Book Review: In The Shadow of Giants

I picked up “In The Shadow of Giants” by Norman Helm as part of a lot of train books I bought. I’d heard of the Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway, of course, but I didn’t know a lot about it other than it served those three cities and was eventually absorbed into the Canadian Pacific Railway.

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The copy I read was the second edition (hence the /2 at the end of the subtitle “The Story of the Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway”).

Now that I’ve read the book, I know a lot more about the TH&B!

This is a really high quality book, with plenty of photos, maps and diagrams.

The book starts with the pre-history of the TH&B, describing the start of railroading in Canada and the initial railway charters that were issued in what was then Upper Canada and is now Ontario.

The first railway that came to Hamilton – in 1852 – was the Great Western Railway, a bridge route between Detroit and Buffalo through Canada, and passing through Windsor, Chatham, London, Hamilton and Niagara Falls. This route still exists today, with portions owned by CN or VIA Rail.

Over time, Hamilton would be served by several other railways – the diminutive Hamilton & Dundas, the Hamilton, Grimsby and Beamsville Electric Railway, and in 1895 the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway.

TH&B 73 and 403 at Lawrence Road. Photographer unknown. Slide from my collection.
TH&B 73 and 403 at Lawrence Road. Photographer unknown. Slide from my collection.

The TH&B was initially jointly owned by four railways – the CPR, the New York Central, the Michigan Central and the Canada Southern Railway. In reality the last two were subsidiaries of the NYC so it owned 73% and the CPR owned 27%. In 1977 CP Rail acquired NYC’s portion after Penn Central’s bankruptcy.

During its almost 92 year history, the TH&B generally showed a profit and served Hamilton and area well. It had running rights into Toronto on CP, since the TH&B never actually built track into Hamilton nor into Buffalo.

The TH&B operated passenger trains through its downtown station for many years, and now GO Transit uses the same railway station for passengers. The “new” station is prominently featured on the book’s cover.

The TH&B was folded into Canadian Pacific on January 1, 1987 and its employees became CP Rail employees. The railway’s equipment was either scrapped or renumbered and repainted into CP colours and numbering schemes.

TH&B 75, 403, 57 and 51 in Vinemount. Photographer unknown. Slide from my collection.
TH&B 75, 403, 57 and 51 in Vinemount. Photographer unknown. Slide from my collection.

I really enjoyed this book. I was a little confused in the first portion of the book, since I don’t know the Hamilton area well and the geography confused me a bit. Once I understood that better, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the TH&B and its people.

I really appreciated the inclusion of so many maps. It really helped me envision how the TH&B related to other railways in the area. The author also included a lot of timetable information and promotional material from the TH&B era.

“In the Shadow of Giants” is a warm, nostalgic look at the Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway and I recommend it for anyone interested in Canadian railway history.

Buy In The Shadow of Giants on Amazon or on AbeBooks.

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