At eleven o’clock today, the Railway Committee of the Privy Council – the Hon. Messrs. Mackenzie, Scott, Smith and Lettelier – met at the Public Works Department for the purpose of hearing evidence for and against the application of the Hamilton and Northwestern Railway Company to permit the building of a bridge across the Burlington Bay Canal.”
Hamilton Weekly Times June 8, 1876.
There was only one local story of note in the June 8, 1876 issue of the Hamilton Weekly Times concerns the final decision on the route of the Hamilton and North Western Railway out of the city. Would the route be across the Beach strip, and the Burlington Canal, or a totally overland route through the west end of the city?
“J.M. Williams, Esq., M.P.P., appeared on behalf of the Railway Company, in conjunction with Mr. Thomas McKeown, the Company’s Engineer.
B. B. Osler, Esq., Ald. Mitchell and J. K. Griffin, Esq., accompanied by Mr. Leather, Civil Engineer, appeared in opposition to the Company’s application for permission to cross the canal.
Mr. Buckingham, the Premier’s private Secretary, invited the deputation to enter, who were severally presented to the Premier and seated when the Hon. Mr. Mackenzie read the clause of the Railway regarding proceedings in such matters as they had met to consider. The Company had made application for the bridge, and a protest had been entered by Mr. Roach and others, who had also deposited plans, etc., to show that the city could be reached another way. This was not the question for the Government to consider, it was for them to decide upon the merits of the arguments, whether the intended would be dangerous to public safety, or would injure the water route over which it would pass. The Committee would not be influenced in either way by considerations out of their duty as plainly defined by law. They would first hear the parties opposed to the bridge.
Mr. Osler said he appeared for the parties opposed to the construction of the bridge, and contended that it could only be in a case of absolute necessity that the bridge should be built at all. It was against public interest and against the public safety, and would be injurious to the trade of the city. If it could be shown, as he was prepared to show, that another practicable route could be found, this would be the very best reason why the bridge should not be allowed to be built. He would call the attention of the Committee to the fact hat seven very serious accidents had occurred from railways crossing navigable water courses in Canada, and they were of very frequent occurrence in the United States. He also called attention to the fact that the Company chartered by special Act of the Ontario Legislature was, in fact, two companies – the Construction Company and the Working Company – and it was te individuals composing the Construction Company who desire to cross the canal.
Hon. Mr. Mackenzie – The Directors who support the swing bridge are also contractors?
Mr. Osler – Yes. The other Directors, two of them, the Mayor and another, who are not members of the Construction Company, are strong opponents of the crossing of the canal. The view of the Mayor ought fairly to represent the views of the city as to the work.
Hon. Mr. Smith – That is, assuming that the city has an interest in the road?
Mr. Osler – By the proposed bridge the country, within ten miles of the city, has no interest. By the other way – the western entrance it would be largely benefited.
Hon. Mr. Scott – What bonus has been given by the County of Wentworth?
Mr. J. M. Williams – Not a cent.
Mr. Osler – They have never been asked.
Mr. Williams – They have repudiated the small bonus of $20,000 once voted to assist a road which would have formed a portion of the Northwestern.
In reply to Mr. Scott, Mr. Osler stated that the city had given two bonuses of $100,000 each.
Mr. Williams – Conditional on crossing the canal.
Mr. Osler – Only conditional as to one of them, and that was not fairly understood. When the city was canvassed, the west was canvassed in favour of the western route.
Hon. Mr Scott said the By-Law clearly indicated it was a foregone conclusion that the road should cross the canal, otherwise the bonus would not be given.
Ald. Mitchell, as one who assisted in framing the By-Law, said it was not at that time understood that there would be any other approach to the city.
Mr. Osler – Now the Railway Company say if they cannot go by this route, they cannot go by any other way, even if the other way took but $20,000 more to pay for it.
Mr. Williams – Will you say that $20,000 is all the difference between the cost of the routes?
Mr. Osler – If the Company is in such a financial condition, it was very dangerous to entrust it with a work endangering life and property. He referred to the sacrifices the Great Western Railway had made – representing $120,000 – to close their swing bridge across the Desjardins Canal, a fact that shows conclusively that the proposed swing bridge, with more than double the span, was a practical impossibility, or, at least, would be dangerous to the public safety. The opposition, he said, contended that the western entrance would serve the interests of the city of Hamilton better, and that the swing bridge would injure its trade – the very name of the bridge being there would prevent vessels from coming to the city. The petitions of the mariners before the Committee showed their opposition.
Hon. Mr. Smith – The mariners who were before the committee did not object to the bridge.
Mr. Osler – The petition was largely signed.
Hon. Mr. Mackenzie – Many of the signers were not mariners at all.
Mr. Osler – Shippers.
Hon. Mr. Mackenzie – Not even shippers.
Mr. Osler – As to that branch he could add to nothing to what Mr. Hope had already laid before the Committee.
Hon. Mr. Smith – You admit the only ground of objection is that it would interfere with navigation?
Mr. Osler – Yes; that it would interfere with navigation.
Hon. Mr. Smith – And that it would serve the trade of Hamilton better by the western entrance?
Mr. Osler – That the western entrance would serve the public interests better.
