Category Archives: History

Operator Maurice Powell celebrates 50 years with HSR

Monday, August 19th, 2019 marks a significant day for Transit. 50 years ago, Operator Maurice Powell joined the HSR – making him the first transit operator, and only second employee in the history of the City of Hamilton to reach this milestone!

Joined by staff, family and friends, Hamilton City Council recognized Maurice at the start of their Council meeting this morning.

Maurice has been driving routes 27 UPPER JAMES and 35 COLLEGE for as long as there are records, every day, Monday to Friday starting at 4:30am. HSR Staff – past and present, along with the City of Hamilton leadership team and Council will be celebrating Maurice and his steadfast dedication, commitment and love of his job with formal festivities on Monday, August 19 from 12 noon to 2 pm at the Mountain Transit Center, where there will be special guest and partnership announcements.

HSR Celebrates 140 Years of Service in Hamilton Today


There is a debate on exactly what the first date was, though after much research Hamilton Transit History has concluded that today is the day.

This year marks the 140th anniversary of the first streetcar entering service in Hamilton. The streetcar officially entered into service on Hamilton city streets on Monday, May 18th, 1874.

Service began on Monday, May 18th. Starting at 7:30 am, cars departed every 12 minutes from Bay and Stuart, along Stuart and James. Red cars travelled as far as Gore Park, while Green cars would continue east on King to Wellington. Return service began at 8:00 am, every 24 minutes from Wellington & King, and every 12 minutes from Gore Park. By this description, the HSR had three cars in regular service (two greens and a red). By the end of the week, the HSR was reporting better than expected ridership, as well as its first accident when a car derailed on King street on May 21st. Injuries consisted of a trampled hat and a damaged skirt.

In 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 to incorporate “The Hamilton Street Railway Company” (R.S.O., 1873, Cap C) was passed on March 29th, 1873.

Hamilton Street Railway – 1991 Transit Service Plan

Every so often route structures and services are analysed and looked at, and changes are proposed. These developments and proposals are often implemented but are not always adopted. Below is a report from November 1990 brought forth with proposed modifications and changes for the Hamilton Street Railway in 1991. Some of these changes were implemented right away while others didn’t happen until much later. Some of the proposals were never adopted at all.

After each proposal is outlined below I will add in some text in red with the result of the proposal, whether it was implemented and approximately when those changes occurred.


Throwback Thursday – The terminal Terminal

The terminal terminal

Is it the end of the road for
Rebecca Street bus station?

By Ken Peters | The Spectator | September 6, 1995

Few among us would likely use the word “attractive” to describe Hamilton’s Rebecca Street bus terminal.

Maybe that’s one reason why there was no hoopla when the terminal celebrated its 40th birthday last month.

The other reason is the terminal, built by Gray Coach Lines Ltd. in 1955 for the princely sum of $400,000, is likely terminal.

The building’s owner, Skipburn Ltd., hints the terminal – where 93 GO Transit and 38 buses from four other carriers depart daily – will become a parking lot once Hamilton’s new bus and transit centre opens in less than two months in the $14 million refurbished TH&B Hunter Street Station.

Jessie Downton and Helen Tower hope that time never comes.

Throwback Thursday – Bus Terminal on Sales Block

Bus Terminal on sales block

Owner ready to create parking lot as new GO Transit
spells end for Rebecca Street landmark

By Ken Peters | The Spectator | August 12, 1995

Another gaping hold for Hamilton’s downtown is on the horizon unless a buyer can be found for the bus terminal.

The Rebecca Street terminal, which celebrated its 40th birthday this month, will be lost to the sea of downtown parking lots if the property can’t be sold, says its owner.

Bill Verrier, chairman of Toronto-based Skipburn Limited, the Canadian subsidiary of Scottish-based bus company Stagecoach Holdings, said the John Street North property was appraised for $1.6 million a couple of years ago but his firm is willing to let it go for considerably less than that.

Throwback Thursday – Wentworth Transit Centre Part 2

Celebrating 115 years of going your way.

ON JUNE 23, 1990


Construction of the seven acre WSTC building began in June 1988. Eight individual land purchase were necessary to acquire the 16 acre site on which the building is located. Construction continued at a steady pace throughout the following months. The changing face of the WSTC – from its early stages to its finished state – is evident in this pictorial.

