Chapter 13
The Second Railway Building Era
Table of Contents

Title Page
1 A place called Hamilton.
2 Public Works and Private Enterprise
3 Port Hamilton
4 1837-1839
5 Ericsson Wheels
6 1844-1847
7 Good Times in Port
8 Boom Town Days
9 Depression Years
10 Better Times Ahead
11 1867-1870
12 Prosperity for the Shipbuilders
13 The Second Railway Building Era
14 1884-1888
15 The Electric Era
16 The Iron Age
Table of Illustrations


Much discussion took place in the press in 1876 regarding the construction of the Hamilton & North Western Ry., with which was merged, the Hamilton & Lake Erie. The difficulties of obtaining a right-of-way through Hamilton and around the west end of the Bay appeared insurmountable and so the company had decided upon a route across Burlington Beach and then, northward through Georgetown and Beeton to Barrie. This was finally accomplished, as was a branch from Beeton, through Alliston and Creemore to Collingwood.

When this plan was made public, the Shipping fraternity split into two camps - for, and against a swing bridge over the Burlington Bay Canal. Petitions were drafted and sent to His Excellency, the Governor General, the Earl of Dufferin. Those merchants, forwarders and shipmasters opposed to the bridge were basing their objections on the supposition that a centre pier would be placed in the canal, thereby seriously reducing the width of the channel. Those members of the community who were in favour of the railway's proposal understood that the bridge was planned with its turntable on the North Pier, leaving a clear opening and they bore in mind also, the tonnage of grain and forest products that this new railway would bring to the port.

The Hamilton Spectator, on the 20 April, remarked that:

"Extraordinary preparations are being made at the Bay for the coming boating season. Mr. Bastien has constructed a handsome new boat-house and a young man, just commencing business, Mr. James Massie, has completed another and stocked it with safe pleasure boats. The FLORENCE and the DENNIS BOWEN will have a rival in the shape of another steam boat running to the Beach and from all appearances, the water may expect a lively time generally."

There was trouble on the Welland Canal on the night of 24 April, when a Canada Southern freight train ran through the signal indicating that the swing bridge at Welland was open. The engine and eight cars plunged into the Canal killing the engineer and the head-end brakeman.

The CELTIC was the first of the Lake & River Steamship Co. vessels to clear, leaving Hamilton on 4 May with flour for Montreal. On the same day, word was received that the CALABRIA had stranded in the St. Lawrence River near Maitland, Ont. She was refloated two days later and was on her way to Kingston for repairs. Salvagers had placed an extra steam pump aboard, to keep her afloat.

On the 26 May, advertisements appeared for the steamers FLORENCE and TRANSIT running to the Beach. The latter called at the Brant House, on her way.

The TRANSIT was involved in a slight mishap on the Bay on the 5 July and this was reported by the Spectator as follows:

"The steamer TRANSIT had taken on 300 people at the Brant House for a trip around the Bay and all were enjoying the prospect of a delightful excursion, when just as the vessel passed out of the little inlet into the Bay, a violent squall struck her and tore away her hurricane deck, carrying it over 200 yards from the steamer. The sound of the breaking timbers and the roar of the wind was deafening, causing not a little commotion among the passengers, who rushed hither and thither in the wildest excitement. The TRANSIT drifted before the gale, unable to stem the force of the wind sweeping with irresistible fury across the Bay and was finally driven into the marsh, where the grounded. In about two hours, after the greatest labour, the vessel was got off and was able to proceed on her way home."

A. M. Robertson was building a schooner for his own account and when completed, she was named NORTHMAN.

The propeller CITY OF MONTREAL, chartered by the Government to deliver the annual supplies to the light stations, arrived at the Burlington Canal on the evening of Saturday, 15 July and after leaving supplies with Capt. Thos. Campbell, departed for Fort Dalhousie and the Upper Lakes.

A news item on the 11 August stated that the Hamilton & North Western Ry. line to Georgetown was making good progress and that the company intended to build a grain elevator at Hamilton. The contract for the pile bridge over the mouth of Red Hill Creek, in the southeastern corner of the Bay, was let to Mr. Hiram King. The contract for construction of the elevator was let, on the 24 August, to Mr. McDermott, the lowest bidder.

By the 1 September, the Hamilton & North Western Ry. rails had reached the Burlington Canal and work was being done on the foundations for the swing bridge.

In the early hours of Monday, 11 September, the steamer CORINTHIAN, of the R. & O. fleet, stranded close to the Grafton Pier. At the time, she was upbound with about 70 passengers and a quantity of cargo for the Hamilton Exhibition and got into trouble in heavy weather. All hands got ashore safely and later in the day, when the seas had subsided, the steamer NORSEMAN went up from Cobourg and picked up the passengers. Tugs were sent from Kingston to refloat the CORINTHIAN.

In the third. week of September, the schooner BABINEAU & GAUDRY,Capt. Patterson, master and owner, was in Hamilton taking on a cargo of coal oil for Cork, Ireland. The schooner's home port was Picton and she registered 300 tons. The captain intended to enter the British coastal trade during the coming winter.

The CORINTHIAN was refloated on the 20 September and was towed into Cobourg for some temporary patching-up. She was then taken to Kingston for repairs. The schedules of the SPARTAN and the CORSICAN were somewhat upset by this mishap to their running-mate.

A news item on the 21 October stated that the swing bridge over the Burlington Canal would be placed in position in a few days. The bridge was being built by the Hamilton Bridge & Tool Company, which had been established in 1863 on Barton Street at Caroline. The line to Georgetown was to be completed by the 1 December, but this date was not met. The bridge was not completed before the 21 December.


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This volume is copyright The Estate of Ivan S. Brookes and is published with permission of the Estate. The originals are deposited in the Special Collections of the Hamilton Public Library.