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.

Our oddball track gauge — 4 feet, 10 7/8 inches — derives from this era.  One theory holds that this was to block the standard-gauge steam railroads from ever running trains on the main streets as had happened in many cities.  However, if that was the only reason, such an oddball gauge isn’t the obvious choice.  Indeed, horsecar track is incompatible with steam railway operation in many ways.  My support lies with the claim that this is English Carriage Gauge — the standard spacing of wheels on wagon and carriage axles used in the old city.  On otherwise mud-filled roads, the horsecar tracks, with their shallow flangeways, would provide an ideal support for vehicles matching the track gauge.

For those who want to know more about track gauges (ours is unique in the world), go to Wikipedia.

Operation of an electric railway using overhead power collection was demonstrated at the CNE in 1885, and the growth of electric street railways in North America led Toronto Council to urge electrification of the horse car system.  The TSR was unmoved.  By 1891, at the end of the franchise, the city wanted to take over the TSR, but a unilateral attempt to do so ran aground, and another private company, the Toronto Railway Company, was formed.  They too had a 30-year franchise, and it stipulated that electric street railway operations must start within a year. 

Church Street was the first route and electric operations began on August 16, 1892.   After a few interim route configurations as system electrification continued, the Church car settled down to run from Union Station Loop via Front and Church to loop in Rosedale via Elm, Glen Road and South Drive.

Streetcar tracks remain on Church between Carlton and Wellington, and they are used for a variety of diversions (the Dundas car as I write this), short turns (more cars than anyone can count loop via Church, Richmond and Victoria), and scheduled rush hour service by the Kingston Road Tripper looping south from King.

Little of the Toronto Railway Company remains today, but the area around Front & Sherbourne was a hub of activity.  The Young People’s Theatre building at Front & Frederick was built by the TSR in 1883, and it had a variety of functions under the TRC including a powerhouse.  By 1914, the arrival of electricity from Niagara Falls eliminated the need for the TRC to generate its own power, and the building’s remaining functions ended with the opening of the new TTC main shops and stores at Hillcrest in 1924.

Yorkville Carhouse was located west of Yonge between Scollard and Yorkville, but there is no remnant of its street railway days.  A much more recent loss was Lansdowne Carhouse (between Wade and Wallace north of Bloor) which was the only TRC building to survive into long-term use by the TTC.

Part of the King Street carbarns stood until fairly recently at King & St. Lawrence, now the site of the West Don Lands redevelopment. 

The original Roncesvalles Carhouse (Queen & Roncesvalles) opened in 1895, but the present building was a TTC replacement with much greater capacity from the early 1920s.  Russell Carhouse (Queen & Connaught) opened in 1913, but the building was replaced by the TTC due to faulty foundations.  However, the substation at the foot of Greenwood remains.

Finally, Dundas Carhouse leaves only a few traces.  Located on the triangular plot at Howard Park & Dundas, the yard was entered from Ritchie Avenue to the north.  Until its most recent reconstruction, that intersection included an east-to-north curve, one last reminder of the carhouse (a runaround track) that was often used by railfan charters.  The track is gone, but the overhead curve remains above the street.

If you pull up the Google satellite view of this area (or visit it yourself), you will see that Ritchie is wider for about half its length west of Dundas.  This is due to the former presence of the ladder track for the carhouse.  Indeed, the keen-eyed can spot locations around the city with short sections of a wide side-street that once held a wye terminal or short turn for a streetcar line.

Just as City Council had fought with the Toronto Street Railway about electrification (private companies hate to invest more money in a mature system), they ran into problems with the Toronto Railway Company who refused to extend their system beyond the 1891 city boundaries.  This brought us the Toronto Civic Railway, the first of our municipal street railways.

As a network, the TCR was an odd duck with operations on the fringes of the city on Bloor Street west of Dundas, Danforth east from Broadview and the surviving St. Clair line, the Toronto Civic pushed the streetcar system out into the then-new suburbs.  St. Clair Carhouse still stands, but has not been an active part of the TTC for decades and plans are afoot to convert the buildings into artists’ studios.  I will write about the St. Clair line and others in that area in a separate post.

The Toronto Suburban Railway operated routes on Davenport Road, Dundas Street West, and Weston Road, but that’s an understatement. 

Service to Woodbridge began in 1914 when the Weston line was extended north from Church Street (in the town of Weston) to Pine Street in Woodbridge.  This operation was cut back to Weston after the TTC took over city operations, and service to Weston ended in 1948.  St. Clair streetcars continued to operate on Weston Road to Avon Loop (at Rogers Road) until 1966.

The Davenport service originated on Bathurst north of the CPR tracks and followed Davenport Road up to the Junction.  The track turned north on Ford Street (one block east of Old Weston Road), past the carhouse on the south side of St. Clair to Keele where it met the Weston Road line.

The Lambton car (as the Dundas West service was called) ran from Humberside out to Lambton Park, and a branch, the Crescent route, turned south to Evelyn Cres. & Fairview Ave.

By far the most ambitious of the Toronto Suburban’s routes was the line to Guelph.  Originally, it ran west from Lambton, but later was extended east to St. Clair & Keele.  A small part of the Guelph route is now the streetcar museum at Rockwood.  The Guelph line ran from 1917 to 1931, a victim both of the depression and of the line’s inconvenient terminus far outside of downtown.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Toronto & York Radial Railway and its three divisions. 

The present-day Kingston Road line traces its origin to the Toronto & Scarboro Electric Railway that ran east from Queen & Kingston Road beginning in 1893.  By 1906, the line had reached West Hill, just beyond Lawrence with hourly service.  Two short branches from this line ran north on Walter Street to Gerrard, and south on Blantyre to Victoria Park (now the site of the water filtration plant).  The latter was a summer-only service that was rendered obsolete by the arrival of service east on Queen Street.

The Toronto & Mimico Electric Railway ran west from Sunnyside and was built in stages from 1892 to 1905 when it reached Port Credit.  At one point, there was a plan to extend west to Oakville where the line would meet up with an eastern extension of the Hamilton Radial Electric Railway, but the line never got past the Credit River.

Commuters may sigh to learn that rail service ran to Lake Simcoe on the Metropolitan Division on a schedule that doesn’t look much different from the GO Transit bus service today.  The line began on Yonge just north of the CPR (at North Toronto Station) and ran north through Richmond Hill up to Jackson’s Point.  Metro Road follows the south shore of the lake, and it is built on the right-of-way of the old interurban line.  This service was cut back to Richmond Hill in 1930, and the North Yonge bus took over in 1948 less than two months after I was born.

