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Canadian Transport Sourcebook > All works> Annual Reports of the Waterloo Historical Society > President's Address, 1917

Waterloo County Railway History.

In the early ways of Canadian railroading the Grand Trunk Railway and the Great Western Railway were the only larger lines; the latter in fact but a short line on pre­sent day scale. Waterloo County was traversed by each of these lines practically at the beginning of their operation. A branch of the Great Western Railway, leaving the main line at Harrisburg, was opened to Galt on the 21st day of August, 1854, more than a year before the G. W. R. Toronto extension was opened, and antedating in Waterloo County, by more than two years, the Grand Trunk, which began operation through to Stratford on November 17th., 1856.

The main line of the Grand Trunk Railway was for many years from Montreal to Sarnia, with an extension to Portland, Me., the former St. Lawrence & Atlantic and Atlantic & St. Lawrence Railways. The main line of the Great Wes­tern Railway was from Suspension Bridge to Windsor with an extension from Hamilton to Toronto, and sundry branches of which the Galt branch was practically the first.

The beginning of the Great Western Railway was by an act of the legislature of Upper Canada, in 1834, incorporating the London and Gore Railway Company, to run from London to Burlington Bay, at the head of Lake Ontario, and west­ward to the navigable waters of the Thames River and Lake Huron. With nothing done in the interval, the act was re­vived eleven years later, in 1845, and the name changed to The Great Western Railway Company, further amendment of the act being had in 1846. It took until 1853 to have the line ready for operation from the Niagara River via Hamilton to London. In January 1854 it was opened through to the De­troit River at Windsor. An act authorizing the Company "to make a branch railroad to the town of Galt" was passed in 1850, four years before this branch, 12 miles was built.

An independent company, composed of Isaac Buchanan, of Hamilton, a noted merchant and man of large affairs of that day, and seventeen others, was incorporated in 1852 to build a line from Galt to Guelph, under the name of the Galt and. Guelph Railway. Galt, Preston, Hespeler and Guelph sub­scribed liberally. Galt subscribed $62,500 in 1856 and by 1866 paid the whole sum. The road was opened to Preston, November 28th., 1855, and to Guelph on the 28th day of September, 1857. The. operation of the road was given over to the Great Western Railway Company. Difficulty in meet­ing expenses was at once encountered, deficits accumulated and by 1860 the operating company foreclosed a mortgage it had taken for advances made. Eventually the stock was forfeited, the Great Western Railway Company becoming the owner. The village of Preston had to pay in principal and interest about $53,000.00. How this burden of indebted­ness was finally liquidated is related in Klotz's History of Preston, appearing in this volume.

An extension to give the enterprising County Town con­nection with the Great Western Railway, was a natural se­quence. The first Preston and Berlin Railway was built in 1856 and 1857 as part of the Galt-Guelph Railway. The road was opened on November 2nd, 1857, and the occasion celebrated by a grand banquet at Klein's Hotel, later Weaver's Hotel, which with its long and comfortable horseshed I well remember, on Queen Street South, about where is now the Randall & Roos warehouse. Three months later a winter freshet undermined the two piers of the Grand River bridge, below Doon; the bridge, consisting of three wooden Howe truss spans, failed, and operation of the road ceased. Thus for a few brief months, sixty years ago, Berlin, now Kitchener, had more direct rail connection to Hamilton and the south than it has had at any time since. In Berlin the terminus was at King St., alongside of the G. T. R., where now is the Boehmer coal yard. The intention was to extend to the G. T. R. station where the Company had purchased ground now occupied by the Hydro City Shoe Co., but nothing between this and King St. Local bylaws were passed, one in 1855 and a later one in 1857, which was shortly afterward re­pealed, to take stock in the Company to the extent of $40,000. In 1858 an act was passed by the legislature of Upper Can­ada rectifying irregularity as to these bylaws. A final act regarding the Preston and Berlin Railway was passed in 1863, authorizing its sale and exonerating Berlin from pay­ment on its subscriptions, on which nothing was at any time actually paid. The Preston section was never rebuilt. Of the bridge over the Grand River nothing remains but traces of its abutments where the embankments abruptly end on either side. The Speed River bridge was for some time used as a foot bridge, but has also long since disappeared. In 1865 the Grand Trunk Railway acquired what there was left of the road and used all that served for its Galt branch, in 1872. For some years prior to the latter date the road was operated to German Mills station, as a freight service, mainly for the flour mills there.

