Great Western Railway (Ontario)

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Great Western Railway
Locale Southwestern Ontario, Niagara Peninsula
Dates of operation 1853–1882
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge , built to 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) but converted by the 1870s
Headquarters Hamilton, Ontario
Great Western Railway station in Toronto in 1867
This article is about a historic railway which operated in the British colony of Canada West, later the Canadian province of Ontario. For other articles of the same name, see Great Western Railway (disambiguation).

The Great Western Railway was a historic Canadian railway that operated in Canada West, today's province of Ontario. The line originally connected Toronto to Hamilton and then on to Niagara Falls, but it was later extended with several lines running westward to London, Windsor, Sarnia and communities in the Bruce Peninsula. The line was taken over by the Grand Trunk Railway in August 1882, and ultimately became a major part of Canadian National Railway's southern Ontario routes. The majority of the mainlines remain in use to this day.

Entrepreneur Samuel Zimmerman was instrumental in promoting its construction and Roswell Gardinier Benedict, a friend of Zimmerman's was the assistant chief engineer and later the chief engineer.

This system stretched 1,371 kilometres (852 mi), running from Niagara Falls to Toronto and connecting lines to London, Windsor and communities in the Bruce Peninsula. The Great Western Railway's main operating base was in Hamilton. The city at the Head- of- the- Lake was pivotal in opening up the unpopulated and heavily wooded interior of what was then known as Upper Canada. For a period of time The Great Western Railway also transported immigrants to the American midwest through southern Ontario making it significant in North American history. The extensive locomotive and carriage car making facilities were a boon to the newly incorporated city. The Great Western gained most of its revenue from shipping US Midwest bounds immigrants through Southern Ontario in special `immigrant' cars. Having begun operations in 1853, the company was purchased in August 1882 by the Grand Trunk Railway system and fully merged by 1884.

Advertisement for Great Western Railway travel via the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge, c. 1876.

The main Niagara Falls-Windsor line is now the Canadian National Railway's Grimsby Subdivision, Dundas Subdivision, Chatham Subdivision, and CASO Subdivision. The Toronto branch is the Oakville Subdivision, and the Sarnia branch is the Strathroy Subdivision (which also includes a short piece of the main line, from London to Komoka).