McCaul Street Construction (Updated October 25, 2012)

The TTC is laying new track on McCaul Street north from Queen to College Dundas (not including the intersections, but including McCaul Loop).  Construction began earlier this summer with Toronto Water whose plant is underneath the tracks, but has now shifted to track construction.

The project is unusual in that the northbound and southbound tracks are being rebuilt separately probably as part of a scheme to maintain local access on this narrow, residential street.

Updated October 25, 2012:

The exit switch from McCaul Loop is now in place and the trackwork for operation through this loop will be finished once the concrete has cured.  All that remains is for new overhead to be installed, and service will return to this loop on Monday, November 19.

Updated October 21, 2012:

Construction of the southbound track is now in progress from Queen Street north to Grange Road (just north of McCaul Loop).  Streetcar service plans call for the 502 Downtowner to resume use of this loop in mid-November.

Looking south on McCaul to Queen from Grange Road:

Updated September 6, 2012:

This update mainly includes photos of a TTC crew welding track by the Thermite process.  This is used to join short sections of rail that are assembled on site by contrast to the long strings of tangent track for which electric arc welding is used.  This type of weld is also used to join the various castings in special work at intersections and loops.

Both types of welds are much stronger than the style used by the TTC until the early 90s when only a short arc weld was done at the top of a rail join, if anything.  Typically this did not last long, the joint broke, and the familiar cycle of concrete and track deterioration set in.  TTC had done thermite welding until the late 60s, but changed in anticipation of the planned abandonment of streetcars in 1980.  They took roughly a quarter century (and two decades after the pro-streetcar policy decision of 1972) to return to the construction of robust track.

The tracks to be welded are held in a jig which keeps them in alignment (yellow).  A jig holds the mould around the track, and a torch (horizontal with a round end) is flaming down into the mould to heat the track to an appropriate temperature for the welding.  The red cylinder to the right of the jig is the cauldron that will hold the charge for the weld.  To the left of the mould is an overflow pan that will take the excess molten metal.  This is not the sort of thing one wants to spill into the trackbed.

The cauldron is now in place, and the charge is ignited (see the Wikipedia article linked about for details about this process).

The charge burns at a heat sufficient to melt the powdered metal in the cauldron.

The metal flows out of the bottom of the cauldron into the mould and the overflow pan.  In the foreground, there is another weld that was done earlier, but which is still in its rough state (compare to the photo at the end of the sequence).

The cauldron has been removed, but the still molten metal is visible.

Only the outer form around the mould remains.

The mould is broken away leaving the rough, and still very hot, weld in place.  This will be ground down to smooth the joint once it has cooled.

Looking north on McCaul toward Dundas showing the concrete in place for the new northbound rail, and the OCADU (Ontario College of Art & Design University) “Tabletop” building.  It took me a while to warm to this structure which appears to have landed in an otherwise unremarkable part of town (the renovated AGO to the west came later), but it is precisely its idiosyncratic nature that brought me around.

Looking north from Queen on August 30.

The entrance to McCaul Loop.

Looking south on McCaul from Stephanie Street.  Note that the outside southbound rail is still unexcavated.

The view south on McCaul during Toronto Water’s work on July 18.

The track on McCaul was previously replaced between Queen and Dundas in 1988, and from Dundas to College in 1990.  Considering how little use it gets north of McCaul Loop, some of the problems with the pavement are simply the bad construction techniques of the era.

That replacement took out the last of the pre-TTC track remaining on the system between Elm Street and McCaul Loop.

During the massive reconstruction of the Toronto Railway Company’s system in the early days of the TTC, only the section from College to Elm was rebuilt to TTC standards in 1922.  The TRC rails from Elm south remained in place for over 65 years seeing use only by the occasional short turn, diversion or charter.

Here is what the TRC track looked like.