Construction of the entire first main line of the Grand Trunk Railway, Montreal to Sarnia, took only about three years, rapid construction even on present day standards, 1853 to 1856, and was practically carried on simultaneously throughout the whole distance. A short distance, Montreal to Brockville, was opened for traffic in 1855, all the rest in 1856. The Toronto, Sarnia section, 172 miles, was let to Gzowski—later Sir Casimir Gzowski—MacPherson and Galt, as contractors for the whole, for the sum of £1,376,000 sterling.* Sub-contractors for the greater part of the distance through Waterloo County, from the Grand River bridge west­ward, were Jackson and Flower, the first local railroad build­ers. Mr. Jackson, and Mr. J. S. McDonald, who became ac­countant for the firm, set out from Montreal in August, 1853, travelled by steamboat to Hamilton and from there by stage. They at once organized a force and established their head­quarters here, living for a while at first at Butchart's "Queen's Arms" Hotel which stood on the site of the present City Hall. Completion of grading, sections of which were very heavy, took two years, until the fall of 1855. The bridge over the Grand River at Breslau was completed in 1856. By courtesy of the Grand Trunk Railway we have in our collection a copy of the original water color of this bridge. The high limestone piers have the peculiar ice breaker toe, considered necessary at that time. The wrought iron superstructure was brought from England. The two centre spans were the old style tubular girders. The superstructure was replaced by modern steel girders, to carry the greatly increased loading, in 1905.

The contractor for the station buildings, freight shed etc., from Guelph westward was Marshall H. Farr, who came from Vermont. He was killed in the great Desjardins canal accident, at the entrance to Hamilton, March 12, 1857. His contracts were carried on and completed by his two nephews, George Randall and Shubel H. Randall, who also built the Great Western Railway station buildings at Preston.

The Grand Trunk Railway was built on 5'6" gauge, as was also the Great Western Railway. The latter had an additional rail giving 4' 8½" gauge for its through traffic be­tween the States of New York and Michigan. The battle of the gauges, as it was called, was long continued in England until finally Stephenson's 4'8½" gauge survived, and this, for the advantage of uniformity more than for intrinsic merit, eventually became the standard guage throughout most of the world. The Grand Trunk Railway changed to standard gauge in 1872 and 1873; the change of the local section, Toronto to Stratford, was made on a Sunday, in October, 1872. Another detail of construction of the original Grand Trunk was the old U rail, practically a plate shaped to crosssection of a square topped hat, two vertical sides with horizontal flanges and top. This rail long survived on local sidings.

For almost twenty years, up to 1875, wood burning locomotives were used. This necessitated great stacks of wood at the stations. Locally more than half of the station yard space was so taken up. The site of the present freight house was taken up by a great wood shed, and this was only about one third of the whole. A steam saw and gang came around periodically to cut the four foot cordwood sticks in two, ready for the locomotive tender. Enormous quantities of the finest hardwoods, maple, beech and other, were thus consumed. The first coal burning engine, changed from wood burning, in the shops at Stratford, was put into service in 1873.* The change from wood to coal burning took several years. For 1875 the Stratford record shows 4,197 tons of coal issued and 16,436 cords of wood, this being the maximum wood con­sumption record for that station. It represents a pile of cord­wood 40 ft. wide, 20 ft. high and almost exactly half a mile long. After 1875 the use of wood dropped rapidly. The price of wood began at about $2.00, was $2.50 and finally $3.00 and over per cord. At Berlin Station about 6,000 to 7,000 cords per annum appear to have been purchased. Henry Brubacher was for many years wood buyer for the Grand Trunk here and in Breslau. During the 19 or more years of wood burn­ing probably over 120,000 cords were delivered at the Berlin station. The price rose to $3.50 per cord about 1874.

