The Region's Original "Light Rail"

A Journey into Waterloo


The Region's Original "Light Rail"

Ion is a light rail and bus rapid transit service under construction in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo that will be operated by Grand River Transit.

Construction on the project began in August 2014, and service was expected to begin in late 2017; however, because of delays in the manufacture and delivery of the vehicles, service will begin in early 2018. When complete the system will include a light rail through Waterloo and Kitchener as well as adapted bus rail through Cambridge.

As novel as the project appears, the reality is that the notion of light rail really is nothing new ion the area.

In fact, the Galt and Preston Street Railway was the first name of an interurban streetcar service, that commenced service in 1890. The service was extended to Hespeler in 1896. Eventually service was extended to Berlin (now Kitchener), Brantford and Port Dover.

When it opened, the line became one of the first interurban electric trains in Canada, and the first in North America to offer both freight and passenger service, according to the Trainweb site.

The first passenger cars of the Galt & Preston Street Railway arrived on board a Canadian Pacific Railway freight train at Galt CPR station. According to a report from the period it was a major event: “…quite a large crowd repaired to the C.P.R. Station in the evening to await the arrival of the train with the cars. The cars were well equipped and made after the most modern style. Number 23 is a 40 foot car, containing a baggage compartment which takes up 10 feet of space. The seats are finely upholstered; beveled glass windows decorate the ends and the car contains four electric heaters. Fourteen incandescent electric lights with very pretty globes hang from the ceiling and the car has seating capacity for about 30 passengers. Car number 22 is about 18 feet long, also has four heaters and has seats running lengthwise”.

Interest in electric street railways grew in the area, with the Preston and Berlin Street Railway and the Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway providing service across what is now Waterloo Region. And there were also close links between these street railways and the Lake Erie and Northern Railway, which eventually led to 12 trips daily from Galt to Port Dover. The fare was $1.60 one way

But it all would not last. Although the street railway was bustling in the 1940s, by 1950 the first attempts were made by the operators to drop the passenger service. On April 14, 1955, electric rail passenger service in Cambridge came to an end. Electric freight service ended in 1961, when diesels took over the local freight traffic.

While the passenger cars and railway tracks may be new in 2018, the idea and the routes are well an example of "Everything old is new again".

For more on the subject from Virtual Cambridge.

The Region's Original "Light Rail" The Region's Original "Light Rail"
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