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


The revival of the old Great Western Rolling Mill, under the title of The Ontario Rolling Mills Company, lit a spark of hope for better times. The company was expected to be in a position to begin operations by the middle of May. The officers of the company were: Richard Brown, pres., S. A. Fuller, vice-pres. & gen. mgr., A.W. Wilcox, sec.-treas. and J. J. Reid, superintendent.

The first of the R. & O. steamers to appear was the ALGERIAN on the 5 May, followed closely by the SPARTAN. The propeller LAKE ERIE and the E. H. RUTHERFORD left and the ELLA MURTON sailed for Cleveland and the VICTOR cleared for Toledo.

On the 7 May, the schooners UNDINE and GULNARE cleared for Cleveland while the propellers ACADIA and LAKE ONTARIO both left for Toronto. The CALIFORNIA headed for Port Dalhousie.Messrs. Flatt & Bradley were completing the make-up of five drams and these were expected to be towed out on the 11 May to Quebec.

The Hamilton Spectator's Marine News of the 9 May noted that the steamer JULIETTE, after undergoing some structural changes, had been renamed ECLIPSE.

There was a hot time at the Canal on Friday, 30 May. The Spectator had this to say:

"The piers at the Canal have had many escapes from being consumed by fire during the last two or three years, the cause generally being sparks from passing steamers. Friday was a particularly bad day on account of the very high wind which prevailed and the north pier took fire, near the west end about half past two in the afternoon, the general feeling being that it was caused by the steamer FLORENCE. It was observed by Capt. Campbell shortly after it started and he, along with several citizens of the Beach, proceeded with their buckets, as they had done many times before, to the scene of the blaze. This time, however, their efforts were in vain. The flames spread along the pier with amazing rapidity and it was soon apparent that something more than this primitive style of firefighting was needed. The wind blew burning embers along the pier, starting numerous fires and forcing the retreat Of Capt. Campbell and his crew. About 3:00 p.m. the steamer ECLIPSE came into the canal and landed her passengers. She then crossed over and with her crew manning their fire-hose, began to make some progress until she had to leave to tow some schooners through the Canal. At 4:00 p.m. a telegram was sent to the City and the fire alarm was sounded. The firemen, who had just finished subduing a fire at the Great Western Wharf, got out their old Phoenix engine and loaded it on a flat-car on the H. & N. W. Ry. They arrived at the Canal about 5:00 p.m., after a run of 13 minutes, to find that the pier under the swing bridge was blazing fiercely. After a short battle, the firemen had the situation under control, but nearly half of the pier was badly damaged. The captain of the FLORENCE, although he had a fire pump and hose, did not choose to get involved."

Michael Willson Browne, one of the pioneers of the shipping industry in Hamilton, passed away on Monday, 2 June at his residence, 8 Park St. South, in his 64th year. He was born in Limerick in 1816 and came to Canada in 1828, settling in Kingston where he subsequently found work in the forwarding business in which his elder brother James was engaged. He moved to Hamilton in 1836, entering into a partnership with Daniel Charles Gunn, who retired in 1847. About this time, his younger brother, Edward, appeared on the scene and the two brothers carried. on as M. W. & E. Browne. They continued to prosper as forwarders, wharfingers and vessel owners until the advent of the Railroad Era, at which time M. W. Browne ceased to take an active interest in marine matters and, took a position as agent of the Great Western Ry. at Sarnia in 1860. Four years later, he joined the Hamilton & North Western. He then became manager of the Grand Trunk Railway's office in Hamilton. Having an interest in politics, he had been on the council representing St. Mary's Ward, later Ward 3 and was Chairman of the Finance Committee. In 1859, in the absence of Mayor McKinstry, he was Acting-Mayor and officiated at the laying of the corner-stone for the Crystal Palace. He was a member of the Board of Trade for many years and was one of the original members of the Irish Protestant Benevolent Society. He was nominated to run for a seat in the Commons in 1875. He leaves a widow and two grown sons and daughters.

The propeller CELTIC was chartered for the Lighthouse Supply trip this year and was advertised to leave Montreal on or about the 30 June for all light stations on the Lakes.

The Hamilton Spectator of 12 July carried an article entitled,

"The James Street Slip - An important question to come before the Courts,"
reading as follows:
"A question is about to be brought before the Police Magistrate, which will involve more important issues than may at first appear - in fact, which may affect the City Charter and the right to use certain landing-places for passengers on and about Burlington Bay."
The Street Railway having made it so convenient for travellers and excursionists to reach MacKay's Wharf, the owners of the steamers PRINCE ARTHUR and FLORENCE had lost no time in making an agreement to use the old City Wharf on the East side of the James Street Slip. This wharf had been built over the remains of Nathaniel Hughson's Wharf by Charles Lee for the Late A. D. MacKay and it was owned by the Estate, R. O. MacKay being the operator of the wharf, which was used mostly for coal, pig iron and any other bulk commodities. This arrangement made the owners of the steamers ECLIPSE and the DENNIS BOWEN very unhappy, since their former passengers preferred riding the horse-cars to the foot of James Street to the hot dusty walk from Stuart St. to the foot of Simcoe St. Consequently, they had paid a visit to City Hall, where they requested, and were granted, permission to moor a floating stage in the James Street Slip. The landing-stage was a small scow and it was chained to a large iron spike driven into the street surface.

The trouble began when R. O. MacKay attempted to remove this obstruction to allow one of his vessels to berth, but was prevented from so doing by Capt. McMeekin of the ECLIPSE.McMeekin, appearing before the Police Magistrate, was ordered to remove the scow, pending a decision in the case.