References and acknowledgements:

  • Early TTC and pre-TTC history on Transit Toronto
  • Street Railways of Toronto 1861 — 1921 and The Toronto Trolley Car Story 1921 — 1961, by Louis H. Pursley
  • Rails From the Junction, by James V. Salmon
  • Riding the Radials, Toronto’s Suburban Electric Streetcar Lines, by Robert M. Stamp
  • TTC ’28, by John F. Bromley
  • Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, by John F. Bromley and Jack May

45 thoughts on “Jane’s Walk 1: The Early Days of the Streetcar System

  1. The St. Clair Carhouse “Green Arts Barns” project is past the planning stages; work is underway. A story in the April 23 issue of Daily Commercial News discusses the project with reference to its intended LEED certification. A photo accompanying the article shows the rehabilitation work in progress.

    Amusingly, the writer seems to have become a bit confused and refers repeatedly to the conversion of the “Hillcrest streetcar repair barns” into an arts and enviromental centre. I would imagine that the TTC would have some concerns there.



  2. You are so right about geographical and even topographical remnants of past streetcar activities.

    If you walk up the west side of Lansdowne north of Davenport, you can still see the concrete base where the derail switch was located. Before air brakes, it was used in order to avoid a runaway TCR car on the LANSDOWNE spur line from colliding with aq TSR car on the DAVENPORT line.

    As for long-gone wyes, if you are on Yonge Street at Glencairn, check out how Glencairn starts wide and then narrows about 50-60 feet in. This was the location of an emergency wye for the YONGE line. Every once in a while (it’s possible it’s already been taken out), the curve tracks pop up through the ashphalt.

    And don’t forget the last visible sign of streetcar service on the Danforth: the bit of track that operated in East York along Wolverleigh that was the lead-in track to the temporary Woodbine terminus of the DANFORTH shuttle is still there!

    Steve: Actually, the Danforth Shuttle looped north on Cedarvale and west on Strathmore. It never entered East York.

    Along the old T&YRR service north of Toronto, there are still buildings that look like houses that were actually waiting rooms (as a kid, I remember Yonge Street north of Sheppard was a divided highway of sorts, it seemed they paved on the other side of the private right-of-way for the Sutton/Richmond Hill line. Did I imagine that there were still the occasional bit of rail, apart from what was clearly visible in Glen Echo Loop, in this PRW?)

    Even though it is outside of Toronto, Sharon Temple is well worth a visit. The T&YRR passed by it when it headed out to Leslie Street for the rest of the journey to Sutton.


  3. It’s amazing how many places in the city you can stumble (often literally*) upon traces of the old system. Lansdowne, Bay and even Bloor have some spots where the city (or some unscrupulous contractor) decided to just pave over the tracks instead of ripping them out. Then of course we have our tracks to nowhere on Richmond and parts of Adelaide too.

    Steve: Paving over old streetcar tracks is quite common throughout the city, and they are only actually dug up for major roadworks because the tracks and foundation go down so far.

    As for Richmond/Adelaide, all of this is supposed to be put back together in a few years.


  4. Thanks for correcting me that it ran on Strathmore, I was too far north. But, Strathmore was in East York, as was where it intersects with Cedarvale. That’s why the trackage is still there. East York was too poor to pull it up.

    Steve: You are correct. Between Woodbine and Gledhill (I am looking at a pre-amalgamation map), the boundary between East York and Toronto dipped south and ran along Strathmore. Everywhere else it is further north.


  5. Humberside out towards the Junction is another street that hasn’t had a wye in years, but still has the tell-tale wye. Ghosts appear all over – Bloor and Bay had tracks surface rather recently, St. Clair and Mount Pleasant wasn’t quite removed either.

    One of my favourite legacies of the old radial network is Eldorado Park in Brampton, which was served by the Guelph line. It may be the only authentic radial park left in these parts, and still used for picnics, daycamps and more rural-like park activities. One can still track the railway through the not-yet-developed parts of Brampton by the path of telephone poles through Churchville.

    I have a copy of Bromley’s Fifty Years of Progressive Transit as well as TTC ’28 – I particuarly like the detailed track and route maps that was included in the original volume. Combined with the progression of system maps found on the Transit Toronto website, one can easily follow the progression of Toronto’s system from 1920 to the present. I only wish there were route maps for the early TRC era and TSR horsecar days available.

    Steve: For the benefit of readers, the other “radial parks” were at Long Branch on the Port Credit line, at Bond Lake on the Metropolitan line, at Scarboro Heights Park (between Midland and Bellamy), and of course the Toronto Railway Company’s Scarborough Beach Park served from Queen Street. This was an asset the TTC chose not to assume in 1921. It was quite common for street railway companies to open their own amusement parks to generate traffic on their lines, particularly on weekends.


  6. For those adventurous enough to travel to Sharon to see the Sharon Temple, make a point of visiting Newmarket as well. Where the concrete portions of the Toronto & York viaduct over the Holland River and historic plaque about the line is located (Queen Street, east of Main). The line also crossed the GTR/CNR tracks at this point to head over to Sharon and Lake Simcoe.

    There is also a trail running north of Davis Drive adjacent to the Holland River and the Mullock canal (speaking of political boondoggles!) thru the Mabel Davis conservation area following the route of the railway line.

    The T&Y line thru Newmarket was unique in that it ran on a private right-of-way and not on the roadway from Mullock’s Corners (around Yonge and Mullock) thru to Lake Simcoe. The line originally ran up Main Street, which is fairly narrow even today. The line was moved to back lanes because the Main St. merchants didn’t like the cars blocking the street.


  7. Hi Steve:-

    On the topic of our unique track gauge of 1495 mm or 4 feet 10 7/8 inches, you’re correct when you say that the gauge was a city ordinance so that steam trains could not use the city’s streets as thoroughfares; but the steam railway’s gauge in 1861 was called the provincial gauge, being 5 feet 6 inches and not the standard gauge of 4 feet 8 1/2 inches which wasn’t adopted here until the mid to late 1870’s. The railways’ gauge was provincially mandated so that those dreaded Yankees would have a difficult time bringing train loads of invaders accross the border. Long memories could still taste 1813 when the decision was made (sometime in the 1850’s) to make Upper (& Lower) Canada’s railways different from the US standard. This is recorded in history as was the City’s refusal to allow the streetcar company to adopt the railway gauge, though the reasons behind choosing 4-10 7/8 are lost, if indeed they were ever recorded.

    The only time when the gauge issue was a problem was with the integration of the standard gauge radial lines, for the streetcar system could easily exist without ever having to interchange with anyone else. The Lake Simcoe Division was changed to the Toronto gauge and this then created a dilemna. Now the City, through its ownership of the TTC and therefore then the control of the radials, needed to wrestle with the old mandate of not allowing freight trains on the City’s streets. The TTC wanted to improve its bottom line from income from the radials by bringing self propelled radial box cars right downtown. Just prior to the abandonment of the Sutton line, the city allowed radial freight to be operated down Yonge Street and into the former Toronto Railway Company’s motor shops (partailly converted into a freight shed) at the NW corner of Sherebourne and Esplanade. Too little too late to make any kind of a difference, merely another historical footnote.