Note the shallow flangeway which caused TTC cars to ride on the tips of their wheels making a poor ground connection and usually a good fireworks show on this track.  Also, the web between the base of the rail and the running surface is comparatively thin and untapered.  Depending on how much dirt was in the track, and how dry the weather had been, it was possible for a car to completely lose ground connection.

35 thoughts on “McCaul Street Construction (Updated October 25, 2012)

  1. Lose ground connection? I presume you mean the cars would become airborne?

    Steve: No. If a car is touching the rail only through the edge of its wheel flanges, not the tread, and the track is full of dirt, there is a chance that all eight wheels will lose contact with the rail. I am talking about electrical ground, not Air TTC.


  2. “Note the shallow flangeway which caused TTC cars to ride on the tips of their wheels making a poor ground connection and usually a good fireworks show on this track.”

    A question that came up a few years ago, which I think is related, is why the flangeway of the Toronto streetcar system is wide compared to the flangeways in other North American cities. My guess would be that the flangeway was supposed to be wide enough to contain the wheels of a carriage. The shallow flangeway might be to support the wheel of the carriage from undernearth, and allow for easy wheel derailment and rerailment (err, easy wheel entry and exit).

    What are your thoughts?

    Steve: The early horsecar rails had shallow flangeways because the equipment run on them was lighter. It did not need heavy tracks with a large, deep railhead, nor particularly large flanges on the horsecar wheels. There was also the early requirement that carriages be able to drive on the horsecar tracks, but this predates the TRC era by 30 years. By the time the TRC was building track, they were using heavier rails, but still not as heavy as the TTC system would eventually employ for its even larger cars.


  3. Very interesting about the TRC track, also interesting that grooved rail was in use so long ago and isn’t today. The other day I noticed that very old, cobblestone track was surfacing on Sherbourne between Front and the Esplanade. I guess George Brown students will have to make do with increased service on the 75 Bus.

    Steve: Grooved rail was essential until streets were made from concrete to prevent the nearby paving from filling in the groove. Once concrete was the paving standard, the TTC could switch to cheaper “T” rail. Grooved rail remains on curves with a special cross-section designed to guide wheels around corners.


  4. What typically happened when the TRC streetcars lost their ground connection? Any particular incidents worthy mention, or just lots of sparks and the occasional streetcar that suddenly stopped dead?

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: It was more a problem for TTC cars. Lots of sparks were common, but the street is a slight downgrade and coasting off of the dead spot was usually easy.


  5. Steve, you mention,

    “The TTC has begun laying track on McCaul Street north from Queen to College”.

    Yet when I was last in the area, the track had only been removed as far north as Dundas. Does the TTC plan to continue the reconstruction north of Dundas?

    Steve: As far as I know, the project goes all the way to College where, by the way, the new track is stored.


  6. Parts of Adelaide, Richmond, York and Wellington have the last lengthy sections of grooved rail (which based on some old slides I have, seem to date back to about 1972) which seems to have withstood the years much better than the shoddy track of the 1980s, although much of it hasn’t seen many streetcars over the years. Do they still use drains between the rails? I haven’t seen many lately in the newer type of track construction.

    Steve: There are some track drains, but mainly at electric switches where they are not visible being under the switch machine. I checked Queen East, and there are three track drains between Broadview and Leslie, and one in the new track west of Coxwell at Ashdale. Looking at Google Street View, there was a drain there before, and so this is a replacement of an existing drain. I also noticed a set of brand new drain covers sitting among the bits and pieces of parts for the trackwork in front of Russell Carhouse.


  7. Any word if the new streetcar prototype is still on track to arrive this fall?

    Steve: The TTC recently confirmed a mid-September delivery, but the exact date is not set yet.


  8. Since this may be the best time to ask this, what is the weight classification of our streetcar rail compared to our subway rail? I’ve recently noticed that subway rail tends to be larger than streetcar rail, and after further digging it seems it is because subway rail is of a different weight class. I believe the same thing applies to freight and passenger railways, that their tracks are larger and heavier than subway and light rail tracks.