The Berlin-Galt branch of the Grand Trunk was opened in 1872. The town of Galt considered it worth a money bonus of $25,000 besides station grounds, a part of Dickson Park, and right of way to the junction, above Blair, of the old Preston-Berlin line, purchased by the Grand Trunk as stated, to get a second railway line, in addition to the Great Western.

A flourishing cartage business, maintained between Berlin, now Kitchener, and Preston, gave Berlin the advantage of Great Western Railway freight connection, the company pay­ing regular allowance of ten cents per hundred weight for cartage. Passenger connection was maintained by a stage line, Waterloo to Preston. As early as 1860 we find announcement, in the Berlin Telegraph, of Great Western Railway trains from Preston and with it time table of Mr. Cornell's stages "leaving Potter's Hotel Berlin at 5 a.m. and 3 p.m. for Pres­ton" and also that Messrs. Cornell & Rogers' stage "connect­ing with afternoon stage from Preston leaves Berlin for Glen­allen and other places in the west, passing through Waterloo, St. Jacobs and Elmira." Potter's Hotel and stables occupied the site of the present Walper House, and Star Theatre, part­ly. The proprietor was the father of our fellow citizen, Mr. George Potter.

In 1882 the Great Western Railway was incorporated with the Grand Trunk, this taking effect on August 12th that year. It became the main through traffic line, especially in passenger service, west of Toronto. The Galt branch, with transfer there from one station across the river to the other, became the passenger connection southward from here.

Extension northward, as far as Waterloo, also came in 1882, the line being extended across King St. as a siding to Snider's mill. Nine years later, Dec. 9th., 1891, the line was opened for passenger traffic to St. Jacobs and Elmira. Mr. J. S. Ellis, now of Kitchener, was the first Grand Trunk agent at St. Jacobs. From then on regular operation was back and forth from Galt to Elmira, and the whole known as the Galt-Elmira branch.

The present G. T. R. passenger station at Kitchener was built in 1897. The original station building, also of brick, and of a standard regular pattern of architecture adopted for many of the old G. T. R. stations, was less than half the size of the present one, and was further west, extending partly over the line of the easterly limit of Weber St.

The Toronto-Detroit line of the Canadian Pacific Railway extends east and west through Dumfries Township with prin­cipal stations at Galt and Ayr. It was built, as the Credit Valley Railway, through the Galt district in 1879, the bridge over the Grand River at Galt being built the same year. In October of that year the Credit Valley Railway began oper­ation into Waterloo County in the way of a freight service between Ayr and Ingersoll. At noon on December 18th., 1879, the first locomotive passed over the bridge at Galt. In the afternoon of the same day the official test of the bridge was made with three locomotives, and a special train came up from Toronto with directors and officials of the railway. In January, 1880, the line was in full operation. In connection with the Canadian Pacific Railway there may be mentioned that its Chief Engineer for several years, until he resigned in 1906, was a Waterloo County man, W. F. Tye, born at Hays­ville and educated at Ottawa University and at the School of Practical Science, Toronto University.

For over two and a half years, until amalgamation of the Great Western Railway with the Grand Trunk, as stated, Galt had three railways: the Great Western, Harrisburg-Southamp­ton branch; the Grand Trunk by branch from Berlin and the main line of the Credit Valley Railway; and made much of this as advantage for local manufacturing and general trade. Galt still has the best railway facilities for passenger travel of any place in the county, while Kitchener is better equipped with freight sidings.

