The Railway In Waterdown

The Flamborough Archives has dozens of photographs, postcards, clippings and other material documenting this construction.  This Vignette will focus on construction within the Village and the Waterdown South station. The September 2012 meeting of the Flamborough Heritage Society featured a presentation by Scott Pearson on the railway and Waterdown. Some of the material in this vignette was taken from a presentation given by Mr. Pearson in 1991 on this subject.

July 1, 1912: The opening of the railway in Waterdown

With the construction of a rail line from Guelph Junction to Hamilton, the structure of Waterdown was changed forever. Industries closed, landscapes changed and streets disappeared. At the time, none of this mattered – the railway meant progress and prosperity.

“Every place, however large or small, has occasions to which its residents delight to look back. July 1, 1912, is one of those days in the history of Waterdown, and it will ever be remembered by the citizens as the most outstanding in the history of the beautiful suburb of Hamilton”  Hamilton Spectator, March 28, 1914

“On July 1, 1912, the pretty community of Waterdown, located above the escarpment just a few miles north of Hamilton, presented a holiday appearance. Flags floated from many housetops, and it seemed as if the whole village was gathered at the new Canadian Pacific Railway depot, nestled at the foot of a picturesque ravine near the very heart of the business and residential district.” Heritage column by Brian Henley, Hamilton Spectator, April 14, 1960.

Installation of the railway bridge, Mill St S. (photo # 440)
Installation of the railway bridge 1911 (photo # 1065)

The construction of the railway generated great excitement and interest. One hundred years later, many residents of Waterdown are unaware that this railway track even exists.  The passenger station is gone, the passenger trains are gone, and only freight trains pass through the village today.  The placement of the railway line in the first place was not due to the wonderful potential of Waterdown, but rather as an accident of location – Waterdown was in the way.

These lines represent rail lines, not roads. The South Ontario Pacific line is indicated in red.

In the late 1800s dozens of railway lines snaked their way across Southern Ontario, all owned by individual entities, all looking for lake access to allow for easy transportation of goods.  This map of the immediate area  shows  at least a dozen different ownerships of rail lines.

“The South Ontario Pacific was originally incorporated in 1887 to build from Woodstock to the Niagara River: with branches to Cooksville and Toronto, and to Lake Huron. Plans for this construction were dropped when the Canadian Pacific purchased part of the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo line. Another company, the Hamilton & Guelph Jct. Railway was incorporated in 1906 to connect Guelph Jct. on the Canadian Pacific, with the TH&B (Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo) at Hamilton. The South Ontario Pacific in 1910 received permission to build the line between Guelph Jct. and Hamilton, via Waterdown. In 1911, the railway was leased to the CPR for 999 years. The line opened in 1912, giving Hamilton its first direct connection to Lake Huron, and Guelph its long-desired link to Lake Ontario.” (Upper Canada Railway Society (UCRS) Newsletter, July 1990.)

The arrival of the railway in Waterdown changed the village’s economic structure  forever. Before the railroad was built, Grindstone Creek provided power for several mills.

Looking north to Board Street from Reid’s Pond. (photo # 294)

“With the coming of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, many landforms, businesses, and farms were either going to be demolished, made smaller,

or just erased from time. Even the inhabitants of the village were to be affected by the arrival of the railway. John Reid had a dam and pond which were located approximately 50 metres north of the Dundas Street (Hwy#5 ) bridge.

Boating on Reid’s Pond (photo # 105)

Many people used the pond for recreation, such as boating and fishing. Some people even did their laundry in it. Mr. Reid was a well known cabinet  and furniture maker in Waterdown, with mill buildings along the east bank of Grindstone Creek. But the coming of the railway changed this. His dam and most of his property  were destroyed.”

“The coming of the railroad meant relocating the Grindstone Creek to the west side of the valley. This process took a long time because it was all done by hand. First, narrow gauge track was laid down for the Dirt Trollies to run on. These trollies carried dirt from the loading point to dumping point by a team of horse.”

Railway construction by future station house (photo # 94)
Dirt Trollies – Photo #95
“The construction project of the railway line which stretches 19 miles from Hamilton to Guelph Junction took two years to complete at a cost of a million dollars. The construction workers lived in tents, which were located in Smokey Hollow.”  (WEFHS Heritage Paper # 85 – The Railway in Waterdown by Scott Pearson)
Photo # 721
Waterdown, railway construction (photo # 1078)
Along with the demise of the mills, and the relocating of Grindstone Creek, several streets also vanished, to make way for the tracks.   The Waterdown village council had no choice but to go along with the requests from the railroad.

Waterdown Council Minutes

August 14, 1911:
“Moved by J. Metzger seconded by J.J. Creen and resolved that the Reeve and Clerk be authorized to sign the plans of the Sth. Ontario Pacific Railroad Co. Crossings as shown on the plans closing the road between Lots 4 & 5 and Leather Street, also Hill Street. The road on Hill Street to be diverted as shown on the plans. The railway to leave a first class stone road and also to lay a cement sidewalk to the top of the hill at Reynolds Street. Carried”

Feb 12, 1912:
A by-law was introduced re: “closing a portion of Hill Street in the Village of Waterdown by the South Ontario Pacific Railway’”and received 1st, 2nd and 3rd reading during this meeting.  Also in this meeting a bylaw was introduced “diverting a portion of Mill Street in the Village of Waterdown by the South Ontario Pacific Railway “ : again, it received 1st 2nd and 3rd reading.
At the beginning of the project, Waterdown was not even going to be given access to the railway – there was no station planned within the Village. Eventually there were two – Waterdown North near Parkside Drive, and Waterdown South near Dundas Street (Hwy#5).

November 13, 1911:
“Moved by Counr J.J. Creen and Seconded by Counr Jas. Simmons and resolved that the Council of the Village of Waterdown doth petition the South Ontario Pacific Railway Company on behalf of the Ratepayers and citizens of the Village of Waterdown to give to this Village a station, or at least a Passenger station within the bisects of the Village of Waterdown owing to the plans served on this council showing the station outside of the Corporation and more than a mile from the centre of the Village.  Carried.”

The home of John and Ada Vance was at the bottom of Board Street, and happened to be in a perfect location for a station. This large white house was the Waterdown South Railway station for almost forty years, from 1912 to 1950.

C.P.R. Line & Waterdown South R.R. Station ( Photo # 253)
Passengers arriving at Waterdown South station (photo # 1075)

After 1950, passenger trains no longer stopped at this station, and it was closed in 1962.  The Dundas Street  (Hwy #5) bridge over the tracks was reconstructed in the mid 1960’s and the crew used the building as an office. When construction was finished, Council ordered that the building be demolished but someone/vandals? beat them to it. The building was the victim of arson, and burned to the ground on June 23, 1966, ending the link to the passenger railway in Waterdown.


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