    Steve: I’m not sure of the current streetcar rail weight. Some time ago, there was a change to heavier rail on the subway to reduce the frequency of replacement due to wear.


  9. Loss of ground still happens today — Queen westbound at York can be a bad spot. The stop was actually taken out of service for awhile. The yards after a rain storm are common for this due to the sand wash up. There are procedures for this, which are safe and quick — you just don’t touch the body.


  10. Steve and Michael S:

    According to the construction notices posted on the project’s website, the work is limited to as far north as Dundas.

    Steve: Thanks for picking up on this. Unless there was some major watermain work to be done north of Dundas, it didn’t make sense to go all the way to College given the low usage of this track.

    In the original Capital Budget plans for 2012, the project went all the way to College. Until we see an updated plan for future years, we won’t know whether this section has been dropped or merely deferred.


  11. McCaul Street, other than the 502 Downtowner terminal, is used for diversions. When we see cities building their own streetcar and light rail lines in North America, they miss out one feature that Toronto has over them: diversion routes. In case of problems or closures, our streetcars generally can divert around the problem. There are exceptions of course, Lake Shore Blvd. and St. Clair have only short turns available to them, no diversion routes


  12. I was really surprised to see that that has actually been TRC track still around all the years and decades. I would imagine that even if the track on McCaul is only getting replaced north of Dundas at this point in time, the TTC will almost surely rebuild the rest of the track north to College. However, the TTC obviously has much higher priorities as far as track replacement is concerned. One thing this brings to mind looking back at TTC’s history is something I read once about the North Yonge cars making occasional trips downtown. Their wheel flanges were a little bigger than the ones on city cars so they would ride on their flanges in the city.

    Steve: To be clear, the TRC track was replaced in the 1988/90 projects. The 2012 project is replacing the track from Queen to Dundas including McCaul Loop which is from the “modern” era, but still before the point where the TTC began to build with concrete foundations, steel ties and rubber sleeves around the track.


  13. W.K. Lis said:

    In case of problems or closures, our streetcars generally can divert around the problem. There are exceptions of course, Lake Shore Blvd. and St. Clair have only short turns available to them, no diversion routes.

    I suppose / hope that in a very positive, streetcar friendly future, there will be streetcars on the Queensway west of Humber, when it becomes the “Avenue” it is planned to be.

    That would then (I hope) lead to streetcar track on Kipling between the Queensway & Lakeshore. I believe there has also been early talk about taking a streetcar (back) out to Port Credit, as well as extending the St. Clair Streetcar out to Dundas St. West and on to Kipling station, perhaps even into Mississauga along Dundas.

    I suppose it’s not much, but it’s something to hope for. I figure that when my kid is in school we will be debating whether the Hurontario LRT should use 1495 or 1435mm gauge (based on whether or not the waaaaay off in the future Dundas & Lakeshore streetcars should be able to connect to Toronto’s streetcar system).

    Steve: Don’t hold your breath. We can’t even get LRT in the eastern waterfront, and Queensway is way, way behind that. As for the gauge issue, we’re stuck with TTC gauge on the “legacy” system, standard gauge elsewhere. Interlining is the last thing on Metrolinx’ mind when they can’t even figure out how they will pay to build and operate everything.

    Cheers, Moaz


  14. A streetcar running west along the Queensway in Etobicoke could have resulted as an expansion if the Queen Street streetcar (light rail) subway was built instead of the Bloor-Danforth heavy rail subway. They could have put a right-of-way west of Islington easily, as opposed to the 3-lanes of auto traffic in each direction and a left turn lane using up wasted space today.

    Other logically streetcar extensions could have been built using right-of-ways in the 1950’s and 1960’s as well, such as a Bathurst streetcar extension north all the way to Steeles, mostly on a right-of-way as well.

    Unfortunately, the thinking was that the automobile was the future for Toronto and nothing happened really until Transit City.


