In 1923, the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) declared bankruptcy and merged with the Canadian National Railway (CNR). Five years later, the CNR decided to abandon the old Stuart Street Station, and to build a new railway terminus at James and Murray Streets.
The new CNR station was deigned in the Neo-classical style, and construction began in 1929. The cornerstone was laid on May 7, 1930 and the first passenger train left on February 20, 1930. The official opening was held a year later on May 27, 1931 attended by the Governor General, the Earl of Bessborough.
Passenger traffic levels remained relatively constant until the 1960s when the opening of Hwy 401 had a major impact on CN's passenger trains in southwest Ontario. The opening of the highway cut driving time between Toronto and the southwest, and by 1962, most of the passenger trains along the Toronto-London-Windsor mainline ceased stopping in Hamilton. In 1967 GO Transit took over CN's Toronto-Hamilton commuter service, and all CN passenger service was transferred to Via Rail in 1978.
Government cutbacks to Via Rail in 1989 cut the number of Toronto-Niagara Falls trains to two, and with GO Transit's relocation to the Hamilton GO Centre in the refurbished TH&B Station downtown, Via Rail pulled out of the CN station. It was closed on February 26, 1993.
The station sat abandoned for several years, until Hollywood arrived in Hamilton. In 1996 the producers of the movie "The Long Kiss Goodbye" offered CN $1 Million to renovate the station so that part of the movie could be shot there. The publicity from this attracted the Labourer's International Union of North America (LIUNA), who bought the station and spent $3 Million for adaptive renovations to reopen the station in 2000 as LIUNA Station, a hall for weddings and other events.
Recently, Metrolinx has announced that GO Trains will be extended into Hamilton for more frequent service,and a new platform will be built at LIUNA. There is also the possibility that VIA may use the platform to reinstate passenger service back to the city that was once the hub of railways in southwestern Ontario.
Written by: Bill Manson
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