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From Cows to Cars:
G.M. Celebrates 80 years in Walkerville

by Elaine Weeks

General Motors has been part of the Walkerville landscape since 1919. But before this industrial landmark's time, things were decidedly more bucolic. Shorthorns, Aberdeen Angus Polls, Jerseys, Percheron and Roadster

gm1.jpg
      

        The Essex Stock Farm, c. 1880's

horses, Shropshire sheep and Berkshire pigs roamed a 1,000 acre stock farm owned by Hiram Walker's & Sons.

Unlike Walker's stockyard on what is now Tecumseh and Walker Road where cows were fattened and shipped to England in time for Christmas feast-ing, the animals at his Essex Stock Farm were bred to stock his extensive agricultural operations in Essex County.

An article in Canadian Live-Stock Journal from 1885 humorously describes the
buildings located on his stock farm: "These are plain and unpretentious, the aim being rather to produce good animals than to furnish fine buildings with only inferior specimens within, as is so often done in the erection of dwellings for human habitation."Walker was also interested in raising children's saddle ponies and in 1883, an Ex-moor pony was imported from England.

According to the Live-Stock Journal: "He is now being crossed with Canadiangm3.jpg ponies, which it is confidently expected will produce a valuable pony paheton driver, and also a fine specimen of children's saddle ponies."

Since Hiram Walker encouraged business and industry to set up in Walkerville, it was only a matter of time before his rural properties were overtaken by the wheels of progress.

Canadian Products Limited, a subsidiary of General Motors Corporation was established on Walker Road eighty years ago. It produced auto engines and axles but ceased operations in 1923.

In January 1928, the Walker Road Plant was reopened as a branch plant of General Motors of Canada, Ltd. for the assembly of truck chassis and in 1929, operations were extended to manufacture truck and bus bodies. For a
short period during 1929 and 1930, Chevrolet and Pontiac automobiles were also assembled in the Walker Road Plant.

In December of 1928, the Walker Road plant began building Chevrolet engines
and later Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick engines and also G.M. truck engines. Border Cities Industries Ltd., a subsidiary of General Motors of Canada was built in 1940 on adjacent property bordered by Kildare Road to the GM engine plant.

During World War II, 25,000 Browning Machine Guns, 10,000 Palstin automatic rifles and several thousand naval gun mounts were produced. In 1945, this property was sold to the Sandwich, Windsor & Amherstburg Railway Co. (SW&A).

gm2.jpgIn June of 1964, the engine plant was converted to the manufacturing of Synchro-mesh and 2-Speed Automatic Transmissions. The Walker Road plant's record of quality control and efficiency resulted in GM Corporation's decision to expand and convert the plant for production of THM 3-speed automatic, transaxle transmissions in 1978.

gm4.jpgGM bought back the SW&A site and completed the expansion in 1981. Unfortunately, theArt Deco GM administration building on Walker Rd. was demolished and was re-placed by a shipping area. The familiar GM water tower was also dismantled.


 

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