  15. Do you know how old the special work at Dundas/McCaul was before it was last replaced? I recall before the last replacement someone saying one of the turns was actually out of gauge.

    Steve: According to my records, the last rebuild was in 1980, although the west to south curve was added in 1990. The TTC had originally replaced the TRC intersection here in 1923, and there is no further reference to it in Pursley’s “Toronto Trolley Car Story” which takes the record up to 1962. My own records start in the early 70s, but I do remember this as an intersection that seemed to have elderly special work. It is possible that others who read this comment can fill in the blanks.


  16. Though I am certainly a streetcar fan, one of the drawbacks of streetcars is the need (or desirability) to have diversion routes available to avoid accidents, street closures or construction and to allow for enough short-turn locations.

    Toronto has quite a few ‘diversion streets’ with little or no regular service (Bay, Church, McCaul, York, Shaw and Parliament being major examples.) However, there are also gaps in the track network. Adelaide and Richmond used to be diversion routes for King or Queen – not recently – and, apart from the TTC erecting new poles, no signs or announcements about the (long-dormant) Adelaide track being reopened.

    There are also possible diversion routes that have not had any tracks recently, or ever. (Bay from King to Queen to Dundas?) or a short-turn loop close to the Don River for King and Queen cars) or additional curves at a few spots to give greater flexibility.

    I realise that cost is one (good) reason not to build these and clearly some turns would be too tight (King at Bay I suspect) but does the TTC have a ‘wants list’ of minor track enhancements somewhere. Do you, Steve?

    Steve: There are a few extra curves planned for the next time intersections are rebuilt, but not as stand-alone projects. There was a report on the subject arising from suggestions made by an operator back in July 2010.

    The list in that report needs some housecleaning, but I’m not sure we will see it given the lack of attention to the streetcar system by the current administration. Management agreed that five new curves should be added.

    (1 & 2) College and Bathurst east-to-south and north-to-west.
    (3) Carlton and Church west-to-south. It is unclear why the matching north-to-east is not included.
    (4) King and York east-to-north. Assuming that Adelaide is going to be retained, and that reconstruction will happen next year, a north-to-east should be included at York and Adelaide. The east-to-north makes sense here if the track west of York will be retained, and it would be the only one of the existing complex intersection to remain. All others connect wrong-way trackage.
    (5) Broadview & Gerrard north-to-west. This would be the complementary curve to the existing east-to-south, and would make this location a 3/4 grand union, including the unusual offset for the job made by Gerrard crossing Broadview.

    The planned dates in the 2010 report were 2015 except for item (4) which was shown as 2018.

    Also in the list but not approved at the time was a new loop for the north-east corner of Broadview and Queen. The TTC entered into a land swap with the Toronto Parking Authority and now owns this parking lot with the intent of building a loop here. I am not sure whether the intersection is in the 2013 list (the updated plan isn’t out yet, but there are problems with derailments here that suggest it should be an early site).

    Finally, the proposed connection on Dufferin north from Queen is unlikely unless someone decides to build a Dufferin streetcar, but the new underpass at Queen is built to allow addition of streetcar track if this is needed in the future.

    In a city where building new track (eastern waterfront) is a challenge, I wouldn’t hold my breath for any streets that don’t have tracks now to receive them in the future except for the Leslie Street connection to Ashbridge Carhouse.


  17. Spadina Avenue was for many decades a streetcar diversion route. Maybe with a more transit-literate mayor, councillors, and TTC commissioners in the future, there may be more.

    One problem with creating more streetcar diversion routes would be the increases in bicycle usage. With more bicycles, the streetcar tracks become more of an obstacle and more of a problem. We will either have to enforce parking restrictions so that bicyclists will have a lane for themselves, or some sort of streetcar track aid may have to be invented or used to safeguard bicycles.


  18. I would also like to point out Dufferin is no longer usable for diversions. Section of the southbound track is paved over which essentially rules out any short turns to Dufferin loop.

