Hamilton’s restored GO Transit Centre at Hunter Street and James Street North is the former passenger station for the Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway (TH&B). The design of this “Moderne” station, built in 1933, drew inspiration from a machine-age style that found beauty in the speed, efficiency, and streamlining of cars, trains, planes and ocean liners. It replaced an earlier station built at the northeast corner of James and Hunter Streets in 1895, where an historical plaque has been erected.
The TH&B began limited operations in the city in 1895. It was built to compete with Hamilton’s other major railway carrier at the time, the Grand Trunk Railway (later Canadian National Railway).
The TH&B offered passenger service along the Toronto-to-Buffalo corridor, but its real bread and butter came from industrial customers. In 1899, the company constructed a belt line to serve the freight needs of many of the city’s new East End factories. Many of these industrial spur lines are still in use today.
Labourers played a big part in Hamilton’s 19th-century industrialization. They were usually underpaid and overworked, however. Disgruntled Irish “navvies” interrupted construction on another railway, the Great Western Railway, in the early 1850s a number of times. The trend continued when 125 Italian labourers working on the TH&B in 1895 “hoisted a red handkerchief on a pole and marched up the track demanding higher wages.”