city hall November 13 to protest a scheme promoting car pooling by civic employees.

Both sides sat down at the bargaining table again on November 20 with provincial mediator Bob Pryor.

On November 23rd the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board hired additional buses to get students to school even though the strikers vowed to picket if this was done.

HSR bus, August, 2000November 26 the strikers overwhelmingly rejected the region' s latest offer. The region wanted bus drivers to be on a wage grid similar to other municipal employees where you worked your way up over five years to the highest wage on the grid. This would have standardized the HSR workers with the rest of the municipal workers.

With the strike extending into December, pre-Christmas sales at some downtown stores were down 45%.

Talks were set to resume December 12 with the provincial mediator but they broke down again and Regional Chairman Terry Cooke and Kim Cheeseman, Local 107 president, both agreed the strike would probably go on into the new year.

Downtown internet cafe Cafe Ohh La La announced a shuttle service to bring their customers downtown. The union announced that they would shut down any such effort. The company that was to supply the shuttle bus backed out of the arrangement when police warned that it might be dangerous. Another bus company was found but they did not pick up any passengers after a police warning. The cafe owners and the union came to an arrangement that a van could pick up customers but no buses would be used.

After 10 weeks out there were still no talks scheduled.

Cafe Ohh La La again hired a bus to use as a shuttle between the cafe location on Upper James and the cafe location on King near Hughson. They also got a court injunction to keep strikers away. Halfway through the first day of operation the bus company abruptly cancelled the contract.

A Hamilton Street Railway bus advertising Wonder Bread (August, 2000)

Talks began again on January 13 as the strike entered its 11th week. After some tense negotiations a tentative agreement was struck. The union members voted 87% in favour and the buses were to begin running again after a strike of 12 weeks.

Regular service began again January 22nd at 4:45 a.m. Fares were to be free all weekend and half-price until the end of January.

In September 1998 Transcab, a two year pilot project began. The HSR used cabs to connect passengers in north Stoney Creek to the Hamilton transit system.

In June 1999 an ELF 100 minibus began operating in Dundas during peak periods to connect with the Hamilton-bound Delaware bus. The service was called Trans-Link.

The success of the Transcab service in Stoney Creek led to the same service being offered in Glanbrook as an extension of the Upper James Route starting November 1, 1999.

A plan to run free buses on smog days failed to pass regional council in both 1999 and 2000.

Public transportation in Hamilton has a long history. From the earliest horse drawn cars to today’s modern electronically monitored and environmentally responsible natural gas vehicles the people of Hamilton have had over 100 years of good, reliable public transit.




Home List E-mail