    Steve: Dufferin will be rebuilt from the loop to Queen starting this month. The paving is probably the side effect of recent watermain work in the area. Here is the construction notice.


  19. Steve, did I read that report correctly? Full T-intersections on Ossington including at Dundas? That’s a pretty sharp corner going from south to west at Dundas.

    #7 is pretty interesting. It’s too bad because the TTC did have track on Ossington in a past age. If only they hadn’t abandoned it. Same goes for Crawford loop.

    #5, 8, and 9 are needed because the existing tracks cause a lot of grief for those in the east end due to the lack of diversion track over there.

    Spadina Circle loop is absent of course!

    Steve: Well, TTC management didn’t think much of the Ossington proposals either. I agree that the northwest quadrant at Dundas is too tight.

    Spadina Circle would have had a loop but for the intervention of the UofT who were building their new Earth Sciences lab when the line was proposed. They feared that vibrations from the streetcars would upset their delicate equipment. Why they would not build their lab with sufficient mechanical isolation from all types of vibration baffles me.


  20. Perhaps, I was just pointing out something I noticed during the Labour Day parade. Also, how old is the Dufferin track? It looks similar to the trc track image in this article.. it’s visibly different that’s for sure.

    Steve: The track on Dufferin from King to Queen dates from 1980, except the hill down to Queen which dates from 1990. The intersection at King was last rebuilt in 2003, and it was the trial location for encapsulation of the special work in a rubberized coating. However, it was not pre-assembled in panels, but on site. I don’t have any record of the track south of King being rebuilt. This may date from the period before I was keeping track of such things, or I may have just missed it. The pavement is probably newer than the track.

    Dufferin is not TRC track — the TTC rebuilt the entire street in 1922 according to Pursley. The track there today has deeper flanges than TRC rails.


  21. With regard to what W. K. Lis said about Bathurst, I have read that there was, in fact, a track allowance on Bathurst from St. Clair to, I believe, Steeles Avenue but supposedly heavy car traffic at the time (the ’30s) dictated the use of buses and the track allowance was paved over in 1935. I don’t know if this is 100 per cent accurate but that’s what I read many years ago.

    Steve: The only provision for streetcars north of St. Clair was that the Bathurst bridge over the Nordheimer Ravine was built with extra steel to carry streetcars. It is a sister bridge to the Leaside Bridge linking the top of Pape/Donlands to Thorncliffe. Both were built in preparation for expansion of the streetcar system, both had TTC traction poles on them, and both were widened comparatively cheaply because the structural capacity was already in both bridges. Bathurst car to Steeles? There was never any provision for this type of expansion.


  22. Would the track on Ossington have been removed or paved over? While inadequate for re-use, the precedence of having track on Ossington (mill pavement to reveal!) could make it politically easier to justify ‘reconstructing’ it rather than constructing virgin track where there once was old. I suspect this is why Adelaide has been left in place for so-long (TTC planning to reconstruct and didn’t want to fight to put it back if it was fully removed). As I recall, the track on Rogers road was in better condition when it was removed that Adelaide presently is, but was removed since there was no future plans to reactivate a streetcar route in that location.

    Steve: According to Pursley, the track on Ossington from Hallam to Bloor, and from Dundas to Queen was removed in 1948. Even if the track were still there, it would have to be completely rebuilt down to the foundation.

    I am still waiting to hear the TTC’s plans for Adelaide. They are being coy about their future track plans given the current controversy about “abandoned” streetcar track and cyclists.

    Rogers was only in good shape for the section between Old Weston and Keele that was rebuilt so that the buses driving that section didn’t tear themselves apart on the otherwise atrocious pavement. For many years after the line closed, the track was still visible in this part of the line because the concrete paving was in good shape.