Hon. Mr. Mackenzie went over the mariners’ petition, pointing out that many of the signatures did not fairly represent the judgement of persons who were qualified by experience to give an opinion.
Mr. Osler then referred to the experience of the Desjardins swing bridge, upon which some discussions took place. The plans, profiles, etc. were then examined and discussed by the Engineers, and some reference made on both sides, to the number of streets to be crossed by the respective routes.
Mr. J. M. Williams wished to know whether these gentlemen represented the City of Hamilton, or merely themselves. Mr. Mitchell, as well as Mr. Roach, whose name had been so freely used, had both voted for the By-Law , which had been carried by the rate-payers by a majority of between seven and eight hundred. The opposition did not represent the city at all; they represented only the interests of certain western men, inside and outside the city, whose property would be benefited
Mr. Mitchell was proceeding to reply when the Premier hinted that they were wandering away from the subject.
M. Osler then resumed explaining that there were five western routes, involving an increased cost of from $80,000 to $245,000, according to the one which might be adopted. The western route was two miles shorter than the eastern. These surveys had been made at the instance of Mr. Roach, Mr. Mitchell and seven or eight others.
Hon. Mr. Smith - Then it was not at the instance of the Corporation.
Mr. Osler – The citizens never fairly voted on the question.
Hon. Mr. Mackenzie – The By-Law is entirely in favour of the assumption that it was passed with the understanding that the road should cross the canal.
Mr. Osler would simply put the case before the Committee that it was not a matter of necessity that the road should cross the canal, and therefore the canal should not be bridged. They had shown a western entrance two miles shorter, whereas the eastern route would bring Toronto eight miles nearer the Suspension Bridge, thereby virtually taking the city’s bonus for cutting off the city’s trade.
Ald. Mitchell desired to offer some explanation in regard to his position on the matter. As to what had been said by Mr. Williams, as to his having voted for the By-Law, he did so believing there was no other route possible, but it had been shown that a better route could be had from the west. He had come there as a representative of the City of Hamilton, and it was of the utmost importance to the trade of the city that the western route should be chosen.
Hon. Mr. Smith again called his attention to the wording of the by-law, and the fact that the city had taken no official action in favour of another route.
Hon. Mr. Mackenzie – You had six weeks notice of the meeting, Mr. Mitchell, and time enough to have taken official action if so disposed.
Mr. McKeown said Ald. Mitchell himself had brought up a motion in Council to send a deputation before this Committee, but it fell through for want of a seconder.
Mr. Griffin, representing Waterdown and Dundas, said that the country around the northern part of Hamilton were united in opposition to the bridging of the canal. He entered into a lengthy explanation of the advantages to be gained by the western route.
Mr Williams – Did the Corporation of Wentworth contribute anything towards the road?
Mr. Griffin – They were never asked.
(This question and answer were repeated several times, and Ministers appeared to enjoy the joke.)
Mr. Williams – Would just say that no one ever supposed a road could be brought inform the west except ay an enormous expense. It was said he had been in favour of the western entrance himself, and he was so still if it had been possible; but the only western entrance within the company’s means was an independent line over the Great Western Railway Company’s road, and that, he had been assured by the Directors, they could not obtain. If Burlington Canal were not crossed, the Company would forfeit $100,000 of the city bonus and $65,000 of the County of Halton. It seemed to him that it came with a very bad grace to attempt to buck the whole undertaking, which was evidently the design of the Opposition.
Mr. Osler suggested a delay until Mr. Bodwell, Superintendent of Canals, should give his opinion.
Hon. Mr. Mackenzie said they already had the opinion of the heaviest ship owners in favour of bridging the canal.
Mr. Osler then suggested that the estimate for the western route be submitted to the judgement of one of the Engineers of the Department, and if the excess of the cost of the western route exceeded $50,000, the opposition would accept the bridging of the canal as a necessity
Mr. Williams said it would be unfair that there could be any longer delay, as it was only endangering the success of the whole undertaking.
Mr. Osler next proposed that an expression of the opinion of the Wentworth County Council should be obtained.
Mr. Williams – The Council has already repudiated the only vote it ever gave for a railway. (Laughter).
Hon. Mr. Mackenzie said the county had no standing with regard to the question, beyond that of the general public. The effect upon the trade of Hamilton and the surrounding villages should be taken into account. But the principal consideration for the Government was, whether would the bridge endanger public safety. On this point, it was important that the evidence of the captains who already had been examined before the Committee should be read.
Mr. Buckingham then read from his notes the testimony of Captains Jackman, Kent, Johnson, Lewis, Brown, Harbottle, etc. , whose testimony has already appeared in the TIMES, was decisively in favour of the building of the bridge – at least, none of them saw any danger to navigation in construction.
Some further discussion of an informal and conversational character then took place, when the Committee thanked the Ministers for their courteous attention and withdrew.
The Hon. Mr. Mackenzie informed Mr. Williams that the Government would take the matter into consideration immediately, and that the Company might expect to learn the decision arrived at on Monday next.
OTTAWA, June 5 – The Government has decided to allow Burlington Canal to be bridged by the Hamilton and North Western Railway.”
(Please note that the June 8, 1876 edition of the Hamilton Spectator was incompletely microfilmed, probably because that issue had not been properly filed and retained in June 1876)