History InSite: Hartzel Road at CNR Crossing, S1940.33.7.1

A man stands on the running board of his car while water rushes around it. The car is tipped as the passenger side is down in a whole, covered by water. Water can be seen running down the street. Other cars and houses are visible in the background. A small road sign at left reads "Drive Carefully".
A motorist stands on the running board after coming upon a watermain brain in 1940. | STCM S1940.33.7.1

From the St. Catharines Standard:

“A break in a 24-inch water main beneath Hartzel Road yesterday afternoon and today disrupted traffic on the Merritton-St. Catharines highway. The main supplied the Alliance and Lybster paper mills. One motorist ventured along the middle of the road after the break and got into difficulties, as this picture illustrates.”

Also shown in this photograph is the rail line of the old Welland Railway heading north-east into St. Catharines. Opened between 1856 and 1859, the railway ran north-south from Port Dalhousie to Port Colborne and assisted in transiting goods and passengers as vessels too large for the Second Welland Canal increased in volume. By 1882, the Welland Railway and the Great Western Railway were amalgamated into the Grand Trunk Railway, which were later merged into the Canadian National Railway in 1920.

Drive Carefully

A group of onlookers gather on the road and sidewalk in the background while water rushes by the camera in the foreground.
Onlookers gather to inspect the damage of the watermain break. | STCM S1940.33.7.6

The perfectly placed sign at the left of the photo is an ironic reminder to this driver but was actually in place for another purpose altogether. Level crossings in Ontario were quite common and slower corridors like the old Welland Railway crossing Hartzel road did not have barriers. Today, most level rail crossings still don’t have signalized barriers.

Check out another History InSite sign in Merritton about a level crossing accident in 1939.

This photograph is one of many featuring cars and car accidents. Today, car accidents are just another part of life and the traffic report. But before everyone had a car, car accidents were covered religiously by the St. Catharines Standard and the many photographs of the accidents fill the Museum’s photograph collection. You can explore more of these photos through the online portal EMuseum.

There’s More to the Story

Check out the entire History InSite installation across Merritton, downtown St. Catharines and in Port Dalhousie.

About History InSite

A permanent, site specific installation, History InSite juxtaposes historical photographs with modern streetscapes by presenting the photo in, or close to, the place which it was taken.

St. Catharines has a rich photographic history and when compared to the changing streetscapes around the City, that history becomes much more meaningful, poignant, and relevant to our modern eyes.

The Downtown series was installed in July 2021. The Port Dalhousie series was installed in May 2022. The Merritton series was installed in May 2023.

History InSite is presented by the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre.

Graffiti Report

If you spot any graffiti on our purple History InSite signs, please send us a message and photo via email museum@stcatharines.ca.