The Erie Street Car
by Gordon C. Shaw
reprinted from Issue#15,
Born in Detroit, Dr. Gordon Shaw grew up in
Walkerville and graduated from Walkerville Collegiate. A professor
of mathematics and trasportation at York University in Toronto,
Dr. Shaw now resides in Thornhill.
Walkerville was served by five
street-car lines in the 1930s, the most extensive was the
Erie line running on Ottawa Street past King George Public School
where I was a student. I was born interested in boats, trains and
street cars, so it followed that I became fascinated with these
My friend and I chose as our
favourites #402 and #408, probably because they were freshly painted.
We would record the number of times we saw each car, and the record
was spotting #418 fifteen times in one day.
We were sad when the Erie Street
Car line was replaced by buses in early 1939 and again when the
last cross-town line on Wyandotte Street similarly died in June
1939. (The first tram lines to be replaced were those to Amherstburg
and Tecumseh in Spring 1938.)
The Erie Line was served by
five identical cars, drawn from a set of 11, operated by the Hydro
Electric Railways in the Border Cities. The remaining six served
the Ouellette Avenue and Parent lines, the latter serving "South
Walkerville," operating on Tecumseh Road between Parent Avenue and
Walker Road. These 11 were, in turn, part of an order of 19 cars
built by the Ottawa Car Company in 1924 and 1925.
The 11 Border Cities"
cars were numbered 401, through to 408 and then 417, 418 and 419.
These were fine cars for their time, the few modern "lightweight"
cars built for urban service, at least prior to the PCC cars of
1938, the well-remembered "streamlined" cars of Toronto. They were
45 feet long, weighed only 44,000 pounds and had seats for 44, albeit
with room for many more standees. When freshly painted, they presented
a good appearance and were a credit to their designers and builders.
These "400 series" cars provided
service northward on Ouellette Avenue to Sandwich Street (now Riverside
Drive), west to Ferry Street, where there was a store-front street-car
waiting room, north to Pitt, then back to Ouellette, south to Erie,
east to Parent, then south to Ottawa and east to Monmouth, where
it connected with the Seminole street cars. The Erie cars continued
down Monmouth to Wyandotte, over to Devonshire to reach the end
of line by the Walkerville Post Office.
In effect, the Erie street cars
connected the Windsor and Walkerville ferry docks and the downtown
CN station with the Walkerville Pere Marquette station. These cars
were built with controls at both ends; at Devonshire the motorman
simply moved to the controls to the other end of the car, reversing
the seat backs as he proceeded.
All 11 "400 cars" were retired
with the abandonment of street car service in Spring 1939 and their
bodies were sold for non-rail purposes. (Two remained in a field
at Walker Road near Pelton Junction for many years.) Unfortunately,
the Sandwich, Windsor and Amherstburg Railway lacked sufficient
funds to maintain them.
Fortunately, some years ago,
the body of #416 was found in a farmers field near Guelph
by some eager members of the Ontario Electric Railway Historical
Association. This group, founded in 1954, established and operates
an excellent street-car museum with about 20 operating cars, just
north of Highway #401 east of Guelph. Thus the #416 body was acquired
and moved to the museum site to be restored.
Restoration work has been slowed
due to shortages of volunteer labour and money, but the Association
has just announced plans to push forward and have #416 completely
operational for their 50th Anniversary in 2004.
Thus, one of these "400 series"
cars will remain to preserve, at least indirectly, the memory of
the Erie Street Car into the 21st century.
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