The TH&B Navigation Co. – A Brief History

Expansion of the Dunnville Subdivision into Port Maitland allowed the TH&B to begin operation of a car ferry service to Ashtabula, Ohio, a distance of 91 miles across Lake Erie.  Connections to the New York Central, Pittsburgh and Lake Erie and the Akron, Canton & Youngstown railroads could be made from Ashtabula and thereby allow international traffic to avoid the increasingly congested Buffalo Gateway.

The Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Navigation Co. was incorporated in 1916 under the laws of the State of Ohio.  Incorporation under U.S. law eliminated the risk of having the Navigation Company’s ships conscripted by the Canadian Government for war service as Canada was actively participating in the First World War at the time.  The TH&B Railway held the entire $400,000.00 capital stock of the Navigation Co.

Construction of the new dock facilities at Port Maitland was completed in 1916 and the inaugural sailing of the Navigation Co. occurred on October 21st.  Service was provided by the “Maitland No. 1” a modern, four-track, 32-car capacity twin-screw car ferry constructed by the Great Lakes Engineering Works of Detroit, Michigan.  Constructed at a cost of nearly $400,000.00, the Maitland No.1 could make the voyage across Lake Erie in as little as seven hours.

Southbound traffic from Canada was comprised mainly of newsprint while coal dominated the northbound crossings.  Traffic levels dropped dramatically as the combined effects of the Great Depression and the opening of the new Welland Canal in 1931 diverted much traffic away from the car ferry route resulting in the discontinuance of operations in June 1932. 

During its 16 years of operation, the TH&B Navigation returned dividends in excess of $660,000.00 to the railway.

Last Modified: March 6, 2011