Stratford Street

The shops

GTR repair shops Stratford-Perth Archives

In a survey laid out by William Mackenzie, a land developer from Guelph, Stratford Street came into existence in 1853 in the anticipation of a railway boom.

Mackenzie knew the Grand Trunk Railway was due to arrive in Stratford in 1856. He also seemed to know where the tracks would run, and bought some prime adjacent land. One of his developments was across the street from the railway, and another was south of the rail line that ran west to Goderich. Stratford Street runs at right angles to the tracks from St. David Street to Cambria Street.

Stratford Street first appeared on the 1857 map and Mackenzie couldn't go wrong in choosing the name of the village for one of his streets. He had already chosen Shakespeare Street for the station site. The names Stratford and Avon were all intertwined, all associated with the founding of the community.

* See Introduction to Streets of Stratford by Stan Dingman

When the Grand Trunk locomotive repair shops were moved here from Brantford and Toronto in 1870-71, they heralded the beginning of a railway era which lasted for almost a century. The shops would eventually employ some 1,200 men, and hundreds more worked in the railway's running trades. There were 30 passenger trains a day. More than 2,000 people were employed by the railway during the peak of the steam locomotive era in Stratford. Because Mackenzie's Stratford street survey was close to both the shops and the station, it was an ideal location for the railway men and their families to live. Many of them built houses on Stratford, Argyle and Mackenzie streets. By Stanford Dingman

* This short mention of the GTR and CNR shops does not do its story justice. Here are two excellent sources to learn more about its fascinating history.

1: TVO video: Grand Trunk: A City Built on Steam

2: Dean Robinson's comprehensive book "Railway Stratford Revisited"