A Look Back: Rail Grinder W28

There was a time when the TTC had a fleet of surface work cars:  rail grinders, flat cars, cranes, a sand car, snow ploughs and sweepers.  They’re all gone (a few survive in museums), and maintenance of the surface system uses much more prosaic vehicles.

My favourite was W28, originally Toronto Civic Railway 57, that operated as a rail grinder from 1955 until it was replaced with a PCC rail-grinding train in 1976.

As an early Easter gift to readers, here is a photo gallery of W28 from 1967-8.

30 thoughts on “A Look Back: Rail Grinder W28

  1. That’s a lovely yellow work car – what a shame we lost such delights. Great pictures and lighting, as usual. Fun to see the old automobiles and the laundry out to dry! Boy do I remember going through those CNE entrance/exit gates. Thanks for the memories!


  2. Any idea why they abandoned rail grinding on the streetcar trackage? I never see any maintenance unless it’s replacement now.

    Steve: For a time, there was an idea at the TTC that the new style of track with all its rubber padding would not need grinding. Of course, before that there was an era where the TTC just stopped building good track and maintaining what they had. Quite recently, the TTC has been using a rail grinding service for problem locations, but the track does not corrugate as quickly as it used to.


  3. “At Bathurst Station Loop. W28 was the only car the TTC owned that would fit on the run-around track between the sidewalk and the platform.”

    Is that the same loop that turns southbound streetcars back into the station (which still exists today)? I had thought that it was fully operational with the existing fleet, but the LFLRV’s wouldn’t be able to use it.

    Steve: It is operational, but it’s impossible for a car to sit on that track without blocking the sidewalk.

    “W28 sits in Hillcrest Yard. The track here was dual gauge so that freight cars delivering materials (notably rail and related hardware) could be switched off of the CPR freight line into the yard.”

    Does that link still exist today?

    Steve: I’m not sure. It’s been a long time since wanders through the yard were possible. Maybe someone who knows Hillcrest today can enlighten us.


  4. The track on Spadina between King’s College Circle and Harbord has some corrugation which seemed to appear after the boulevards were put in south of the Circle. It seems to hae developed when work equipment was stored there.


  5. So… if the current vehicles do not fit on the run around/storage track at Bathurst Station why was it not decommissioned and removed many years ago?

    Steve: Because cars can use the track — they just can’t stop there. It will be interesting to see an LFLRV here.


  6. Steve, these photos are amazing… they look like they were taken yesterday, not over 40 years ago!


  7. Hiya Steve. Any idea when the St. Clair loop at Mt. Pleasant was abandoned? My family lived at St. Clair & Inglewood for 30 years since ’77 and the tracks were there, but were not being used. The electric trolly cars, Route 74 was in action up to Eglinton & Mt. Pleasant at that point.

    Great photos! Cheers

    Steve: Streetcar service up Mt. Pleasant lasted until July 1976, and the St. Clair night car continued to use Moore Park Loop until October, but the whole thing fell victim to the machinations of the anti-streetcar forces in the Metro Roads department. A long closure of the line to rebuild the bridge at Merton Street, combined with the fact that the trolleybus replacement service was never as good as the streetcars, caused the demand to reorient to the east-west bus services. The classic downward spiral of service cuts and lost riding left us with the line as it is today — infrequent service, low riding, and some periods with no buses at all.

    For further info, please see the route history on Transit Toronto.


  8. According to google maps it looks as though the link has been removed to the mainline CPR tracks. I can see where it was but according to the map it has either been removed or long since overgrown with brush but I am guessing its been removed since there is a lack of a track switch.


  9. To answer an above question; the TTC has a tender out right now to build/rebuild a spur to Hillcrest yard from the CPR.


    Oddly to me, though, is that the TTC is busy removing the former CN Spur to Greenwood; and I don’t think (could be wrong) there is a spur to Wilson.


  10. Re: the CN spur to Greenwood, are they actually removing it or just extending the gauntlet track along the CN spur so that it can be used as subway storage when deliveries are not taking place?

    And if they are removing it, how will subway vehicle deliveries be made? I’m reasonably sure there is no spur into Wilson yard, and the Belt Line is no longer available to make deliveries to Davisville.

    Steve: The TRs come into Wilson by truck and are assembled into trains there.


  11. Hi Steve:-

    There is no more dual gauge track at Hillcrest. It had been at the extreme west end of the property, behind the woodworking shop and boiler house (before building Duncan, the bus facility) and there was a piece at the south side as well.

    Where the W-28 is, is on one of the tracks in the middle of the way yard that was on a diagonal to the main road south of the shop building and east of the sand house. The standard gauge ended just south of the roadway. There was wire over this and here is where the cranes and flatcars had been stored between uses.

    There was no trolley wire over the S and W bits and I recall a flatcar, W-1 possibly, being dragged out along the south bit to unload scrap from some overnight project. This was an infrequent practice, but was an option when the yellow work cars were employed.

