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.