    Your supposition of gauge choice matches mine though; that being, it was far more expedient for the Toronto Street Railway to allow the usage of their horsecar tracks by private wagons and carriages and let their wheels fit cozily between the rails, rather than let those same private vehicles damage the tracks (which were not initially very sturdily built) by partially riding in the track and partially not. The wagons, etc. were going to be in the middle of the road no matter what the streetcar company did or said, for it was the only place that the streets were packed down and not a sea of mud. We weren’t called ‘Muddy York’ for naught.


  8. Further on the amusement park theme, heading to Ottawa and finding a TTC commonality for all this (it is possible), In recommend that you sorry Leafs Fans as you come to Ottawa to cheers on the Glorious Ottawa Senators to take time out and check out the area of Albert and Kent. This was the location of the Ottawa Car Company, one of the major builders of streetcars in the ’20s and ’30s. It was owned by that genius of electricity Thomas Ahearn (who also owned the Ottawa Electric Railway Co.).

    The company built the 2900 series of Peter Witt Cars. Most likely, though it can’t empirically be proven, these Witts did a test run in Ottawa before being sent to Toronto, It was standard practice for the Ottawa Car Company to test new products by running them out to the west end along the mostly private right-of-way to Britannia Park, an amusement park in Ottawa’s west end owned by the Ottawa Electric Railway. The streetcar shelter still exists in the park. If they did not operate this far, they at least operated or were towed over city tracks to the CPR freight station located near where the current Bayview O-Train station is located.

    Streetcars operating on their own stea…er, current could literally drive themselves along an elevated gang plank straight on to a rail car. As for the differences in gauges between Ottawa and Toronto, the gauge was adjusted in Toronto.


  9. The easiest way to tell if you are in the old city or Toronto or one of the 12 suburbs was to check three things:
    The pavement: Toronto used a concrete base under the asphalt whereas the suburbs just used asphalt and gravel. You literally fell into the suburbs. Also the sidewalks and the curbs used to change at the same time.
    Fire Hydrants: You will also often find that there are two different fire hydrants near the old boundaries, one for the city trucks and one for the suburban trucks.
    Street lights and hydro feeds: Toronto stuck with incandescent lighting long after the rest of the world mistakenly believed that “High Efficiency” mercury or sodium vapour light were the way to go. They may have been a bit more efficient but they made the street scape ugly at night. You will often find a change in street lighting and a gap in the hydro wires where the road falls away at the old city boundaries. Do not get me started on street lights because I am afraid that for awhile I designed some of those ugly mercury and sodium vapour installations before I too saw the light.

    Steve: Of course, now a lot of the former City of Toronto is lit by colour-corrected metal halide lamps in fixtures almost identical to the original ones used for incandsecent lighting. I sat on the citizens’ committee chaired by former Councillor Howard Levine, also a member of Streetcars for Toronto, who was responsible for Toronto embracing “white light”. Alas some parts of the city were already converted to yellow sodium, but I hope we can see this reversed over time.


  10. There is a parkette on the south-west corner of Yonge St. and Yonge Blvd. across the street from the site of the Glen Echo loop. In the parkette there is a stone with the engraving: “In 1922, across the road at the city limits, the Yonge streetcar looped back south after linking with the southern terminal of the Toronto and York Radial Railway running to Lake Simcoe.”

    Another larger stone says: “Across the road, in the 1920s, passengers boarded the Yonge streetcar south, or the Toronto and York Radial Railway north. Later, a farmer’s market took over the site.” I think that last sentence refers to a T&Y car barn which probably occupied the area of the Loblaw’s store. The Glen Echo loop, platform and terminal building lasted until the 1980’s. Until its demolition, one could see, on the north side of the platform, 2 parallel pairs of rails in the pavement heading in a north-westerly direction to the sidewalk at Yonge. For a number of years, I wondered why they pointed to head north instead of south on Yonge St. – until I read the story of the T&Y.

    From Glen Echo, the T&Y descended the Hoggs Hollow hill from Glen Echo on the west side of Yonge. I remember seeing in an old photo (of a North Yonge radial car) some retaining walls on the west side of the track at the top of the hill. I wonder if the retaining walls today in that location are the same.

    I remember there was a railway overpass on weston Road north of St. Clair and north of the old Keele loop. Would anyone know if that bridge was part of the Toronto Suburban Guelph line?

    Steve: Yes, that was the Guelph line. The substation building was an auto repair shop, I think, just north of the bridge.


  11. I almost forgot : the streetcar body that can be found in the middle of McCaul Loop (how many restaurants have come and gone in that location?) is former Ottawa Electric Railway/Ottawa Transportation Commission car 829, which remained in service until the end of streetcar operation in 1959. It’s kind of ironic that an OER/OTC car ends up in Toronto. The firm Ottawa hired that recommended the dismantling of its streetcar system was the same one the TTC hired because of its success in Ottawa. Too bad Ottawa didn’t have somebody like you Steve in 1959 to save itself from killing its streetcar system, which was the third biggest in Canada after Toronto and Montreal.

    Also, with regards to freight operation by the TTC: the TTC actually operated dual-guage track in Aurora in order to allow freight to travel between the CN line and a factory in town. A photo of this dual-gauge track can be found in Bromley and May’s Fifty Years of Progressive Transit.


  12. For anyone who is interested in the history of Ottawa’s Streetcars, consider looking for a copy of Ottawa’s Streetcars by Bill McKeown (Railfare/DC Books). It’s a really tremendous work, covering everything from the 1870 horse-drawn cars up to the abandonment in 1959. It even describes Ottawa’s brief flirtation with trolley buses, and as a coda includes a page on the O-Train.

    I had forgotten about the Ottawa Witt car in McCaul loop. I work five minutes from there, have to go take a look some time.


  13. Evidence of the line to Guelph can still be seen at Lambton park off Dundas street at the Humber river. North of the parking lot is a ditch where the vehicles travelled. There was also a loop on the Dundas side of the property (Probably the flat picnic area). The east end of the ditch ends at the CPR tracks, the original underpass long removed. East of the CPR tracks the original right of way appears to have been taken over by a high voltage power line. To the west the tracks were carried over the Humber river on a high level bridge. The abutments for this bridge still exist in the valley (They carry a walkway across the river). Additional concrete abutments also remain at the top of the valley.

    I have looked for any evidence of where the line passed Eldorado park without any success. Does anyone know if there is any remaining evidence?
    Also I have a picture of the railway crossing Derry rd. (a dirt road at the time) at right angles to the tracks. I have not been able to identify any remaining evidence of this either. Based on Sean’s comments concerning Churchville, I think I will try to track it from there.