  23. The Ossington streetcar, that will be the day. The new 14 Division police station is now complete on Dovercourt so why not bring back the Dovercourt car while we’re at it? The parking authority/police now have a good chunk of vacant land between them at Dovercourt/Harrison, which I understand used to be either a streetcar loop or a substation for streetcars . . . wouldn’t it be ironic if it reverted to its former use.

    On a more realistic note, Steve do you know when the re-build of the current Ossington track scheduled? The noise from the cars during a service diversion is deafening . . . not to mention the poor condition of the concrete makes biking a hazard on that stretch of Ossington.

    Steve: I know that it was in the five year plan, but the new version for 2013-17 has not been published yet. It’s one of the few diversion tracks not yet rebuilt.


  24. Steve said:

    I am still waiting to hear the TTC’s plans for Adelaide. They are being coy about their future track plans given the current controversy about “abandoned” streetcar track and cyclists.

    They are putting up new streetcar poles on Adelaide west of Bay Street so if the right hand knows what the left is doing one must assume they will rebuild track there too. I assume they are also participating in the various transportation studies of Adelaide and Richmond.

    Apart from the more general study of both streets and the larger downtown transportation project this tender (Richmond – Adelaide Corridor Cycle Tracks Planning and Design Study) has just been posted, closing September 24. Presumably any rebuild or reconstruction would follow a decision on exactly how Adelaide (and Richmond) are to be used.


  25. Regarding Adelaide:

    Does anyone notice the pantograph-friendly wiring over both sets of tracks on Adelaide just east of Yonge Street? Yes, even over the wrong-direction track too.


  26. Hi Steve:-

    Just some comments on your comments about Toronto Railway Company track.

    The sample of rail that you showed is probably a section of 122# girder rail. This rail is very likely not TRCo but most probably TTC. I don’t believe that the TRCo ever used rail that heavy, with the rare exception where the city and TRCo actually worked together to rebuild track prior to the TTC takeover 122 may have been used. I don’t recall where these anomalies occurred (if memory serves, there were some locations where cooler heads prevailed, not often enough mind, but…), so since the McCaul stretch did indeed have Dick Kerr rail in it from the TR days, ( I saw the rail go to scrap as I was the Way Yard Foreman at Hillcrest at the time of its replacement) your sample of 122 was probably a piece of relay installed by the TTC to replace a broken rail or to put back track after a utility excavation.

    Dick Kerr was an English manufacturer of all things street railway including controllers that were employed in some of the TTC’s large Witts. I wouldn’t be surprised if some TR cars had Dick Kerr controllers and motors.

    122 pound rail was the most common girder rail used for more than two decades on TTC track (laid in tangent track, shallow curves and outer rails on tighter curves where reverse check wasn’t required) until the steel mill’s dies, which it was rolled through, became so worn out that it precluded any more production of this cross section; unless of course North America’s street railways wanted to foot the bill for new dies. Well in the 60s that wasn’t about to happen, so the TTC found another suitable section, also seven inches high, weighing in at 104 pounds. Rail weights by the way are measured over a three foot stretch, thus 104 pounds to the yard. (Stating a weight usually conjures up, the height and the shape of the rail too. Some rails require more than that to describe them since the same rail weight can be different heights and cross sections. Not all 100 pound tee rail is the same.)

    104 rail had a different enough cross section, a much shorter lip for one, (only two holes for each rail end also for the joint compared to the three for 122 and its kin) that their splice bars could not be used from it to 122, or any other of 122’s mates, 140 pound check rail and 150 pound floored check. This then meant that anytime new 104 was laid, it had to have a compromise splice bar used to join it to the old. There was a large room at Hillcrest that held compromise splice bars of many varied sections to allow for any type of rail to be joined to any other. Right hand and left hands were necessary too along with compromise bars that were made in such a way as to allow for new rail to be spliced to old worn rail of the same or different section so that grinding and welding at joints could be minimized. There could be a whole other study of the rails that were used in the yards too as they were usually older and not the same sections as the 122 + rails.