The first secondary railroad in the County, the present Kitchener and Waterloo electric street railway, was opened as a horse car line in 1888, on a twenty year charter and franchise obtained two years before. The principal owners lived in New York, and sent up their representative, Thomas M. Burt, who built the original line and was its manager. The regular ser­vice was a one horse car from each end every half hour. Closed, omnibus style, sleighs were provided for winter service. The car barn and stables were in Waterloo, a little above Cedar Street on the east side of King Street, at the end of the line. In Berlin the line ended at Scott Street, and there was a branch line to the old Grand Trunk station, along the present route. In 1895 the line was clanged to electric trac­tion by the late Ezra Carl Breithaupt, who, with associates, shortly after acquired a large interest in the Company and be­came its president and manager. (E. C. Breithaupt met his death, January 27th., 1897, from injuries sustained a few hours before in an explosion at the old Berlin Gas Works, of which also he was a manager.) Power was supplied from the electric plant of the Berlin Gas Co., until after the town acquired this property, June 1, 1903, and made radical changes in the electric plant when the Street Railway Company found it exped­ient to build a new power house, which it did on the corner of King and Albert streets to where its line had been extended from Scott St. in 1902, and where it already had a car house. The Waterloo line was taken over by the Town of Berlin on the first day of May, 1907. The extension in Waterloo to Church Street and the "Y" into that street were built in 1909. In the same year the road was double tracked to the Waterloo boundary. Since Oct. 1910 the line is operated by Hydro Elec­tric power. It is interesting to note that local consumption, beginning with 106 h.p. in 1910, is now 4,280 h.p.

The Bridgeport line, chartered as the Berlin and Bridge­port Electric Street Railway, was opened for regular traffic as far as the new beet sugar plant, then building, on July 14th., 1902, and to Bridgeport shortly after. It was leased to and operated with the Waterloo line until the latter was taken over by the town as stated. By act of the Ontario legislature, in 1912, the name was changed to the Berlin & Northern Railroad and power of extension granted.

The first electric railway in Waterloo County was the Galt, Preston & Hespeler Railway, which began operation between Galt and Preston on July 21st., 1894. The original promoters were Thomas Todd, who became president, Hugh Mc­Culloch, David Spiers, John D. Moore, T. G. Cox and W. H. Lutz. Extension to Hespeler was in 1896. The Preston and Berlin end was built in 1902 and 1903, the Freeport bridge over the Grand River being built in the latter year, by John Patterson and associates of Harriston. In January 1904 the Preston and Berlin Railway was taken over by and became an extension of the Galt, Preston & Hespeler Railway and was at once operated. Extension and operation to Waterloo fol­lowed in 1905. The present Preston station was built in 1905, the Kitchener freight station in 1912.

The advantage to Kitchener and Waterloo, as also to Preston and Hespeler, of the G. P. & H. Ry., is that it gives, besides County traffic facility, passenger and freight connec­tion with the Canadian Pacific Railway, at Galt. An additional advantage dates from the opening of the. Lake Erie & Nor­thern Ry. (electric) to Galt, which occurred in February, 1916, replacing, from Brantford to Galt, the old Grand Valley electric railway, which had been in operation to Galt for twelve years, as a light passenger line only.

In closing it will be of interest to give breifly the career of two of the first local railway builders, as they established themselves here and took active part in local progress.

[H. F. J. Jackson]
H. F. J. Jackson

Henry Fletcher Joseph Jackson, who came of a noted and wealthy family of clockmakers and watchmakers, was born in Clerkenwell, London, England, November 17, 1820 After home schooling he was sent at the age of 14, to Geneva, Switzerland, where he spent three years, largely in the study of the French language and literature. Eventually he decided to seek his fortune in Canada, and came to Montreal in 1844, here he was first with Henry Holland, in commission and general mercantile business. He went into railroading and in time became general agent of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad, being that part of the present Portland line of the Grand Trunk Ry. extending from opposite Montreal on the south side off the St. Lawrence river to the Vermont boundary. He left Montreal to take part in the railway construction contract in Waterloo County, as spoken of. Mr. Jackson acquired the block of land bounded by Water, Fran­cis and King Streets, much of which had been used by the contractors for stables and storage of materials, and here, in spacious grounds, built his residence, still standing, near the corner of King and Water Streets. Tremaine's large map of the County, of 1861, hanging on our walls, has a marginal picture of the house as it was. He was first president of the Economical Mutual Fire Insurance Company, was president of the Berlin Tobacco company, and was in various other business ventures. He always manifested much interest in local schools, particularly in the old Central school. In 1876 Mr. Jackson returned to Montreal being given a public dinner on the occasion of his leaving here. He sold his residence in Berlin to Peter Becker, of Toronto, retaining however other property. Three years later the family moved to Brockville, where he died in 1895. In his later years Mr. Jackson was auditor of the Mutual Life Insurance Company of Canada. Isabella Murphy, of Montreal, married H. F. J. Jackson in 1849. They had seven children of whom four survive, three daughters, living in Kitchener, and a son in Chicago. Another son, Samuel W. Jackson, well remembered here, attorney and counselor at law, president of the Chicago Law Society, died in Chicago last year. Mrs. Jackson died in Brockville in 1890.