  14. Andrew : The Ottawa car in McCaul loop is not a Witt, but a design unique to Ottawa. As the excellent book you mentioned on Ottawa streetcars mentioned, Ottawa was the only system in North America that never purchased cars with a centre door exit, favoring the old-fashioned rear exit. To me this book is as much a streetcar bible as is Fifty Years of Progressive Transit. I have literally memorized every page of Fifty years (and btw i DO have a life!) and can see myself doing the same with the Ottawa book. I’ve hinted at it before but I’ll say it again: it’s about time the Fifty Years book was updated…….Steve? No pressure here……

    Steve: Actually there were TWO cars in McCaul Loop, hence the confusion. As for “Fifty Years …”, I suggest that you lobby John F. Bromley himself who contributes regularly to threads on this site.


  15. Couple of minor points:

    Ottawa Car Co. built the 2800-series small Witts. The 2900s were large Witts which worked Yonge Street until the subway opened.

    The streetcar bodies in the McCaul Loop are now gone. They were torn out last spring. There wasn’t much left of them… they were pretty much just one-sided shells.

    Another Danforth streetcar ghost is the site of the former Luttrell Loop where Kelvin Ave. and Luttrell Ave. become very narrow south of where the loop was. The traction poles are all still in place as the lampposts, and the track exiting the old loop is visible as a crack in the asphalt on Luttrell Ave.


  16. Hi Steve:-

    A minor note to Andrew Jeanes. The Ottawa car is not a Witt. It is/was a double truck, single end car with front and rear doors located in the vestibules. A very common type of streetcar all over North America. In Toronto, all of the Toronto Railway Company cars, by the time of the TTC takeover, had this door layout although there were still a number of single truckers supplying service too. The TRC cars’ main difference from the Ottawa car at McCaul was that they were not steel, but wood construction.

    The way to determine if any car was a Witt is to know two things. Firstly the door locations, secondly the fare collection in use at the time of the car’s introduction to service. All of Toronto’s PCC cars had their doors laid out in the Peter Witt style so this is the first indicator. PCCs were not subject to the Peter Witt patent charge as they did not have a conductor positiioned ahead of the centre doors on the open side to enforce the pay as you pass collection system, thus the second indicator.

    Toronto’s Witts came from three builders and in a number of batches. They came in two sizes as well. The larger ones were called ‘Big Witts’ and were equipped with a rear coupler to allow them to pull trailers. To aid this trailer lugging function, they had a lower gear ratio too. Imagine one of these Big Witts towing a trailer up the Avenue Road hill. There’s one for you Steve, what was the timing for a loaded Witt train up that hill? The ‘Small Witts’ were nicknamed Half Witts and were not equipped to pull trailers. Some trucks from the Preston built Witts survived beyond the cars’ demise under the first of the subway’s work cars.

    Peter Witt was a Commissioner of the streetcar system in Cleveland, Ohio and he developed and patented this style of fare collection as a means to speed loading by enforcing a flow through the cars, entering front and exiting centre. Every Witt car built was subject to a $50.00 patent fee paid to Mr. Peter Witt. This positioning of the staff meant that in TO the Conductor could do double duty in the winter and stoke the coal stove that was positioned across the car from him.

    A small group of the earliest Witt cars from Cleveland came to Canada. They were bought second hand and distributed for use in Kitchener, London and Saskatoon. Except for these and Toronto’s Witts I don’t think there were any other Witt cars used in our country. A Kitchener body had existed as a home in the Village of Rockwood, Ontario until about 1955. When the founders of the Halton County Radial Railway museum went to approach the owners to attempt to preserve it, it had already been disposed of.

    The most impressive Witt cars were the 100 in Chicago. They had three sets of doors. Three in the front vestibule, two in the centre and a single door in the rear. (Unlike TTC’s two and two) At least one of these Windy Citiers was used as a test bed for some of the ERPCC’s (Electric Railway President’s Conference Committee) test setups and layouts for the development of the PCC car. Brooklyn had a large fleet of Witts with two and two doors, but they had them on both sides for they were all double enders.

    Hope some of this was of interest Andrew.



  17. David Cavlovic said …

    “Also, with regards to freight operation by the TTC: the TTC actually operated dual-guage track in Aurora in order to allow freight to travel between the CN line and a factory in town. A photo of this dual-gauge track can be found in Bromley and May’s Fifty Years of Progressive Transit.”

    So if they can have a dual-gauge such long time ago, why can’t we possibly have that today? The Transit City Plan Calls for Double maybe even Triple the length of KM in LRT’s, is Toronto going to be stupid, as it has been since the 80s/90s and just use this wierd gauge or will they be smart for once and do a dual gauge and try to eventually transition into a Standard Gauge system!

    Steve: What you are missing is that the line through Aurora was single track and the extra clearance needed for this type of setup was not an issue. Moreover, there were no intersections, only occasional turnouts, and the special work was much, much simpler than it would be on a double track streetcar system with intersections.

    This city needs more LRT’s, less Streetcars. I just do not understand the logic in slow transportation! Who wants to ride slow? If Cars were slow, nobody would use them, people want FAST!

    Steve: This has nothing to do with track gauge.

    Streetcars are fine on streets with low volume because they can be part of the community fabric (Like Gerrard Street through Little India) but having them on MAJOR BUSY ARTERIALS does not make sense, it has to be some sort of LRT. Imagine running a 2 way Broadway Ave in New York (Thats a bad scenerio itself) WITH a streetcar in the middle of it?

    Steve: Building underground is unaffordable and cuts off transit from the very street it is intended to serve. There are few rights-of-way available, and those that are (eg Finch corridor) are not located where the demand is. It would be nice to build a network of cross-country LRTs, but we are dealing with a mature city, not greenfields here. The hard but necessary decision is to take road space away from cars. Again, the effect, regardless of where we build a line, has nothing to do with track gauge.

    This is no easy job but something must be done other then the dumb proposals by Council to restrict King to 1 Lane each way in the HEART of the CITY’s Financial District!

    Steve: This is NOT a Council proposal, it is something that TTC Service Planning cooked up, and frankly, I don’t think too highly of it for many reasons. I very much doubt it will receive Council approval in its present form.

    Maybe I’m missing something here Steve, I dont know!

    Steve: Please note that this is the last post I will entertain on the subject of TTC vs Standard gauge operation.


  18. Hi Steve:-

    Richard asked if the bridge over Weston Raod was part of the Toronto Suburban? It was indeed but was part of the short lived relocated right of way when the Canadian National Electric Lines moved the Toronto terminal of the Guelph Radial to the Northeast corner of St. Clair and Keele. The spur track that remained over the bridge was in use until recent times and some of the track material from that spur went to the Streetcar Museum. The brick station located at St. Clair also stood into recent times having spent years empty and even was used a restaurant. This realignment of the line was for two reasons. First to get the Radials off of Dundas Street and eliminate the increasingly dangerous wyeing operation required to turn the single ended Radial cars in the intersection with Keele Street.

