Looking Back: Toronto By Night I

As a holiday present for my faithful readers, a selection of photos taken at nights on the streets of Toronto.

This set begins in 1967 and runs through to early 1972.  During this period, a friend and I spent a lot of time chasing works equipment to various track projects around town.  Standard M.O.: sit opposite Hillcrest gate waiting for the work cars to depart, follow them on their way, and set up for photos when they stayed put long enough.

Many of the PCC photos are from all-night charters, yes, I admit it, “fantrips” where a bunch of rail buffs of dubious sanity would not only stay up all night riding a streetcar and photographing it, but would charter a car for the purpose.  Professionals have words for such people, and these tend to be dismissive at best suggesting that the “foamers” are unfit to comment on transit policy.  I won’t say anything about the competence of those making such remarks beyond noting that I have a blog now, four decades on, and they don’t.

30 thoughts on “Looking Back: Toronto By Night I

  1. Merry Christmas … foamer! Great shots from the past — but I honestly don’t even recall all of that track construction back then (it seemed like the system was being left to deteriorate on its own). Any shots of the subway from that period?

    Steve: I do have some subway shots including construction of the BD extensions and some G-train coverage, but not as extensive as the surface routes. The subway just doesn’t have the variety of backdrops that are available on streets.

    Seeing these pictures with the vintage signs brings back so many happy memories, but you didn’t get any shots with the old Coca-Cola signs in them! Anyway, thanks again for the trip down memory lane.

    Steve: I will keep my eye peeled for Coca-Cola signs as I work my way through the collection.


  2. I remember, as well, when streetcar service operated through track construction projects. Unlike today, I find that continuing the service was better than detouring or replacing the streetcars with buses. I even remember reading somewhere that some streetcar companies had temporary tracks to get over fire hoses, so the streetcar can continue past a fire scene. The current streetcars seem to be very delicate pieces of equipment compared with the PCC streetcars.

    Steve: It’s less the delicacy of the streetcars than a combination of the scale of construction (right down to the foundation) and the desire to let the concrete cure without vibration. There were a few diversionary tracks built — College at St. George, St. Clair West Station, Gerrard Street Bridge — but these days I expect the TTC would just run buses or no substitute at all while the streetcars diverted nearby.


  3. Only a tried and true streetcar buff like myself could truly appreciate the significance and the nostalgia that these photos generate. Much appreciation to Steve Munro for sharing these photos.


  4. Wonderful Steve, thanks for sharing; I’m too young to remember riding the PCCs in service let alone to remember the character and form of the city reflected in your photos. It’s an invaluable record.


  5. What happened to the pair of stairs at South Kingsway on The Queensway? When were they taken out of service, and for what reason?

    Steve: I believe that the stop was taken out of service as a security measure because of the isolated location.


  6. I think we all owe you an extremely resounding THANK YOU for posting these pictures. It’s truly a wonderful holiday present, as well as a treat, to see what you’ve chosen to post here.

    One thing I always find interesting is to find out what else has disappeared besides the PCCs or whatever other type of streetcar that happens to be the subject of any picture. Back in the days when PCCs still ruled the roost, I always loved it when I could read about how certain other things in a picture were gone but that the PCCs carried on. But time does have a very nasty habit of changing everything though.


  7. Thank you for these precious photos! I have a question regarding Runnymede Loop. It seems that two tracks come together here and PCC stands on the left (upper) one. However, according to this track plan the track layout was different here and the only wye it had was between the tail track going west and the loop track going north west.

    Steve: The curve you are seeing in front of the streetcar is the edge of the bus loop, not a second streetcar track.


  8. Thank you, Steve. I know I was on at least one of the charters — the last Bloor & Danforth Shuttles. We missed going to Runnymede that night because the TTC clipped down the overhead early to get the Trolley Coaches in use sooner.

    Did some of that track at Church & Wellington last from 1970 until the new century, encased in concrete but unused because of the one-way streets?

    Steve: For quite a long time it was still possible to run “wrong way” along Wellington to Church, and the east-to-north curve was replaced when the special work came out. The TTC seems to have preserved its options in case the one-way pattern changed for a long time, but when the King/Church intersection was last rebuilt, the northbound track from Church and all associated curves and switches were not replaced. Similarly, the southbound track and special work at King/York came out in the last rebuild. Wellington itself is scheduled for reconstruction in the next few years, and the eastbound track will disappear at that time.


