Yesterday and Today: When trolleys rolled across the Burgoyne Bridge to Western Hill

This week’s old photo offers an unusual look at one aspect of our former NS&T streetcar (Niagara, St. Catharines and Toronto).

Looking downtown from the west end of the old Burgoyne Bridge, we see an NS&T trolley rolling toward us.

The opening of the new elevated bridge in late 1915—a development long advocated by Standard editor William B. Burgoyne—finally solved a problem that travelers on the Niagara Peninsula had faced since settlement began on the banks of Twelve Mile Creek at the end of the 18th century: how to descend the steep path into the valley, cross a narrow bridge over the creek and then climb the steep slope on the other side – something hard enough to do in summer, with the rains of spring and Autumn almost impossible and the snow of winter.

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When the first railroad was built across the Niagara Peninsula from Hamilton to the Niagara Falls border in the 1850s, travelers using this system also found themselves on the wrong side of the creek upon arrival in the city and faced the problem of how they should be comfortable and drive quickly to the city center.

But the new high-level bridge solved all that in late 1915. After the bridge was completed, traffic – now mostly motorized – could use it to get to Western Hill. The next step came in mid-1917 when construction began on an extension of the NS&T trolley line across the bridge – at the same time that a new railway station was being built over there on the original Western Hill railway site. Regular tram service across the bridge began on November 26, 1917. The new station opened in early 1918.

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Our old photograph, taken around 1924, shows one of the NS&T cars driving across the bridge. To the left we catch a glimpse down the valley of the old canal where we see one of the factories that used to line the canal.

Our photo today first shows a radically different Burgoyne Bridge, completed in late 2016. A steady stream of cars and trucks cross the new bridge every day, but the last tram crossed the valley there 75 years ago. Regular NS&T service across the bridge ended on 26 February 1939 and was replaced by buses. After the outbreak of the Second World War, however, tram traffic was soon restored there in line with demand. The very last tram ride took place on March 30, 1946.

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Regarding the canal valley below the bridge – today the factories are gone and all we see is a remnant of the original Twelve Mile Creek and the busy Highway 406 thoroughfare, visible alongside it through the trees that now line the old canal line

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