    The second reason was, it was the first phase for the CNRy to bring the Radial Railway’s cars down into Union Station as the new Toronto Terminal was right beside the CN’s tracks to the city.

    If this had happened……..? Almost LRT!

    Steve: Yes I remember that restaurant, but had not mentioned it, nor the sorry history of how CNER never made it to downtown thanks to the long-standing fight about occupancy of Union Station, because there’s a limit to how much historical detail I was going to put in the main post. Thanks for mentioning it, and maybe those who read through all the comments will pick up all of the additional goodies!


  19. Just as a follow up to MGV’s comments about the Lake Simcoe Line and the Newmarket area, there is still a power line that follows the right of way from the conservation area to a point just south of Keswick. There is a really good website that deals with Ontario Railway History. It lists that there still some Lake Simcoe Line stations in existance.

    If you can get a series of old topograohical maps that show the right of way you can also follow the Schomberg and Aurora. For a line that was abandoned about 80 years ago you can still trace the right of way in some spots.


  20. Indiana University School of Informatics (HCI/D) Students research the integration of public transit options into facebook to create sustainable impact on congestion and the environment. Ride Connect integrated into facebook takes social networking to shift perception of public transit into a social activity.

    This was presented during the student design competition at CHI 2007 Conference. Read more about this on http://www.booherdesign.com


  21. Robert Lubinski: I did a typo (I did lots of typos). I meant 2800 series.

    Dennis Rankin: Montreal operated Witts as well. What is really interesting is that only two other cities operated PCCs: Montreal and Vancouver. Both of these cities recieved PCCs during the war years that were originally meant for Toronto, but were diverted for war-time needs. Interestingly, the batch that ended up in Montreal had no headlights for blackout purposes.

    The TTC also had to send some ex TRC BB series cars to Ottawa, Cornwall and Halifax. The above mentioned Ottawa streetcar book has numerous pictures of these BBs in Ottawa operation.

    Speaking of blackouts, I always wondered how the TTC handled streetcar operation during the test blackouts of the city during the Second World War.

    ANOTHER fun thing to look for in Toronto has to do with subway construction. If you walk on the west side of Yonge at Merton, you will notice the the roadway slopeing up and the subway right of way slopeing down meet at what looks like a gate to the fence. This is where a track connected the northbound track of the YONGE streetcar (you had to pass over the switch and then back up into it) with the “main line” of the Yonge subway. Why? Well this is how the work cars were able to get onto the subway property during construction.

    Along with servicing the Gloucester trucks at Hillcrest before Greenwood was built, this is the reason why the subway gauage is the same as the streetcar gauge. This is also the location of the famous derailment of G-1 car 5001 as it was being towed from Exhibition to Davisille yard. It had to spend the day in Lawton Loop before they could move it again at night. It must have been quite the site in the loop!


  22. …and John F. Bromley: How about it? how about a much needed update? More of your paintings would be nice, too.


  23. “I have looked for any evidence of where the line passed Eldorado park without any success. Does anyone know if there is any remaining evidence?”

    Yes. It crossed at the west end of the park, across the river from Creditview Road. There are telephone poles here, near the swimming pool.

    Google Map:

    It crossed Mississauga Road just south of Embleton in Huttonville at a 45 degree angle or so (if you follow the satellite image, you can still make some of it out in the tree lines and some farm lanes). The telephone poles (which used to follow most of the ROW from Cooksville) are intermittent now. You can see them again crossing Winston Churchill near 10th sideroad, and then enters Georgetown parallel to Highway 7, and is reflected in the property lines in the Delrex area, just as the CanNor in Scarborough.


  24. One major bit of history that is fast dissapearing from Toronto are the old wood telephone poles. These were a great source for abandoned bus stops. Usually old stops were painted over in green, but the paint would flake off and you could easily make out the old stops. One of my favourite collection of poles was along Ronan Ave on the east side running north from Lawrence all the way up to Golfdale. These were the bus stops for the old LAWRENCE bus prior to 1954. Another favorite were the stops along Dinnick/St. Leonards/Dawlish that were for the old EGLINTON bus again prior to 1954. Since I haven’t been to the “old ‘hood” for over three years, I wonder if any of them are still there?. There was another intersting one, albeit concrete, just north of St. Clair on –I think–Dunvegan that used to say COACH STOP, remnant of the old coach service that ran downtown until even after the Yonge subway opened.


  25. Hi Steve:-

    I’m responding to David Cavlovic. Hi David. I didn’t remember about TRC cars going to Ottawa but they did get sent to Fort William/Port Arthur and Quebec City too. I can’t remember any other cities that received any; there might have been. As far as Cornwall and Halifax went, they received the ex Toronto Civic Railways single truck, double ended steel Birney Safety Cars, unloved by the TTC. Halifax definitely didn’t get any of the TR’s, I doubt if Cornwall did because I believe until the trolley buses came, they were a double ended system. The TRs were single end. I do know they got about 5 of our Birneys.

    I won’t say that I have an intimate recollection of all of Montreal’s fleet, but I don’t recall any Witt type cars, unless the two Articulateds were set up as pay-as-you-pass fare collection at their centre doors and therefore would fit the definition. I think it unlikely though that they were ever called Witts to avoid paying Mr. Peter his 100 dollars. Montreal’s claim to fame was their crowd swallowing six motor trains, where the lead car had its entrance at the rear platform and the trail car had its entrance at the front. Exits were at the opposite ends of each. This loading arrangement is why the Tramways had two colour schemes. Always one exception to the rule but mind, green cars were rear loading two man cars and cream cars (or Cream Dash) were front loading one man cars. The cream dash cars were the two motor second car of a train. I don’t think they were ever assigned to service alone. Although they had controllers, they were so equipped solely to ease in moving them around the car yards. The green one man Single truck Birneys were the exception. I don’t know if anyone ever knew why they weren’t cream.

    Google the web site, ‘Dave’s Electric Railroads’. I think it was there that I saw a photo of one of the ex TR’s in FW/PA service. There are a couple of Quebec City views there too but neither is one of our TRs. He has Ottawa in the site also, but don’t remember if there’s a TR in any of the photos. I guess I should check, but it would be kinda interesting to see a photo of the McCaul loop car in service. Lots of Montreal shots in the Tramways section. Too there are many Halifax views posted which are captioned showing ex-TTC cars.

    By the way, an Ottawa carbody was sourced for the McCaul loop restaurant since the project’s developers were unable to get a second TTC Witt car and they didn’t want a PCC. Rumours had persisted that there was an Ottawa area scrap yard which had used a number of streetcar bodies as a fence, so with a knowledgable Torontonian’s expertise solicited to hunt down these phantoms (with the idea in the back of his mind of acquiring one of these gems for Rockwood) the site was found, but dissapointedly only one body was worth exhuming. The rest were too far gone thanks to weather, their position and the accident damage they suffered as a scrap yard fence.

