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 original line completed in 1853-54 connected Niagara Falls to Windsor, running by way of Hamilton and London. In 1855 two important additions were made: the opening of the branch to Toronto and rail connections over the newly opened Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge. Further branches were opened to 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.

At its peak the Great Western system stretched 1,371 kilometres (852 mi) with its main operating base 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. A substantial part of revenue was the railway's function as a bridge line between the New York Central and Michigan Central Railroads, making it significant in North American history.

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).