Railways in Brantford and Brant County - #1- the BB&G (extract)
By 1851, Brantford was becoming a prospering agricultural center and a manufacturer of household and industrial goods that were becoming sought after outside the local community. Brantford businessmen recognized that railroads would be a superior method of shipping products than either roads or water routes. And it was clear that the Buffalo area and the Detroit areas were the "gateways" to the American (as well as Canadian) growing west.
In February of 1851, a meeting, principally of local business owners, was held in Brantford to organize a railroad company - 'The Brantford and Buffalo Railroad' was created. The nascent company proceeded to discuss with other communities their potential interest. In early 1852, the City of Buffalo committed $150,000 to the company, and several communities in the Niagara peninsula also committed financial support. The Buffalo interests saw the advantage and opportunity of being able to draw traffic from the west at Lake Huron, and hence an extension to Goderich became part of the plan. The Town of Goderich also saw the advantage of a railroad "shortcut" to the Buffalo gateway to the east as well as to Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence River, and hence Goderich and other area municipalities agreed to provide £150,000 in financing. In June of 1852, the name of the railroad then became the 'Buffalo, Brantford, and Goderich Railway Company' (the BB&G) - a much bigger scheme than originally contemplated.
The BB&G had its inaugural run from Fort Erie to Brantford on January 13, 1854. In March of 1854, the line was completed to Paris to provide a connection with the Great Western Railway (GWR) east-west line which had opened between Hamilton and London in December, 1853. The GWR eastbound tracks also provided the route for the BB&G to get down to the Lake Ontario level from the Lake Erie level.
The BB&G continued its planned route to Goderich via Stratford, but got into financial difficulty because of inadequate financing. As part of a restructuring, in May 1856 the BB&G operations were acquired by a newly formed 'Buffalo and Lake Huron Railway' (the B&LH). The financial situation of the B&LH continued to be shaky, and in 1859, an attempt to "integrate" with the Great Western was attempted, but to no avail. In 1864, the B&LH entered an arrangement with the Grand Trunk Railway and the B&LH effectively became part of the GTR. (In turn, the GTR became part of the CNR in 1923.)
The "BB&G" still physically "exists" to-day as the trackage from Caledonia along highway 54 to Brantford, crossing Colborne St in the Cainsville area, and then paralleling Grey St all the way to the current (1905) CNR station. From there the trackage continues out to Paris - including the crossing of the Grand River via "the high level bridge" built in 1854 - and is still operational to-day as the CNR/VIA Rail main line. The CNR station and yards are where they are to-day because that was where the original 1854 BB&G facilities were.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to see that, in to-day's phrasing, "irrational exuberance" doomed the original BB&G, but without it, would there have been the industrial giant that Brantford became in the latter half of the 19th century ?
Author, R F Wright
As published in Brantches, the Newsletter of the Brantford Branch of the Ontario Geneological Society