    One more note David, the Tramway’s PCCs were headlightless because that was the standard for streetcars in Montreal. None of their streetcars had built in headlights. If you see a photo of a car with a headlight it’s because it has been eqipped with a radial-like portable one for when the car in question was assigned to suburban or mountain service. You’ll note an all across dash hood which had lights under it. This lit the dash so that approaching motorists could see the streetcar coming. It also lit any advertising that might have been there. Montreal’s Equipment Department’s (obviously supported by the Operators too) position was that the streets were well enough lit by street lights, they didn’t need to go to the expense of fitting the fleet with a piece of unnecessary hardware, thus saving in the initial purchase price per car and saving perpetually on one less maintenance item.

    This comment reminded me of something entirely unrelated to the lighting, but it was told to me by a prominant Canadian Rail and Transit historian. Except for his comments, which are probably true, I’ve not had these tidbits of trivia substantiated but they make a good story. It is true though that prior to the war when PCC cars could be readily ordered and delivered that the Montreal Tramways didn’t want the new cars even though they had been a participating member of the ERPCC, reason being their fleet was, on average, about ten years old. When the war came and they desperately needed more cars they were allotted 17 PCCs (they wanted more) from the production run coming to Canada. They had been all ordered by the TTC to upgrade their aged fleet by replacing the ancient, cheaply built, all wood TRs, thus why any were even on St. Louis Car Company’s order books for us up here in the frozen north during wartime. The Federal Government had the order re-allocated between us, Montreal and Vancouver (who already had 4 or 5 PCCs from a tack on to TTC’s first order of the pre-war version). Back to Montreal; because electrically and mechanically the PCCs were far more sophisticated than the rest of the fleet, as they came up for dynamic brake maintenance, it was bypassed in favour of simplicity. When the track brakes needed work, well they were electrically disconnected too. They were left hanging in place though. Thus the air operated shoe brakes pressing the wheel treads was all that was left, that of course was how a streetcar should be, Eh? Could be true.

    Being shortchanged on the PCC order and still desparate for more cars, the Tramways shop crews took the electrical equipment and trucks from the Golden Chariots, stored the Chariots for the duration, and equipped 4 wooden, masonite sheathed war-time home built bodies with the removed hardware and ran these cobbled together beasties until armistace allowed the chariots to resume their peace time duties. They survived into peace time as work cars. At least one of these masonited creatures made it to the Seashore Trolley Museum, although I’m unsure if it has survived.

    Hope I’m giving info you want to read, its the kind of stuff that really interests me. Thanks Steve.


  26. Although the north Toronto beltline from Gilbert and Eglinton across the Davisville subway yards to the Don valley was a steam train not a streetcar route, the right of way is still intact. I have never heard of it as a possible LRT route.

    It would seem to be an inexpensive alternate LRT route to tunneling under Eglinton. For most of its route it parallels Eglington at a distance similat to the distance from Yonge St to the open cut stations.

    Steve: Actually, it’s a long way from Eglinton compared to the offset the Yonge line is from its street. The Belt Line starts in the Don Valley at the south end of the old brickworks and runs northwest behind Chorley Park. The right-of-way crosses Moore Avenue just east of the jog where you leave the old City of Toronto and enter East York, runs through the cemetery, and crosses Mt. Pleasant at Merton Street. We don’t even get north of Davisville until west of the subway yards, and the line crosses Eglinton at Spadina.

    The line finally turns parallel to Eglinton west of Bathurst where it is four blocks north of Eglinton and runs west to just beyond Caledonia where it connects with the existing CNR line.

    If the Yonge line were offset a comparable distance, it would be between Church and Jarvis downtown. Not exactly handy. Hmmm … the Mutual Street Subway.

    Using this right-of-way for an “Eglinton” LRT would really be a stretch, and good chunks of it are not exactly close to areas of high traffic demand.


  27. I went walking down to McCaul loop at lunch today, before reading the comments that would have obviated my visit. The centre of the loop is now occupied by a metal-sided structure that appears as though it may be part of OCAD.

    Despite my fascination with the history of streetcar systems in Ottawa and Toronto, I’ve never paid much attention to the vehicles themselves. I know next to nothing about the different designs used in Ottawa, Toronto or elsewhere and made an incorrect assumption about the car that used to be in the loop. You really have to keep your Witts about you when you comment in Steve’s blog.

    Dennis: I believe the St. Clair West station burned down circa 1995. I spent part of the summer in Toronto that year but never went to look for it. Too bad. Mitch Stambler said during the St. Clair West ROW public consultations that GO would consider re-establishing a station there once the ROW was built. It would have been lovely if that old station had survived long enough to be rehabilitated for GO service.


  28. Thanks to all who complimented me with regard to ’50 Years…” and “TTC ’28’.

    I’ll leave the issuance of updated histories to someone younger and more gung-ho than I am these days. I have so many things I want to do that I just don’t have the time to shepherd such a monumental work through its various stages.

    Such books are the result of humungous amounts of work and research. I have done the research and it is available in my on-computer database, including far more highly detailed route histories currently up to date for the 1861-2000 period (including some routes operated that have never been publicly revealed in a railfan-produced history – who has ever heard of the DANFORTH BELT LINE beside me?), rosters and much more operational data such as detailed service summaries for the 1924-1954 period (incuding the proof of Witt cars on SHERBOURNE), car assignment records to routes and carhouses, carhouse histories, loop-wye-crossover-passing siding histories, full roster data from horsecar 1 of 1861 through the ALRVs, etc, much more detailed than anything ever published, and for all companies as well.

    Some histories that have been done have so many errors in them as to cause serious doubt about some data included. Hundreds of never-published photos are available. Maybe we can convince someone highly enthusiastic (Rob Lubinski – wanna be an author?) to work it up.


  29. John F. Bromley: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE can we access your database. PLEASE???

    Steve: I suspect that John has a rather proprietary interest in this information given the decades over which he has collected it, and would only release it for a bona fide publishing effort.

    Dennis Rankin: thanks for updating/clarifying my statements. Yes, I forgot that Cornwall recieved the horrendous Birneys (Ottawa had one of their own as well). It is most likely Montreal tried to avoid paying Mr. Witt with a modified design. Even Toronto tried to avoid paying him, but, they lost. I believe he recieved something like $5.00 per car built.

    As I mentioned above, Ottawa recieved ten of the old TRC BBs, and numerous pictures exist of them in operation in that book on Ottawa streetcars. For the ten years they operated in Ottawa they were confined to tripper service (the route indication, all single letters, was an X for extra. This practice is still in operation today), or used for charters. They were never liked, particularly for their wood seats and their overall rattling and noise.