There was an unusual arrival in the Harbour on 24 July, when the schooner FLORETTO,Capt. W. J. Gamble, owned by J. B. Taylor of Chicago, berthed with a cargo of sugar, direct from Bridgetown, in the Barbadoes, for Jas. Turner & Co. of Hamilton. The schooner had sailed from Chicago the previous September with a cargo of deals for Glasgow and then made a voyage to South America. She left Bridgetown on the 8 June and much of the voyage to Montreal was made unpleasant by heavy fog.

The CELTIC, on her light-house supply trip, left Port Colborne on the 9 July and proceeded to the Light Stations at Mohawk Island,Pt. Maitland,Pt. Dover and Long Point. She left the Point on the 11 July and steamed across to Cleveland to unload some cargo and to take on bunkers. Then on the 13 July, her passengers were treated to unexpected bonus. Leaving Pelee Island, the CELTIC blundered onto Chickenolee Reef, an outer shoal east of Fish Point, the southerly extremity of Pelee Island. Evidently, the steamer was going

"full ahead",
for according to one passengers' report, she bumped several times over boulders and then fetched up with a crunch that rattled the dishes and sent the passengers scampering along the decks. The night was still and hot and the following day was worse. The temperature in the main cabin climbed over 90 and one can imagine what it was like in her little staterooms. A tug and lighter arrived from Windsor and after about 100 tons of cargo was lightered off, the CELTIC floated free.

A very fast passage from Hamilton to Lock 25 at Thorold was recorded when the schooner FLORIDA of Quebec,Capt. Smith, sailed at 3:00 p.m. on the 1 August and arrived at Lock 25 at 5:00 a.m. on the 2nd, the elapsed time being 14 hours.

On the 4 August, the propeller CALIFORNIA left Hamilton to take her place in the New England Transportation Line running between Chicago and Collingwood.

The steamer SOUTHERN BELLE was back on the Hamilton and Toronto route in August, making two round trips per day, with calls at Oakville both ways. She berthed at MacKay's Wharf in Hamilton and Mowat's Wharf in Toronto. The round trip fare was .75 cents and the horse cars left the corner of King & James Streets at 7:00 a.m. in time for her 8:00 a.m. departure.

On Saturday morning, the 23 August, as the propeller CITY OF MONTREAL, running in connection with the Grand Trunk Ry., was crossing from Cleveland to Port Stanley, her connecting rod broke. The piston went through the cylinder cover and one half of it penetrated the Upper Deck. In its descent, it landed at the feet of the engineer. It was obviously his lucky day. The steamer had approximately 400 passengers, She drifted for about two hours until an American propeller came along and agreed to tow her into Port Stanley.

The Chief Engineer, having dismantled the remains of his engine, attempted to have repairs made in London, but this was found to be impossible and the Mona Iron Works at Hamilton was selected. On Monday, 25 August, the damaged parts were conveyed from the G. W. Ry. station to the Iron Works where the work involved making a new piston, piston rings, follower and bolts, a new cylinder cover, connecting rod, straps, etc. When it is remembered that Mr. Killey had no patterns other than the shattered remains of the engine, it can hardly be deemed other than a great accomplishment to have, as he did, the whole work completed by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, 27 August. Capt. Leach, formerly of the SOUTHERN BELLE, who now commanded the CITY OF MONTREAL, stayed in Hamilton until the work was done and expressed the conviction that it was the quickest piece of work he had seen during his many years of experience in steamers.

The propeller LAKE ONTARIO of the Lake & River Steamship Co., arrived at St. Catharines on the 25 August, with approximately 100 tons of steel rails for that city's street railway. Another shipment was on the way. St. Catharines, like other cities, was feeling the need for urban public transportation in the form of the horse-car, though in this case, the horse would be out-dated in a mere nine years, by the era of electricity.

The Minister of Finance, Sir L. S. Tilley, was making tours of various industrial towns at this time and in the account of his visit to St. Catharines, the Hamilton Spectator remarked,

"The Shipbuilding Interests have in the past, contributed very materially to the success of St. Catharines, but just now, they are somewhat under a cloud, owing to the increased length of the locks on the new canal. In order that the existing difficulty may be overcome, it will be necessary to add 70 feet to the length of Look 2 now only 200 feet long. Sir Leonard was escorted to this lock, which is a short distance from the Welland Vale Works and the whole matter was explained to him.... Either the lock will have to be lengthened or the shipyards, which employ upwards of 250 men, will have to be moved elsewhere, to the detriment of St. Catharines."
This, of course, was never done and the shipyards closed down.

On Tuesday, 28 October, the City Hospital near Myles' Wharf caught fire, losing its roof in the process and being more or less flooded by the valiant efforts of the fire department. There was no loss of life and the patients were moved into a shed while the City Fathers endeavoured to think up somewhere more acceptable. This was the old building, which had, at one time, served as a Custom House.

In the second week of November, grain and other produce was moving well, the propeller LAKE ONTARIO loading grain, flour and apples brought down by the Hamilton & North Western Ry. The ACADIA was loading flour and apples and the LAKE MICHIGAN was booked for 1,000 bbls. of apples. All were heading for Montreal.

A fierce north-east blow, accompanied by snow, caught a contractor's outfit consisting of 3 dredges, 2 derricks, 7 scows, and some tugs, off Sackett's Harbor on the night of the 15 November, scattering the equipment and causing some loss of life. More bad news toward the end of the month, told of the loss of the steamer WAUBUNO on Georgian Bay.


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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.