Now and then, I spend my time browsing through the photograph collections at the City Archives, and this activity can be rather addictive. The main page includes a link to a search page where you can start your travels. Note that the indexing is spotty, and if you find items in a series that you really like, it is often worthwhile drilling down into the linked pages for the specific collections and looking for a “browse” link that will bring up the entire content. I can’t put links to such pages here as they are built on the fly.
After looking at photos of my old neighbourhood in North Toronto, I stumbled on paintings of the Yonge Subway by the artist, Sigmund Serafin, whose paintings of Bloor and University subway stations are posted at Transit Toronto. I have recently learned more about Serafin’s history, and that post will be updated in the new year.
I will leave the joy of finding intriguing bits and pieces to you, but there are a number of items I thought worthwhile to whet your appetite.
First up is a population density chart for 1950. Unfortunately, this is not as crisp as one would wish, but it shows clearly the vast, empty space we now know as the suburbs of the 416. The area served by the TTC was much more compact half a century ago, and closely-spaced, frequent services were essential to handling the demand.
Many people have no idea of the importance of the surface network before the Yonge Subway opened. Huge volumes of people flooded in and out of downtown every day, almost all by streetcar. A TTC map shows the routes taken by passengers in July/August 1943. Many patterns totally foreign to current travel are seen here:
- St. Clair West to downtown via Avenue Road & Bay Street
- Bathurst to downtown via Adelaide Street
- Dundas West and Roncesvalles to downtown from the Junction
- Service on the Dovercourt car to the King/Crawford industrial area
The TTC strove to show the efficiency of transit over the private car with a diagram comparing capacities and road space occupied. This predates the much more recent photo showing people sitting on chairs on a street arranged as they would appear in a streetcar or in many private vehicles. Loading targets were a bit higher in those days with 125 passengers on a PCC streetcar and 180 passengers on a G-type subway car, a value not far from the working capacity of a T-1 car. Conversely, the occupancy of autos is cited as 1.75 persons, a higher value than the average we see today.
Rapid transit plans in the 50’s were much different from what we actually built. This map shows the proposed Queen streetcar subway through downtown from Gerrard & Carlaw in the east to Dundas & Shaw in the west. For those who have debated the appropriate spacing of stations, the map gives an idea of 1950s-era thinking.
- Gerrard & Carlaw (connection to the Carlton and Pape streetcar services)
- Logan & Dundas
- Queen & Broadview (with a portal somewhere east of Broadview)
- Queen & River (Don Station), Parliament, Sherbourne, Church, Yonge, City Hall Station (Bay)
- Queen & York, Grange Station (probably McCaul or somewhere nearby), Spadina, Bathurst, Trinity Park,
- Dundas & Shaw
This is the sort of station spacing used for the “old” subways in Toronto, and unlikely to be duplicated today.
Queen Station itself shows up in various interesting ways.
- The Yonge level platform more or less as we know it
- The fare control area of the northbound (east side) platform showing the connection down to the Queen subway
- The Queen streetcar platform that was never completed
Up at Bloor Station, the volume of transfer traffic from the surface line demanded a closed transfer rather than having hordes of riders making their way through traffic to and from the subway. This shows up first in paintings (here and here) by Serafin and in several photos of the transferway itself (here and here). The Bloor-Danforth streetcar services dwarf anything we have today with a combined service east of Bedford Loop of one two-car train every 60 seconds. The total number of cars on this one route in 1954 was only slightly less than the peak number of cars on the entire streetcar system today.
Not long ago, there was some discussion here about the original connection from the subway to the railway station at Union. A construction photo shows clearly the passageway down into the “lost tunnel” under the moat and the existing stairway out to the south side of Front Street.
Browsing through the archives is in many ways the photographic equivalent of reading a good dictionary. The joy is not just in finding a shot you didn’t know existed, but in seeing all the other pictures and especially their backgrounds. Someone may have photographed traffic congestion (yes, the TTC was doing that over 50 years ago), but in the background are vanished streetscapes, sometimes in locations that are unrecognizable today.
If you have some time to spend over the holidays, a ramble through the city’s photo archives will prove very rewarding.