    The Ottawa book also points out that the OTC briefly flirted with the idea of buying new PCCs, but vetoed the idea because they felt they would never be able to handle the winter conditions (yeah, right: I’m telling you right now : for various reasons, Toronto and Montreal have a MUCH WORSE TIME with winter than Ottawa). What was really going on was the anti-electric transit vehicle crusade of the likes of Mayor Charlotte Whitton.

    At least Toronto got some payback. When the OTC ended trolleybus service (Ottawa was the last city in Canada to install a trolleybus line and the first to abandon it), Toronto got five of the ten trolleys. The other five went to Kitchener-Waterloo.
    Also, a colleague of mine well remembers the Golden Chariots. It’s too bad Toronto never had anything similar.


  30. Hi Steve;-

    I was just rereading your top of the page notes and it jogged my memory about the Greenwood and Queen substation building. It’s truly amazing that this Toronto Railway Company structure survived to the present day, but fortunately for the TTC’s foresight, it has.

    For many years it was effectively empty, under used as a storage building, I think for overstock overhead supplies. Then the CLRVs came on the scene and their power needs, when at rest in the car yard, required a new power source to keep the cars happy while tucked up for the night. Voila, the foot of Greenwood substation came to the rescue to house the necessary equipment and feed Russell Yard.

    In the mid 1970s, the track was renewed past the front of this old building. Knowing that it had been a compressor station as well as a substation in its TRCo days, I searched in vain while the excavation was open to see if there was any remnant of piping to indicate how the cars were connected to the air source. This was a necessary stop for the first air brake equipped TR cars for they carried no on board compressor to replenish the air exhausted with every brake application. There were compressor stations, like the Greenwood one, at various locations in the city to recharge the storage air tanks carried on each car. The Scottish Management of the private company expressed their delight with this, ‘the McGann Storage Air System’, as it was far more frugal than having a power consuming, maintenance requiring compressor on every car. (I am not aware of where any of the other compressor stations were, although I could speculate on some)


  31. As a follow-up to the mention of the wye-track near Keele and Dundas West streets, I doubt anyone else caught this, but two recent construction projects installing and altering natural gas mains un-earthed cobblestone track buried below an unusually high number of inches of asphalt under Keele Street. I don’t know to what extent this track remains, but I did observe that the north-swinging curve from the wye still extends well beyond the eastern sidewalk under a parking area!

    I would comment that it really shouldn’t seem odd to folks that track would be buried rather than excavated entirely. Firstly, the work and cost would not be easily justified, especially back when most of the labour was without the benefit of machines. And secondly it makes for a very strong foundation for the road surface, as attested to by the construction foreman working on Ossington between Bloor and Harbord. The buried cobblestone tracks there which were used by the Harbord Line were only being pulled up because of other problems with the supporting earth. I also remember someone saying that the Bay Street tracks were re-built overtop of the older tracks at some point due to serious problems with groundwater, and even that didn’t stop them from sinking.


  32. Speaking of track renewal (well, somebody did!), do any of you remember Runnymede Ave north of Dundas before they rebuilt the CP overpass? Remember the bit of double track on Runnymede that ran from just north of the old entrance to Runnymede loop all the way to St. Clair? That was installed as a preliminary for building a new streetcar yard at the corner of St. Clair and Runnymede. This yard was originally meant to replace Dundas Yard, but then the Depression hit, and the yard idea was forgotten. However, the TTC owned that Northeast corner property for some time, considering even to build a bus garage there to replace Parkdale. But they built Queensway instead and eventually sold the St.Clair property.

    Kind of ironic that the trackwork sat embedded on Runnymede for forty years before being ripped out, and yet streetcar service is again being considered for the area.

    It’s also my understanding (I believe you told me this, Steve) that the TTC also considered turning LEASIDE service into streetcar operation. Could that explain why Laird Drive, and Eglinton west of Laird looks as if its width was to accomodate possible streetcar service? Of course, there was already streetcar tracks on Eglinton between Mt. Pleasant and Duplex, though no direct trackage linking the east side of Eglinton at Yonge to the west side. The east side was meant for emergency diversions of the YONGE line. Years later, during trolleybus operation, there was an emergency diversion along Lawrence between Yonge and Mt. Pleasant. I well remember seeing the trolleys on Lawrence, especially 97A YONGE short turn service for rush-hour. The utility poles on Lawrence still indicate that they held supporting wires for the trolleys. The thick black power cables on the north side of Lawrence (and I knew them well, because as a kid I lived at 42 Lawrence West) ran from Mt. Plesant to Avenue Rd. Considering that the utility poles on Lawrence West were also opposite each other on the opposite sides of the street (albeit not until after 1964 when Lawrence West was widened), I always wondered if the TTC planned to string trolley wire over to Avenue Rd. as well.


  33. David Cavlovic said

    “…Years later, during trolleybus operation, there was an emergency diversion along Lawrence between Yonge and Mt. Pleasant. I well remember seeing the trolleys on Lawrence, especially 97A YONGE short turn service for rush-hour. The utility poles on Lawrence still indicate that they held supporting wires for the trolleys. The thick black power cables on the north side of Lawrence (and I knew them well, because as a kid I lived at 42 Lawrence West) ran from Mt. Pleasant to Avenue Rd. Considering that the utility poles on Lawrence West were also opposite each other on the opposite sides of the street (albeit not until after 1964 when Lawrence West was widened), I always wondered if the TTC planned to string trolley wire over to Avenue Rd. as well.”

    Also having lived in the area, as did Steve, I remember these poles and wires on Lawrence to Avenue Rd. I believe that they were only to carry power from the Sub station at Yonge over to the Nortown line on Avenue Rd. They had Otter Loop where they short turned Nortown coaches on Avenue Rd. However there where plans at one time to run trolley buses on Eglinton West to the loop where the Oakwood car and Ossington trolley buses turned. Big Brill coach 9101 was an odd ball in that it had a side route sign like the street cars with no number or destinations. As well as the normal routes of Annette, Lansdowne, Nortown, Weston and Yonge it also had linens for Eglinton and Main. (I think that Main was something to do with the Weston Road route.) Does anyone remember any other Trolley coaches with signs like 9101? I also use to wonder if it once had a front route sign like the Kansas City Cars; i.e. Single destination and route name all in white on black. I was also curious as to why its odd side sign survived. Maybe they did not have enough of the correct signs and could not be bothered to run off one linen.


  34. Hi Robert:

    Yes, I was aware that the power lines were to carry power from the substation, which was expanded for the subway. I wasn’t thinking so much about emergency service on Lawrence to Avenue Rd so much as a possible conversion of LAWRENCE service to trolley bus operation–again just speculation since I’ve never seen any written evidence. However, with the plan to convert EGLINTON WEST to trolley bus (and as has been pointed out, wires were strung west of Avenue Rd, but the good burgers of Forest Hill vetoed any wires going through their sacred territory), it was clear that the TTC had bigger plans for the trolley bus network, and giving the routing of 52 LAWRENCE, it may have been feasible for conversion, but then so could any number of other routes.