[George Randall]
George Randall

George Randall was born in Chesterfield, New Hampshire, April 16th., 1832. He came to Canada in 1854 with his uncle, Marshall H. Farr, who had contracts for station buildings from Guelph westward on the Grand Trunk Rail­way and also some for the Great Western Railway, including the Preston station buildings. On Mr. Farr's death, George Randall and his brother took over the contracts, as stated. After completion of the railroad contracts Shubel H. Randall remained here for some years, removed in 1873 to Bellows Falls, Vermont, where he was in the hardware business and then retired. George Randall engaged in various kinds of manufacturing, had part in the woolen mills in Waterloo and also for a time in the distillery, etc. In 1883 he estab­lished with Mr. William Roos, his brother-in-law, the whole­sale grocery firm of Randall and Roos, which began business on the premises now known as Nos. 9 and 11 Queen St., North, Kitchener, and moved in 1898 to its present location on Queen St. South. He was a director in the Waterloo Mutual Fire Insurance Company for thirty-three years, from 1875 on and president of this company from 1890 until the time of his death. Mr. Randall was married at Preston April 10, 1855, to Caroline Roos. In 1860 the place known a Spring Valley near Berlin became his home which he re­tained until he moved to Waterloo in 1873, to the house and large grounds now the property of the Mutual Life Insurance Company of Canada, the house having been on the site of the main building of the Insurance Co. He died December 23rd, 1908. Mrs. Randall died January 27, 1913. A son and two daughters live in Toronto.

Another former resident to be mentioned here is Joseph Hobson,* who became identified with the Great Western Railway and later with the Grand Trunk Railway. Mr. Hob­son was born in the township of Guelph, in March, 1834. In 1855 he came to Berlin, Canada West, as it was then; was at first assistant to then in partnership with the late M. C. Scofield, Provincial Land-Surveyor, and remained here for ten years. The card of Scofield and Hobson appears in the "Berlin Chronicle" from 1856 on. In 1869-70 he was engineer on construction of the Wellington, Grey and Bruce Ry., the present G. T. R. line from Guelph northward. Eventually he became Chief Engineer of the Great Western Railway and later of he Grand Trunk Railway. His most important work was the building of the St. Clair Tunnel, for which achievement he was offered but refused knighthood. On his retirement from active service in 1907 Mr. Hobson returned to Hamilton. He had been in feeble health for some years. His early married life was here, in the house later known as the McPherson house, taken down two years ago to make room for the new Economical Insurance Company building on Queen Street, where were born several of his children, one of them, Robert Hobson, now president of the Steel Com­pany of Canada. The Waterloo Historical Society has in­teresting maps made by Mr. Hobson. His map of the Grange survey (lands bought in Berlin, when the Grand Trunk Rail­way was built through, by Sheriff Grange of Wellington) in the local registry office, made in 1856, is still the most com­plete and carefully made map of its kind in that office.


* Railways of Canada: J. M. and E. Trout, 1871.
* J. D. Barnett.
* Died, at Hamilton, December 19th, 1917.
[Public Domain] Copyright/Licence: The author or authors of this work died in 1960 or earlier, and this work was first published no later than 1960. Therefore, this work is in the public domain in Canada per sections 6 and 7 of the Copyright Act. See disclaimers.