Our Railway Branch History

The Waterloo Spur


What is a “spur”?

Spur: An angular projection, offshoot, or branch extending out beyond or away from a main body or formation.

In railway terms, a spur is a railroad track that branches off from a main line.

Our Historic Waterloo Spur

In the 1880’s, the Waterloo Junction Railway was laid, connecting central Waterloo to St. Jacobs and Elmira. Since then, this little rail spur has changed ownership many times.

Today, the Region of Waterloo owns and contracts maintenance of the Waterloo Spur. Our passenger trains share the spur with regularly scheduled night-time freight trains.

Learn more about the Waterloo Spur’s history below.

1880's: Waterloo Junction Railway
  • The Waterloo Junction Railway was proposed in the 1880s to connect Waterloo to the prosperous communities of St. Jacobs, Elmira and Drayton.
  • By the mid-1880s a spur line was extended to Waterloo, terminating near King Street.
  • In mid-November 1891, the rail bridge in St. Jacobs was completely.
  • By the time the railway was complete in 1891, it terminated at Elmira and had been wholly absorbed by the Grand Trunk Railway.
1856 - 1923: Grand Trunk Railway
  • In 1856, the first Grand Trunk Railway train pulled into Berlin (later Kitchener). It was originally conceived to operate from Halifax to Sarnia.
  • In 1910, the station on Regina Street (pictured above) was built to replace the first building. At its peak, the station saw nine trains a day, six passenger and three freight.
  • In 1923, the Grand Trunk network was rolled into the Canadian National Railway as a means to preserve the many nearly-bankrupt and bankrupt railways in Canada.
1923 - 1990's: Canadian National Railway
  • In 1923, the Canadian National Railway absorbed the Grand Trunk Railway. It maintained and operated the Waterloo Subdivision, later named the Waterloo Spur of the Guelph Subdivision.
  • In the 1990s, it applied to abandon the line.
  • A group of local investors purchased the line to operate a for-profit tourist train operation.
  • CN maintained the freight contract to service local industries. CN contracted the freight service to the Goderich and Exeter Railway.
  • CN continues to maintain the track under contract with the Region of Waterloo.
1990's: Canadian Pacific Railway
  • Operating as the Grand River Railway, the Canadian Pacific Railway connected with the Waterloo Spur just north of Erb Street, about where the old Waterloo Central Railway station was located.
  • In the 1990s, the Canadian Pacific Railway pulled out of Waterloo .
  • Today, the rail bed has been replaced by the Iron Horse Trail/TransCanada Trail.
1997 - 2000: Waterloo-St. Jacobs Railway
  • On June 24, 1993, the Waterloo-St. Jacobs Railway Company Limited Act was passed.
  • On July 12, 1997, the Waterloo-St. Jacobs Railway began operations as a for-profit railway.
  • In 2000, the Waterloo-St. Jacobs Railway ceased operations and the City of Waterloo acquired the station.
  • The station was briefly used by CIGI before CIGI moved onto the former Seagram Distillery property.
  • The City later established a Visitor and Heritage Information Centre in the building.
  • Our organization rented space in the station from the City.
2001 - present: Region of Waterloo
  • In 2001, the Region of Waterloo acquired the Waterloo Spur from the defunct Waterloo-St. Jacobs Railway.
  • Today, the Region maintains the spur to preserve a transportation corridor north from Kitchener to Elmira.
  • Freight traffic is contracted to the Canadian National Railway.
  • Light Rail Transit will be introduced to the line in 2019
  • Track maintenance is handled by the Region of Waterloo and most maintenance is done under contract by the Canadian National Railway.

Top photo: CPR 8161 at CPR transfer with CN, southern edge of Waterloo Park (currently approximately 10 Father David Bauer Drive). Waterloo Park pavilion in the upper right.

Photo of the Grand Trunk Railway Station on Regina Street, Waterloo, Ontario

Grand Trunk Railway: The former station on Regina Street, built in 1910.

Photo of the Canadian National Railway

Grand Trunk Railway Station, St. Jacobs, Ontario, in 1923.