    Very interesting, though, about 9101, but there were always variants in linens. Even the GM Old-Look 1540 series had slightly different linens when it came to, for example 59 NORTH YONGE service via Willowdale/Senlac. The “via…” portion was actually in the red destination section rather than the black route section. Given the number of vehicles needing linens, it’s small wonder that the TTC first went to all black, and then finally to electronic. Of course, this could lead to some rude pranks on the part of the sign programmers at the various divisions, as a bus driver friend of mine found out : she went out with a bus that REALLY told people where to go!

    Ironically, and again Steve you are the source for this, the TTC had considered retaining streetcars on Yonge north of Eglinton after the subway opened. I believe there were even transfers made up for this possibility. This might have been a part of a greater plan to provide double-track service into Williowdale, but not via Yonge through Hogg’s Hollow. Instead, it was to use the Yonge by-pass via Yonge Blvd. I was told that this was the reason Yonge Blvd. was widened. Also the bridge over the Don supposedy had track allowances. The 401 now goes over the spot where the original Yonge Blvd. bridge was located. Can anybody verify this?


  35. Just as City Council had fought with the Toronto Street Railway about electrification (private companies hate to invest more money in a mature system), they ran into problems with the Toronto Railway Company who refused to extend their system beyond the 1891 city boundaries.

    Your quote reminds me of a report about the subway a few decades ago from the TTC. It stated that Toronto always puts off any major investments until the cost becomes to high to justify building it.

    Well it appears that the city has kept up the tradition.


  36. “The 401 now goes over the spot where the original Yonge Blvd. bridge was located. Can anybody verify this?”

    The 401 eastbound express lanes actually use the former Yonge Blvd bridge today. Yonge Blvd here also used to be the path of Highway 11A – a branch connected with the intersection of Avenue and Wilson.


  37. Hi Steve:-

    For anyone going to the far south east in our fair city to take in the Beach or just to check out the Queen car yourself, there is a bit of streetcar history just beyond Neville Loop. At the foot of Blantyre Avenue the road allowance has a really gentle curve from south to west. The map that I just googled shows the avenue S curving and meeting Queen at 90 degrees. This is a relatively recent change in road alignment but there is evidence when you’re there that the road swooped instead of right angling (the sidewalk I think is still swoopy). This was the right-of-way of the Blantyre branch of the Toronto and Scarborough Electric Railway Light and Power Company. Its single track left Kingston Road on an east to south facing switch (the only one at this intersection). Upon reaching Queen the cars took the swoop back west. There were no other switches, the line merely ended just short of (east of) the Toronto Railway Company’s city line (Neville Loop).

    Steve: Actually, as I mentioned in the first of my Jane’s Walks posts, it was the TRC’s extension of service to Neville that put the Blantyre branch (which ran only in the summer anyhow) out of service.

    It is a pleasant walk in and around here, so well worth the visit. While there, consider the sight with a bit of reverence as there was a terrible head on wreck on this curve with two radial cars. The loaded down bound hit an early leaving empty car coming east and up the hill, with the loss of two lives. Toronto papers barely mentioned the occurrance, but not so in the Forest City! The London Ontario press had such a hate on for our Queen City that they gleefuly reported all of the gorey details. This hatred had gone on for many years and lasted many more.

    There was a street railway joke played on the London press though through the despised Toronto that I think they never did catch on to. When the London streetcar system was to open as electrically powered, retiring their old grey mares, it was with a great amount of last minute feverish activity on the part of the owners, for to retain the franchise to operate the lines that they’d already poured lots of money into, it had to start supplying service at a specific time on a specific date. As the date drew near, all was almost ready. Track was down, not paved, but down. Overhead and substations were in their final connection stages and the cars were finished and being prepared to be shipped from the Patterson and Corbin factory in St. Catherines the day before having to be in London. This Hallowed Hall of street railway manufacturing burned down that night; with the cars in it!

    What to do? Well the Toronto Railway Company came to the rescue. Another Ontario streetcar builder. They supplied the London firm with four operational open cars taken right off of Toronto’s streets and shipped ready to roll. The TRCo saved their bacon on that fateful day on September the 12th 1895. I’m not sure where the cars were repainted, here or there, most likely here. Toronto’s cars never carried their owner’s identification, only numbers. They became numbers one through four in the City on the Thames so no identity change required only fleet ID. One can see and ride one of the cars that is virtually identical to the four that went to London at the Halton County Radial Railway Museum near Rockwood, as the open car there #327, was built from the plans of the cars which had been of the class that London received. No other TRCo opens were built to the same design. The TRCo built themselves four more open cars to replace those hurriedly sent west and were placed in service for the next summer’s needs and although newer and of a different design, these new ones were assigned the missing numbers.

    While in the east end, carry on walking to the other side of Main Street along the Kingston Road. Here was another branch line of the trunk Kingston Road route. At Walter Street, there was a single east to north facing switch, the only one on the entire single track line, which line ended in the centre of Gerrard Street just east of the intersection at Main Street. The cars went north on Walter, zigged west on Lyall, turned north again on Kimberley, crossing Swanwick on the way to a west dash to Main on Gerrard. The line was abandoned when the Toronto Civic Railway’s Gerrard route (present day Carlton Car) made it redundant.

    Why did they even bother to build it in the first place? Well it was there to serve and connect the town of East Toronto with Toronto proper. East Toronto was an important railway centre as it was the main freight yard of the Grand Trunk Railway in Toronto which was by and large situated between Main and Vic Park, north of Gerrard and south of the Danforth. A roundhouse served the needs of the yard and mainline freight locos and a Railway YMCA (it was on the sight of Ted Reeve Arena) served the overnighting needs of out of town railroaders resting up for their anticipated return home.

    While touring this neighbourhood, take note of the row housing on Swanwick (south of Gerrard) and Norwood Terrace (north of Gerrard and west of Main). It dates from the time they were the principal residential community for the Railway’s yard staff. This yard was the main freight facility until the Mimico yards superceded it in the teens and had served TO’s needs from the 1870s.


  38. I remember seeing a faded “Bus(?) Stop” sign on an old wooden telephone pole on Humberside Avenue west of High Park Avenue when I was a child in the ’60’s. That was my 1st experience of local history.

    I grew up in the Junction & the sound of the Dundas Streetcar is one of my enduring memories from childhood. I always thought it was dumb to remove the streetcars on Dundas between Bloor & Runnymede. (I hope that there is serious consideration to returning them. Having to transfer from a bus to a streetcar does nothing to increase the convenience of transit.)

    Thanks for bringing the above back to mind for me!


  39. Service to Woodbridge began in 1914 when the Weston line was extended north from Church Street to Pine Street in Woodbridge. This operation was cut back to Weston after the TTC took over city operations, and service to Weston ended in 1948.


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