    Getting back to McCaul Street, The Toronto Railway Company track that survived until recent memory would have had a rebuild sometime after TTC’s stewardship occurred for it would have been originally laid to a 3′-6″ devilstrip. That would have been OK if the narrower and offset centred TR cars were used exclusively but would not allow the new Witts to pass on this dimension of track. (the last 3′-6″ track was on the unrebuildable Sherebourne Street bridge) The TR rail in McCaul Street would not have reached its ‘sell by’ date at the time of the massive TTC overhaul of the former TR standards, so the rails there would have most certainly have been reused in the new 5′-4″ alignment.

    Dick Kerr rail had a cross section that was different from most others that I’d ever been acquainted with as it had a squarish lump rolled under the ball side and a really small lip. It came in a variety of weights that were very similar to each other in appearance and when new the minor differences were easily discernible, but by the time the corroded and pitted rails came out of McCaul Street it was pretty tough to tell what its original weight and section was. Suffice to say, the tell tale lump under the ball was the Dick Kerr identifier. Pursley’s volume one has a few Dick Kerr cross sections noted. Somewhere my memory banks seem to say that what had been in McCaul Street was 89 pound, but I can’t find any other reference to it other that my little grey cells. Buried somewhere in my files I gather.

    By the time you would have seen this English rail still finding the occasional car on McCaul it would have been so rusty and pitted from salt and lack of frequent use that this would account for the light show as the wheels tried to find ground. Definitely the sample of Dick Kerr rail that I own and the pictured 122 rail in this post have lots of ball left, so much so that the cars’ flanges would never touch the bottom of the groove. And even if it did, this would have given a more that adequately sound ground. One of the reasons why the TTC held on to girder rail so long in its tangent track was because of the perceived ease in a quick visual measure of the rails’ wear. This was particularly important at car stops where the ball (the rail’s running surface) would wear down to the point where the flange was indeed running in the bottom of the flangeway. That then was the time to schedule replacement. (I recall seeing a piece of rail at a carstop in Pittsburgh in the early 70s that had worn down to the point where the ball and lip were completely gone and the wheels were running on the web. The web is the vertical piece of the rail that supports the ball and lip up from the base.) Another reason was that the lip was an important safety factor on track that was still being repaved with setts. It wasn’t frequent at this late of a a date but I was once on a gang in the 70s that relayed a piece of track with setts. The safety factor was, that if tee rail had been used where there was sett paving, any loose stones in the gauge side of the track could wander over to the flangeway and possibly derail a car.

    When 104 and 122 were no longer available another girder rail change took place. The TTC adopted railway girder rail. Since the flange and flangeway dimensions for a typical railway need is wider that that of a street railway the new 128 and sister check rail 149 pound was introduced. Still seven inches high, it had to have its own splice bars to match its cross section, so another set of compromise bars were needed to be manufactured at Hillcrest. It was quite a skill to be able to spike under the large lipped 149.

    I am only guessing for I haven’t paid that much attention to track projects these days, but the likelihood is that present car track is laid with 100 pound ARA A sectioned tee rail. This is the most common size in use in the subway and was adopted for surface use too when the move was made to employ tee rail. It is 6 inches high.

    The other size in the subway is 115 pound RE and is 6 5/8ths inches high. There was a wholesale measuring of clearances in the subway system in the 80s to see if it was feasible to change the rail standards to the larger 115, but that 5/8ths inch meant that some many scores of locations would see the safe clearance envelope compromised, so 100 pound six inch rail remains the norm.

    And one last observance. The surface special work castings, switches, mates and frogs were for many decades and possibly still are, cast to mate with 122, 140 and 150 pound rail cross sections.

    As to cars losing ground, it’s usually due to sand build up but sometimes ice and snow. The quick way to re-energize a car is to jam a switch iron under the back of the rearmost wheel, moving the car and repeating this maneuver until the car has found proper ground again and then cleaning the built-up sand out of the flangeway.

