The Brantford Subway
A brief history of the streetcar.
Scott Egan, July 21, 2022 // Brantford, OntarioStreetcar rolling through Brantford, from our recent past. Stock Photo.
Did Brantford have a subway? Well yes, and not the questionable sandwich franchise*, a subway. I’ll explain, but it’ll take some background.
In my last instalment, I mentioned the Brantford Street Railway Company and that’s our star for this chapter. 1886 we got the first version. Starting with six cars, 14 horses, a few miles of track and a fare of five cents, it began moving the people. This early version wasn’t without its issues. The horses’s constant stomping was scarring the pre-pavement making some area streets relatively impassable. The cars also had a reoccurring habit of coming derailed and when this would happen the passengers would be expected to get out and heave the car back on the tracks. Then, in 1893, they stabled the horses and the trolley was electrified with the addition of a power generation station on Clarence and Colborne Streets. Version 2.0, while keeping the derailment issues, added new, modern issues as olde time-y power generation was less than perfect.
Streetcar traffic in downtown Brantford, Ontario. Stock photo.
Thick black smoke belched over the area, while snow would regularly halt all movement during winter months. Power outages were pretty regular and sometimes the trolleys couldn’t stop and would fly past hooped-skirted ladies and top-hatted gentlemen on their way to such and junk. It also would often hit both animals and people, like pretty often, resulting in many lawsuits. Yet is was still very popular and was steadily growing.
Street Railway Map in Brantford, Ontario. Stock Photo.
1905 brought the Grand Valley Extension into the system connecting Galt and Paris with Brantford and quickly garnered ill repute. This line would be normally populated with half drunk Brantford boys on their way to attempt to impress the farmers’s daughters of Paris, like they do. Soon other lines would connect as well as Electric Street Railway became en vogue with the Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway and the Lake Erie and Northern Railway connected to the system. Your regular citizen could easily travel around Southern Ontario on the cheap. Until the 1950s, this was the way to travel, until the prevalence of the automobile. And around here was no different. By 1955, it was basically done. Gas powered its way in.
Traffic system token used on Brantford's streetcars. Stock photo.
So, did Brantford have a subway? Yes, from a certain point of view. Subway is a short form for subterranean railway, sub-way, and this is the Murray Street subway for one.
Street car operating on Murray Street, in Brantford, Ontario. Stock photo.
It’s right by The Beer Store. The tracks have been gone for about 70 years. There’s got to be like 30, maybe 40 feet, of subway there. So, yeah, Brantford had a subway”and there’s proof. I wasn’t lying.
*For more information on Subway, the author recommends the May 22, 2022 episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Egan, best described as an extroverted hermit. Scott is an afficionado of all things old, odd and esoteric. An avid reader and collector, he’s accumulated a backlog of legends and lore that he loves to share with most anyone who will listen. A father of two, Scott lives along with his feline soulmate amongst thousands of books and hundreds of objects of the strange and unusual.