    There is still a CPR spur into the property, it divides into two tracks near the gate and then stub ends without dual gauge. Rails are received here. Interesting to see that this track is going out to tender to relay it as the spurs that are there now were built by my in-house TTC gang when I was the yard Foreman (mid 1980s). We removed all of the offending dual gauge and built the brand new switch and standard gauge on TTC property. Hundreds of tons of rail was received on those tracks.

    The last use that I was aware of for the dual gauge to the west end of the property was for the delivery of the CLRVs. The CPR delivered them to the southerly piece of dual gauge, (parallel to CP’s mainline) then the flat cars were switched back (with a bucket loader) to a ramp just south of Davenport and then with the bucket loader again, the CLRVs were towed from the flat cars onto TTC track and switched back into Harvey shops using one of the NW entry doors.

    As to the abandonment of the Mt Pleasant loop; I recall being on the track gang that removed the diamond, trailing switch, mate and frog from the north end of the loop (on Mt. Pleasant just north of St. Clair) and then replacing them with plain girder rails to keep the loop active for its last few weeks. These were relatively new castings and were taken out within days of the closure of the line above St. Clair. They had the same geometry as the exit from Wolseley and since that stretch of track on Bathurst was slated for renewal soon afterwards, the almost new bits of special work were relaid there.

    Steve: I think you mean Moore Park Loop. Mt. Pleasant Loop was at Eglinton.

    And too Steve, you brought back a pleasant memory of riding that grinder around the block Parliament, Gerrard, Broadview and Dundas when on a lunch break that I had when on the track gang on Parliament one day. It was amazing, as this noisy, growly geared, bright yellow car in a sea of red and cream PCCs would attract so little attention that when it approached a carstop, passengers would file out from the curb and be amazed when they weren’t allowed on with their transfers. Go figure eh!

    It had received a modernized front after a bump by a diseasel bus about a year prior to its retirement. It was bumped again and although that accident was minor it was the end of the car’s use on the TTC. The W-30 and 31 were on board by then. I repaired that damage before the car was shipped out to Rockwood (last I knew it is still serviceable there) with free time after work in the yard by reattaching the bottom edge to the frame and replacing the broken window in the right side. Of course I had to test my repair by pumping up the air and moving the car a few feet on its storage track just to be sure that there was visibility through that new window eh.

    Thanks for the memories Steve.

    Dennis Rankin


  12. Incredible shots — I’m amazed at how well they’ve been preserved — no color fading at all. You took all of these yourself back then? It almost seems like a surreal trip back in time. Do the Archives at Spadina and Dupont have copies of these? … ie. … “Steve Munro Fonds”.

    Steve: Yes, these are all my own, taken on Kodachrome which holds its colours very well. There is a small amount of correction added by the scanner, but not much.


  13. RE: Bathurst station loop

    I had heard somewhere that the loop would be too tight for the LFLRV to turn into anyhow.


  14. Another element that really stands out in these photos is just how clean and well-kept the city looked back then. Thanks for sharing these fantasitc shots Steve.


  15. Have you ever thought about scanning your entire set of transit photos and putting them online for public consumption?

    Steve: There are close to ten thousand. I am scanning them for my own purposes (mainly to build an index) as and when I have time to work on this, but have no intention of putting them online.


  16. Hi Steve:-

    Yes Steve, Moore Park, that’s what was at my fingertips, I got tongue tied.




  17. Richard White said: So… if the current vehicles do not fit on the run around/storage track at Bathurst Station why was it not decommissioned and removed many years ago?

    Steve said: Because cars can use the track — they just can’t stop there.

    But in July, 2009, they did stop there on that short section of track and more than once. At the time the 505 cars were diverting to Bathurst Station causing the loop to be used now and then for stopping or parking to allow other streetcars to go by.

    Here is a link with photographic proof (photos 2009_0705_17311 & 2009_0705_174717).

    But as Steve said: It’s impossible for a car to sit on that track without blocking the sidewalk.

    Steve: Yes, that track gets lots of use, but it’s not the “friendliest” way for the TTC to behave. It will be totally impossible with the LFLRVs whether or not they can actually make the turn.


  18. And how did you make the trips through the City to catch these pics? Are they spread out over some days?

    But thanks for sharing regardless of any answer.

    Steve: These photos are from several separate sessions spread over two years.


  19. Based on the official track plan of Hillcrest complex (1960), Toronto Survey Map (1950), aerial photos (1950s), photographs and valuable information provided by Dennis Rankin I compiled a map of Hillcrest Complex that illustrates double-gauge portions of streetcar tracks.

    This map is a part of a bigger streetcar track and overhead T.C. coach wire plan in 1965 which is on the way to public. It will include all TTC streetcar and trolley coach facilities in that time.


