Essex CountyOld PhotographsPhoto Du Jour

The Republic

Here is a photo of the car “Republic” of the Windsor, Essex & Lake Shore Rapid Railway, passing though Essex. From the John Stefani collection.

According to this website:

Location: The railway is located in southern Ontario, extending between the communities of Windsor and Leamington.

History: The idea of constructing an interurban railway line from Windsor to the southeast was first conceived in 1900 by a group of local businessmen. These early discussions ultimately led to the incorporation of the Windsor, Essex & Lake Shore Rapid Railway Company (WE&LSR)in 1901. The plan was to construct a 36 mile line from Windsor to Kingsville and then on to Leamington. A future extension was proposed to Chatham. It was intended that the local line would serve the many smaller communities it would pass through which, for the most part, were not that well attended to by the steam lines. Construction was initially held up by the lack of funds, however work finally did commence in 1906. The first portion of track was opened in September 1907 to Kingsville while the remainder of the line was completed by April 1908 into Leamington. In urban areas, the line was built on public streets while out in the country, it operated either on its own right-of-way or parallel to a highway.

Passenger and freight traffic grew steadily up into the late 1920’s. Much of the traffic during the summer months was destined for Lake Erie beaches (Matthews Park) in the Kingsville area. By 1927, however, the owner of the railway (Dominion Traction & Light Company) was losing money and offered to sell the line to the municipalities served. The offer was responded to favourably and a transaction became official as of September 1929. At that point, the line was completely rebuilt and all old equipment replaced with modern rolling stock. The majority of the work was completed under the supervision of the Hydro Electric Power Commission which would assume operation of the line as the Hydro Electric Railways: Essex Division. To promote rider interest, the marketing name “The Sunshine County Route” was chosen and lettered on all the cars. When the depression hit, ridership dropped substantially that resulted in the suspension of service in September 1932. Some attempts were made to sell the outfit to a steam road, however, interest was limited and all infrastructure was dismantled in 1935, only five years after having been rebuilt. For many years to come, the municipalities involved were forced to shoulder the debt incurred in the rebuilding program.

Approximate Milage: 36 miles.

Current Status: Service on the WE&LSR was suspended in September 1932 with all infrastructure being dismantled three years later.

Principle Stations: Windsor, Essex, Kingsville and Leamington.

Remaining Stations: The are no remaining stations along the WE&LSR.


There was for many years after a car bar located on Chatham St. between Glengarry & Aylmer. The area today is a gravel lot.

According to Bernie Drouillard (local transportation guru):

This barn was used to store some equipment (500 series cars and two locomotives) the cars where removed and sent to Montreal & Southern Counties Railway in 1939 and the locomotives went to Cornwall Street Railway in early 1943. By this time the tracks had been removed and they had to tow them by truck on rail to the CN rail yard on the river front. Not sure when the building got torn down, but the cement pad was there for years.

The powerhouse for the railway is still standing and is located in Kingsville. Flickr photos from John can be found here:

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