    I guess you can tell, trackwork is one of my passions.

    Dennis Rankin


  27. Mikey asked,

    “Does anyone notice the pantograph-friendly wiring over both sets of tracks on Adelaide just east of Yonge Street?”

    Why is that so strange? Most of the wiring over existing tangent track is pantograph-friendly. It is the hangers used above switches and curves that make the the system non-pantograph-friendly.

    Now, if the wiring on Adelaide, including over the ‘wrong way’ track, has been replaced with the heavier gauge wire that is now being used, that is a different issue.


  28. @Calvin Henry-Cotnam

    I can’t tell what the wire gauge is, but I was referring to those new ^ shaped hangers that pull the wire sideways to stagger it along tangent track, which has been installed above both sets of Adelaide tracks at Yonge Street. Obviously, one of those tracks sees no service at all.


  29. Mikey said,

    “… but I was referring to those new ^ shaped hangers that pull the wire sideways to stagger it along tangent track”

    Understood, but I was pointing out that much of Toronto’s tangent wiring can function perfectly well with pans under it. Overhead wiring in Melbourne’s CBD is very similar, and while staggering is important to even out wear on the pantograph and prevent grooving, staggering on streets where stops are close is not mandatory as speeds do not get high enough for grooving to be a serious issue.

    That said, the installation of the new hangers on Adelaide does seem strange. Though, I suppose the location would be a good place to try out installation procedures as the overhead infrastructure is there with no streetcar traffic to block.

    Steve: I rather like the overhead complete with pantograph style wire suspension eastbound on Richmond near Victoria where there is no track at all, not even under the pavement.

    There are also places where the inverted U type of hangars are used on tangent wire, not just at intersections, and these will not clear pans. I won’t mention the number of places where signs are hung from the overhead that would snag a passing pan. There’s a lot of housecleaning to do.


  30. Oops. In my earlier comment about pan-friendly wiring over decommissioned track, I meant to say Richmond, just east of Yonge Street. Not Adelaide.


  31. The track removed along Queen Street between Coxwell and Greenwood was of a distinctly lighter gauge than the track which was installed to replace it. I will shortly send in a photograph of a relatively current piece of track which matches the gauge of the new mainline track installed on Queen, with a scale to visualize it’s geometry. Note that most freshly rolled rail stock is impressed on its web, with the rail weight, so anybody passing a pile of prewelded strings could resolve the weight debate.

    I must openly wonder about one thing: In the old ‘inferior’ track laying configuration, the rails, directly encased in concrete, would have been ‘passivated’ by the alkalinity of the surrounding concrete. Further, with the very likely cracks that would develop around the rails (or the porosity of pavers in the case of older construction) would enable the track to drain/dry out. With the new rubber vibration isolators, we have a (relatively) waterproof membrane, which can trap a small amount (in the winter) of salt laden water between the rubber and the rail. Is anyone aware of corrosion studies related to this new mode of construction? It would be really unfortunate if we end up in 18-20 years time, with rail whose concrete and head are in great shape, but whose web is so rotten from corrosion that it still requires replacement.


  32. Please tell me if you can – is the TTC intending to have a “standard” streetcar route up McCaul street – instead of what is now and has been, a “diversion” route? I certainly hope not because I live on McCaul Street and there is already too much traffic and pedestrian congestion.

    Steve: It’s only diversion trackage other than the section between Queen and McCaul loop used by the 502 Downtowner car.


  33. Do you know why that Peter Witt structure that used to be in the middle of McCaul Loop? Everything I’ve googled said that the structure has been heavily modified but still remains, but I really don’t buy this. I’m very sure it’s been removed totally.

    Steve: The two streetcar bodies that were there formed a restaurant, but it never did very well and closed. If there are any remnants, they’re not obvious, but I will look the next time I’m in the neighbourhood.


  34. The two streetcar bodies were removed four or five years ago now. There wasn’t much left of them other than the ends and one side of the body of each car.


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