Jane’s Walk 1: The Early Days of the Streetcar System

Before I start to write about individual parts of the streetcar system, here’s a bit of historical background.  Today, people see only the network downtown, small one compared with the size of Toronto, not to mention the GTA, but the system was much larger before the combined effects of automobiles, suburbanization, expressways and subways.  This is not going to be an exhaustive history (much has been written on this including books cited at the end), but will give a taste of what was once in our city.  I will bring in more details when I write about neighbourhoods and their streetcars.

Please be sure to read the string of comments that has accumulated at the end of this post.  Many readers have added information that I had left out in the interest of space, or had simply not known of before.

Streetcars have been around in Toronto for a long time especially if you count the horse car days.  The Toronto Street Railway was granted a 30-year franchise in 1861, and began its operations with a short line in the oldest part of the city running to the St. Lawrence Hall and Market, the City Hall before the “old” City Hall of the 1890s still standing at Queen & Bay.  The Market Gallery (now showing an exhibit from the Spadina Expressway battle) was the original Council Chamber, although only the shell of the building remains. Continue reading