  20. With the new LFLRV coming, wouldn’t it be better to reconfigure the Bathurst Station by switching places by putting the streetcar tracks where the bus bays are currently? The 7 Bathurst bus really does not need the vast expanse they currently use on the east side of the platform, the west side of the platform could be fine for the buses. The 90 Vaughan bus no longer terminates at Bathurst Station, but at St. Clair West Station.

    When was the last time the trackwork at the station was worked on? When it does come time, would it not make sense for the 511 Bathurst streetcars to use the east side of the platform, especially with the longer LFLRV coming.

    Steve: I have always thought that this station was “backwards” in the amount of space it allocated for buses, although now that the CNE service tends to be provided as much by express buses, it’s a toss up. One problem with reversing the loop would be that streetcars would have to push across not just the northbound traffic, but also butt into the southbound flow much closer to the Bloor Street intersection than they do today.


  21. One thing that’s striking is how much darker the night sky was back then in the two night shots. There weren’t as many tall buildings to be lit up at night as there are now and blasting everywhere with kilowatt after kilowatt of outdoor lighting to turn night into day is a fairly recent practice that doesn’t look like it had taken hold yet when those pictures were taken. (There is a subtle irony in that with respect to available light photography because modern fine grained films are much faster now that speed’s less important because nighttime lighting’s so bright vs. the slow films available back then when lighting was less excessive.)

    Steve: Shooting at night on Kodachrome required a tripod and fairly long exposures (I remember 10 seconds at f5.6 being common as a starting point). There was hardly any available light in Hillcrest Yard (one reason I liked that shot was that most of the light comes from W28 itself), and even Exhibition Loop was not brightly lit in the track area. Actual exposure times came from experience and a profound distrust for light meters. Street views tended to have more light both on the roads and from neighbouring buildings. At least the slow film was forgiving about getting the exposure exactly right.


  22. Steve — I particularly liked the image you’ve captioned “Westbound crossing the bridge over the Avoca Ravine”. The buildings in the foreground are, of course, long gone, replaced with apartment or condo towers. Nice to see that there were indeed actually family homes in that area at one point.

    Steve: The shot was taken from one of the first of the new towers in the area still under construction at the time.


  23. Steve, I may have to make a copy of the photo in which the Rail Grinding Car arrives at the CNE — frame it and put it up in my home. It’s that good. 🙂

    Steve: Thank you!


  24. Steve,

    Thank you for posting these photos. To echo earlier comments, it’s a shame you aren’t putting more of these online for folks to see. I’m stunned by the clarity. You would give the archives a run for it’s money on who has the better collection, I’m sure.

    Steve: I like to make the photos an occasional treat, but thanks for the compliments. As for the city archives, their collection is mainly from an earlier era than when I started photographing in the mid 60s.


  25. Great photos! A number of them show the streetcar tracks set in cobblestones… I think we’ve lost something special by switching to plain old concrete.


  26. Most of my pictures including night shots are on Kodachrome 64 and I typically shot at f8.0 to get a bit more depth of field, and I was using exposure times ranging between 7 to 15 seconds depending on the amount of light available. Unfortunately Kodachrome 25 was discontinued shortly after I started using that so I didn’t take as many pictures with it as I would’ve liked but I did get a few night photos.

    The biggest problem was catching a streetcar at a stop or a traffic light long enough to focus tightly, lock the mirror up and get a long enough exposure before the streetcar would take off again. This problem’s unique to transit photography though; landscapes or architecture photography aren’t affected by that issue since buildings don’t start moving as soon as the traffic light changes.

    I’m curious what caused your profound distrust of light meters? I’d be skeptical at best of a sixties light meter with a selenium photocell even brand new, especially for low light measurements, and I wouldn’t consider using a 40+ year old second hand one now because of the way selenium semiconductors deteriorate over time. That said, good light meters can be helpful but they aren’t a substitute for experience because without that, you can’t interpret what the meter’s suggesting in a useful way.

    Steve: I remember making the transition from K25 to K64 and — hurrah! — the option of better depth of field or shorter exposure. My distrust of light meters came from experience with what exposures worked (typically from taking more than one shot at different settings), and the problems of deciding what chunk of the shots I wanted to have the “correct” exposure. This gets even trickier when a bright object (the streetcar) isn’t in the shot yet when taking a reading.


  27. Shot #2 shows the apartment building I used to live in on Broadview.

    The other half of the complex was at 9 Tennis Cr. The friends that lived there said it always took a minute to explain to taxi drivers exactly what the address was.

    How many LFLRVs would it take to completely tie up the Bathurst loop?

    Steve: You can probably fit three of them on the length of the platform.


  28. Are there any loops left that the new LFRV’s could block themselves if one is pushing another.

    I mean where there is a left turn first then a right loop as at Lansdowne & St Clair. They reversed the loop at Gunns Rd. when they rebuilt St Clair to avoid this as far as I know.

    Steve: Clockwise loops are comparatively rare, and a few that we have (Dundas West, Main) are quite large. Earlscourt crosses over itself, but there’s still room for a two-car train.


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