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d. 24 June 1794 in Montreal (Que.)


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GOOD, JAMES, ironmonger, machinist, manufacturer, and politician; b. probably some time between 1814 and 1818 in Ireland; m. in 1839 Eleanor Bull, and they had at least six daughters and one son; d. 12 Sept. 1889 at Toronto, Ont.

It is possible that James Good, on his arrival at York (Toronto) from Dublin in 1832, found employment in the firm of either Amos Norton or Reason Williams, ironworkers in the city. In 1840, with the financial backing of his father-in-law, Bartholomew (Bartley) Bull, an Irish-born Methodist and Orangeman with useful real estate holdings, Good was able to acquire the Union Furnace Company. The business was to be known by various names including the Toronto Engine Works, the Toronto Locomotive Works, and James Good and Company.

Shortly after a fire in 1841 levelled the firm’s buildings and threw 50 employees out of work, Good entered into a short-lived partnership with James Rogers Armstrong*; Good was later said to have “tricked” his partner. In 1845 R. G. Dun evaluated Good’s worth to be $5,000 to $6,000 and considered his firm safe for moderate credit even though Good was dilatory in meeting his obligations. Seven years later Good was reported as worth $50,000 and “perfectly safe” for credit.

As the proprietor of a large iron foundry Good was able to bid on contracts for several locomotives at the beginning of the first major railway boom in Canada. Between 1853 and 1855 he built nine engines, at an average cost of $5,000, for the Ontario, Simco, and Huron Railroad Union, the first passenger service in Canada West. He also produced at least five locomotives for other Canadian railways.

Good’s Toronto, the first locomotive built in Canada West and possibly in any British colony, was designed in the United States tradition of engine construction and was completed in April 1853. It weighed 25 tons and the width and stroke of its cylinders were 16 inches and 2 2 inches. Canadian railways, built by British engineers, had originally used British made locomotives. However, these were found to be far too light and sensitive for the operating conditions in North America. As a result a rugged, relatively crude (by British standards), but eminently more suitable locomotive design evolved during the 1840s and 1850s in the United States and became known as the “American” locomotive. All of Good’s engines were built to the common Canadian railway gauge of 56". Most, if not all, of his locomotives were scrapped when the various railways converted to the North American standard gauge of 4½" in the late 1870s and 1880s.

Early in 1856 Good sold his business. He returned to the engine-building trade about four years later, after the recession that began in 1857 had abated. Despite previous debts, he arranged the ownership of his property and machinery in such a way that he was able to avoid suit for former liabilities. The Montreal firm of Frothingham and Workman [see Thomas Workman] accepted a chattel mortgage worth $1,200 in 1860, but it would appear that for the next 30 years Good had “no credit locally.” Nevertheless he remained in business until his death. In 1867 he employed 45 people, and in that year his company contained machine, moulding, blacksmith, and pattern shops, as well as a stove-mounting shop, warehouse, and counting room. It manufactured machinery for grist- and sawmills; stoves; hollow-ware; tin, copper, and iron ware; and potash kettles. In 1875 the firm survived a second fire which again levelled the premises.

Good was an artisan of undoubted capabilities, but his talent for management was questioned by his contemporaries. It is recorded in the Dun entry for 23 May 1855 that he “has got into a more extensive [business] than he knows how to manage. There are any number of [executions] now lying in the [Sheriff’s hands against him]. . . .” He was popular in Toronto, however, and in 1854 he was elected a councilman for St James’ Ward. The next year he won the election for alderman in the same constituency. Good was also active in the Methodist community until 1879 when he was forced to take a more passive role after his hearing failed. He died suddenly at home on 12 Sept. 1889 while preparing to go to work.

Good’s share in locomotive building followed a typical North American pattern. During the early years of railway construction, up to the 1860s, small iron foundries and machine shops throughout the continent were engaged in the building of a limited number of locomotives. The technology was simple and required relatively inexpensive equipment. As the demand for engines increased, small shops could no longer handle it. Some companies lacked the capital to expand; others decided to remain in the manufacture of their traditional products. Good’s firm would appear to have been in the second category.

George Graham Mainer

[I should like to acknowledge with gratitude the assistance provided by Chris Andreae in the preparation of this biography.  g.g.m.]

Baker Library, R. G. Dun & Co. credit ledger, Canada, 26: 16, 54; 27: 91. PAC, RG 30, 1597: 225; 2028: 98, 385. Henry Scadding, Toronto of old, ed. F. H. Armstrong (Toronto, 1966). W. S. and H. C. Boulton, [Plan of Toronto] (Toronto, [1858?]). C. E. Goad, Atlas of the city of Toronto and suburbs from special survey and registered plans showing all buildings and lot numbers (Montreal, 1884). Toronto directory, 1867. F. R. Berchem, The Yonge Street story, 1793–1860: an account from letters, diaries and newspapers (Toronto, 1977). W. H. Pearson, Recollections and records of Toronto of old . . . (Toronto, 1914). Robertsons land marks of Toronto. J. H. White, American locomotives: an engineering history, 1830–1880 (Baltimore, Md., 1968), 449–58. R. R. Brown, “British and foreign locomotives in Canada and Newfoundland,” Railway and Locomotive Hist. Soc., Bull. (Boston), 43 (April 1937): 6–22. John Loye, “Locomotives of the Grand Trunk Railway: recollections of the picturesque engines that served the great Canadian railway together with historic notes in passing,” Railway and Locomotive Hist. Soc., Bull., 25 (May 1931): 12–31. R. D. Smith, “The Northern Railway: its origins and construction, 1834–1855,” OH, 48 (1956): 24–36.

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Cite This Article

George Graham Mainer, “GOOD, JAMES,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 24, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/good_james_11E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/good_james_11E.html
Author of Article:   George Graham Mainer
Title of Article:   GOOD, JAMES
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1982
Year of revision:   1982
Access Date:   June 24, 2024