The WSTC is indeed a building for the future, combining the resources of past and present into one primary control centre.

The 62-year-old garage at 18 Wentworth Street North could no longer meet the needs of such a large and dynamic organization. While Mountain services continue to be covered by the MRTC, the HSR needed a new base of operations from which to cover a revitalized downtown.

Throwback Thursday – Wentworth Transit Centre Part 1

Celebrating 115 years of going your way.

ON JUNE 23, 1990


Picture this: Hamilton without the HSR. It was just as hard to imagine 50 years ago as it is today. That’s because the HSR has been a vital connection – and an integral part of city life – for more than a century.

As Hamilton grew, the HSR did too – keeping in step with the city’s growth and development, and expanding to meet the needs of its citizens. From the early days of horse-drawn street cars to the natural gas buses of the ’90s, the company has been a driving force in the community.

Taking people from one place to another is not only our concern – our aim is to do so in safety and comfort. That’s why the HSR has consistently moved forward in technology and service.

Then and now.

If we want to take people places, we can’t sit still. We have to change with the times; today that means choosing vehicles and equipment that safeguard the environment. We research, refine, adapt and expand – always searching for ways to improve the system. At the HSR, we move with the times. And times change.

We’re round of the fact that we’ve been taking people places for 115 years.

Here’s how we did it…

Throwback Thursday: Celebrating 125 Years of Service

The following text is from pamphlet which was issued back in 1999 in celebration of the HSR’s 125th anniversary. The pamphlet has been retained by the Hamilton Public Library in the local history archives, which is readily available for anyone to see. I happen to have my own copy of the pamphlet and have transposed it below. Enjoy!


On May 21, 1874 the city entered the “modern era” when the first Hamilton Street Railway horse-drawn streetcar took to city roads. The cars ran on rails, but were pulled by one or two horses. The earliest vehicles seated 14 passengers.

Beginning in 1892, electricity was used to power the vehicles. This new technology made the service much faster. Cars now zoomed along at a furious 15mph! Some of the streetcars had closed-in sides, but others were open-sided, making them popular for summertime outings.

Throwback Thursday: Demolition of the Terminal Building in 1959

Quarterly the Hamilton Street Railway publishes the “Bus News” which recaps what service changes are upcoming as well as any bits of relevant news. Did you know that they’ve been putting out these for a long time? A seriously long time.

I recently acquired a very old one of these titled Transit News, which is dedicated to the demolition of the old Terminal building on King and Catherine Streets in downtown Hamilton. The below is a text of that document, word for word.

HSR Transit News Feb 13th 1959

Throwback Thursday: HSR Streetcars 500 – 547

The 500 series cars of the Hamilton Street Railway, as the company’s newest cars, were for many years the characteristic rolling stock of the “Ambitious City’s” transit system. The 48 cars which comprised the series were constructed in three groups during the years 1926 to 1928.

In the year 1926, the City of Hamilton renewed the franchise of what was then a very decrepit Hamilton Street Railway, stipulating that various improvements to the physical property of the system be effected. Included in this was the construction of new general repair shops, the rehabilitation of much trackwork, the provision of certain bus routes, and the acquisition of new cars. The 500 series grew out of this franchise renewal, as an order was placed in 1926 with Hamilton’s National Steel Car Co. for 24 modern steel lightweight single end cars. In many respects, these cars were characteristic of the era in which they were built, and resemble other cars constructed about the same time, such as the 1900 series of the Montreal Tramways. The first completed car was given a trial run on March 12, 1927, and was delivered to the H.S.R. via the Firestone line which connected the National Steel Car plant directly with H.S.R. Kenilworth Ave. trackages. Shortly afterwards, the car was was placed on exhibition at the Terminal Station yard of the Dominion Power and Transmission Co. (of which the H.S.R. was at that time a subsidiary, along with three interurban lines). Delivery of the other 23 cars quickly followed the receipt of this first car. Later in 1927, a further 12 cars were ordered, and this was followed the next year by a final order for 12 more. Slight differences existed among the three groups, but they were identical in all major respects.