Musings about trolleys, congregating and “progress”.


get me to the church on time: corner of Cataraqui and Windermere, Windsor, (Walkerville) when it was brand spanking new and there were no houses yet to the west

With current local chit chat about a city councillor’s suggestion to bring back street cars in Windsor, I pondered (once again) how different things (read better) would be here if our city fathers had just left well enough alone.

Here are a couple of intriguing tales we ran in “The Walkerville Times” concerning our revolutionary but short-lived electric trolley cars (1886 – 1939) before they were deemed antiquated and unnecessary by the “progressive thinking” of our fearless leaders.

Born on the Trolley Car: Chalmers United Church

Walkerville early 1900s: a rapidly growing community ­ increasing from about 1,000 to 3,000 in the first decade of this century. The establishment of the Ford Motor Company  in 1904, together with other motor firms and diverse Walker business interests combined to bring about a remarkable population surge. The town was already served by two Protestant churches – Lincoln Road Methodist and St. Mary’s Anglican.

chalmers.jpgThe large number of Scottish Presbyterians commuted to St. Andrew’s Church in Windsor by means of trolley car, which was becoming less adequate to transport the increasing numbers. Automobiles were not yet possessed by the ordinary family.

The chief subject of discussion on the trolley car while returning from St. Andrew’s was the inconvenience of the situation and the possibility of forming a local church. Steps were taken to establish a branch Sunday school in Walkerville in November, 1907. Meetings were held in Forester’s Hall on Chilver near Wyandotte [now all those neat shops, the Yoga Loft, etc.] under the superintendence of Mr. David Johnstone. The move justified itself by an increase of membership from a start of twenty to an attendance of ninety within three months.

In August, 1907, the building committee was organized consisting of Gordon M. McGregor (President of Ford Motor Company) Chairman, and [others]. They acted promptly and were able to report that the present site (north west corner of Windermere Rd. at Niagara) could be purchased for $800. … At the same meeting, it was decided that architects Williams Brothers and J. M. Watts be requested to submit plans for a building to cost between $10,000 and $15,000.

The official opening of the church took place on November 12, 1908, with Dr. G. M. Milligan preaching at both services. The Walkerville paper noted that the day was “bright and warm which made the event all the more auspicious and at both services the church was filled” and “the choir of ten male and ten female voices rendered most appropriately and pleasingly the song services”.

Rev. Peter Taylor was the first minister (March, 1909.) The congregation was made up of first and second generation Scottish, English and Irish immigrants. With the union of the Congregationalist, Methodist and Presbyterian churches in 1925, it became known as the “First Presbyterian United Church” and on its 15th anniversary in 1933, it became “Chalmers United Church.” 

From the Chalmers United Church Golden Anniversary Booklet 1958. Read the full story here. (Chalmers closed in 2000 due to declining enrolment. It became a private dwelling for a few years and was then purchased and is now operated by “All Nations Full Gospel Church”.)

turner.jpgAvid “Walkerville Times” readers Bruce and Norah Long sent the adjacent photo of a trolley running along Devonshire Road, and story below to our paper about a dozen years ago when Bruce was 87.

“This little street car travelled through Walkerville. It was named the Turnerville Trolley after a popular newspaper comic. It only had four wheels and you could rock it.

For 6 cents you could take it from Devonshire and Wyandotte, along Wyandotte for two blocks to Monmouth, up Monmouth to Ottawa St. across to Walker then up to General Motors, then along Seminole where it reversed and retraced the route back to Devonshire. This was the transportation for all the Walkerville people who worked in all the factories and businesses along Walker Rd.

During the Second World War, the double tracks for the trolley along Monmouth were torn up and cut with an acetylene torch into 2 foot lengths. They were shipped to the Hamilton Iron and Steel plant for use in the war effort.”

We ran other stories about Windsor’s amazing transit system including “The Junction – Birthplace of Windsor’s and Area’s Transit System”.

Sigh. Once again I can only shake my head when I consider everything we once had and all that we have lost.

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About Elaine Weeks

How history was taught in my day: memorize lots of boring dates and facts, watch corny old black & white history films. There was one bright spot, however. Grade 9 history at Walkerville Collegiate with Miss Falls (Georgina) when she taught a section on local history and took us on a field trip to explore some of Windsor's built heritage. Due to a peculiar series of events, celebrating local history became part of my business. My company, (partner is Chris Edwards,) Walkerville Publishing Inc., launched "The Walkerville Times" in 1999, which in due course became "The Times Magazine". Our goal was to make history real. I am a writer, editor, blogger, photographer, mother, wife, sister, activist, traveller, gardener, knitter, masters track & field competitor (when I have time), glass is nearly full person.
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5 Responses to Musings about trolleys, congregating and “progress”.

  1. Janet says:

    I wonder is feasible to create again for a Trolley? There are a number of changes taking place
    in the downtown core. Could a trolley fit in with these plans? The downtown needs more
    character and a people mover. It would need to be accessible for all. The wheels look like are
    made of iron and they will last forever.

  2. artfuss says:

    Thanks for the great content, Elaine. I was wondering if you had thought about attaching your photos and stories to mapping using history pin http://www.history pin.com. Very cool. It would make a great project.

    Also, I met a girl recently who’s grandfather worked as a photographer for Hiram walker back in the day. She says there is a basement full of his old photos they don’t know what to do with. I haven’t seen them but it sounds intriguing. It thought about telling her to donate them to the archives but I don’t know if anyone even works there any more. Interested?

    Jennifer Escott

    • selainew says:

      Thanks for the tip about historypin.com. I will check that out.

      Would love to see those photos. Are you able to scan any in and email them to me? The University of Windsor archives would love to have the originals.

  3. Aaron says:

    Thanks for the article Elaine! I often daydream about how wonderful the city must have been back then. I can only imagine the clang of the trolley bell, and a shower of sparks falling from the wires as the car crossed an intersection filled. Hopfully this idea to resurect them gets off the ground. Even if it just starts out like it did originally….Windsor to Walkerville. We can expand from there if it works. I always love finding the tracks poking out of the pavement in places. You can find them on Elm st between University and Riverside. And they are starting to show on Victoria running south as they turn east onto Park. The rails arn’t showing yet, but the pavement is cracking in a perfect arc from the center of Victoria, to the center of Park. My Grandma recently told be a story of when she was young (she’s 91 now), she got in a fight with another girl on the way home from grade school. They beat eachother up, rolling around in the middle of Tecumseh Road, right on the trolley tracks near the intersection with Benjamin Ave. Can you imagine having time for that today with out getting hit by a car?? LOL!

    Anyways, I just recently discovered this site and really enjoy it. Keep up the good work!

    • selainew says:

      Great comment ! Your grandma sounds like she was pretty feisty.
      Somehow i don’t see the trolleys coming back here. Money seems to get poured into lots of white elephants in Windsor instead.

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