  9. “Steve: I believe that the stop was taken out of service as a security measure because of the isolated location.”

    South Kingsway still exists as a stop, still around where the abandoned stairs are today.

    Also, very nice photos. The quality looks like they were taken yesterday. And Merry Christmas!

    Steve: Kodachrome stands up well with time. The online resolution is limited by the size of jpegs I want to publish, not by the original material.


  10. Steve … thank you for the photos and Merry Christmas to you.

    On the stop at South Kingsway & Queensway,

    Steve: I believe that the stop [South Kingsway and Queensway] was taken out of service as a security measure because of the isolated location.

    I recall that stop being the subject of a “Fixer” article in The Star … dead birds and bird poop were making it an undesirable place to be for waiting passengers. If I recall correctly, Adam Giambrone or someone from the TTC indicated that they would clean it up. If they subsequently decided to close it …

    Cheers, Moaz


  11. W.K. Lis says

    “I remember, as well, when streetcar service operated through track construction projects.”

    I was in Amsterdam two years ago and they had many sections of temporary (surface) track around construction sites (for a subway extension). They also have several places where there is only space for one streetcar track so it is controlled by signals to allow for two way traffic. A bit like the 5th lane on Jarvis!


  12. The Queensway and South Kingsway stop was taken out of service for a couple years while a new stop was built just east of the bridge with a crossing light for access. The new stops seem to be a lot better used.

    The new stop was probably needed anyway because of the new streetcars.

    Just a month ago they added corresponding bus stops for the 80 Queensway and 77 Swansea buses.


  13. Steve, just a thought … Can you put up some photos of streetcars in snow? Just seeing the snow tonight made me think how much I’d like to see such photos … even if they include a line of stuck CLRVs.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: Actually, I don’t have any. Snow and I don’t get along well, and I never made a practice of going out to photograph storms.


  14. Thank you very much for the photos, Steve. It must have been surreal to watch as bit-by-bit, entire lines were dismantled and melted down for scrap, though the many photographs of times past serve as a healthy reminder of what could be (in different ways) restored.

    I took a trip for a large portion of the Bloor subway the other day, and am somewhat sad to see the eroded attitude towards preserving/maintaining the extruded glazed ceramic bricks which adorn most of the stations. With Dufferin and Pape stations as examples of what is likely yet to come, I cringe to think of what these stations will look like in 20 years. The old bricks may no longer be available. However, they were highly versatile and maintainable.

    Currently, the grout need only be sawcut out, the bricks removed, the work performed, and the bricks restored. This has been done countless times at many locations with an uninterrupted appearance restored. With the frequency of structural inspections bound to increase, and the local removals necessary to expose the concrete behind, I have no doubt that the tiled finishes at both of these stations will not outlast the bricks that preceded them. Modular, interchangeable components are great, but only when the vast majority of the system uses them. I hope that the TTC is able to settle on a system which will ultimately restore a sense of uniformity to the line which can be readily maintained.

    Incidentally, I am curious about what has happened to the bricks etched with station names? Could make for some retro revenue fodder if they sold them off…

    All the best, and Happy New Year.

    Steve: When the old tiles were torn out at Museum for the new decorations, they were fairly badly broken up. I suspect the same happened at Pape and at Dufferin. As for “retro revenue”, I suspect that the cost of carefully excising the station names for resale would exceed the price the TTC could get for them.


  15. Beautiful shots, Steve. Thanks for sharing. Do you happen to recall details like the camera & film used for these shots?

    Steve: I was using Kodachrome 25 probably for most of these as I didn’t convert to Kodachrome 64 until much later than the period those shots cover. Also, K25 was more forgiving for night shots because of the wider latitude of the slow film. The colours have held up beautifully thanks to the dye transfer process of that film.

    Typical street scene exposures were anywhere from 5 to 20 seconds depending on the light (which was guessed at, not measured, based on experience, or bracketed when unsure) at f5.6. There is always the challenge of exposing for what you want, not for the hot spots in the frame.

    The camera was a Nikkormat, later a Nikon. Originally it would have been a 50mm lens, although later I used a 45-86 zoom and, only occasionally for night shots, an 80-200 zoom (usually the subject was not far enough away to warrant that, and there are problems with camera shake with a lens that big).

    One big issue in the choice of locations was to try to avoid any kind of gas discharge street lighting because of the monochromatic spectra of the era. CLRVs are terrible for night shots because of their interior lighting whereas PCCs and Witts both had incandescent lamps. You may have noticed that some of the locations were chosen to align well with the rising sun and the very deep blue sky that precedes dawn. Routes for the charters were planned out with this sort of thing in mind.

    Needless to say, there is far more detail in the slides than the versions I have published as I want to keep the high res stuff for myself.

    I have not been doing any of this kind of shooting for years.


  16. Thanks for the photos! I agree Kodachrome was the best stock available and even after so many years still looks brand new unlike most every other colour film stock. It was a real shame when they stopped producing Kodachrome, of all the film stock that’s the one that deserves to be continued for both its beauty and longevity.


  17. Hi Steve:-

    Thanks for the memories again. I worked on the car tracks when the service continued while we worked on its renewal. The prime problem with the olde thunder track reconstruction, as you noted, was the vibration transmitted to the concrete by the passing cars, as it really should have been allowed to cure without being disturbed. This vibration contributed to compromising the quality of the cure and thus accelerating the deterioration of the concrete immediately around the rails, then allowing water to seep into the track bed thus damaging the track even more.

    As to the original tiles that had been the station names for refurbished and refaced subway stations; I watched at Union, the first one done, when the tiles (made out of glass) were taken from the walls intact and then smashed when pitched into the dumpsters. I was able to score one from Union and Wellesley (three pieces) before they were tossed.

    I too watched and photographed (before I was an employee) crane C-2 working on Gerrard at the Greenwood dip one night, I think 1968, and was really impressed with the speed and co-ordination with which the crew worked to deliver the 62 foot long pieces of 104 pound girder rail. Skills and efficiency that no longer exist in today’s track rebuilding.

    Happy New Year to you and your readers Steve, and my heartfelt thanks for continuing your worthwhile site.

    Dennis Rankin


  18. Michael S said …

    “and am somewhat sad to see the eroded attitude towards preserving/maintaining the extruded glazed ceramic bricks which adorn most of the stations”

    That was the cheapest cladding material available at the time. Vitrolux and larger porcelain panels (ie. Queens Park) were both considered for Bloor-Danforth, but dropped due to cost. Murals for Warden and Islington using a mosaic of smaller multi-colored tiles were also dropped to save money. The line really was built on the cheap.


  19. I certainly don’t debate the economy of the station finishes implemented on the Bloor line, but what I admire is the consistency in which the theme was implemented. Matching font style and size, consistent ‘branding’ with signage style and font. Stylized stations with the ~6″ name ribbon at the top. Much of which is slowly being eroded by a patchwork of repairs which are seemingly being implemented without vision. It certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world if the TTC decided to implement a different station finish scheme throughout the system, but for each designer to operate in partial isolation I feel will create maintenance and aesthetic nightmares in the future.

    On a slight tangent: Does anybody know if there is a long term plan to restore some sort of finish at the York Mills station, or if the removals there are intended to be permanent?


  20. Thanks for the memories. I think I might have been on some of those charters sponsored by the UCRS, TTS, or even individuals like the late Larry Partridge or Mike Roschlau. My wife and I were recently in San Francisco and riding the PCC’s and Witts there on the MUNI F Market St line made me think back to all those great PCC memories in Toronto. (Wish Toronto had an equivalent of the MUNI F line, perhaps Union to the CNE). When I first got into railfanning, it was always a treat to ride the “Kansas City Cars” on Mt. Pleasant to the UCRS meeting. Alas, it seems today, only the bus fans are doing any charters……..

    Steve: Part of the problem these days is the high cost the TTC charges because we couldn’t possibly expect the city to subsidize charters, and they are on a full cost recovery basis. It costs a lot to maintain the PCCs and they are used so little. I will even be surprised to see them out much this summer on Harbourfront given the shutdown now in progress and a later one planned for the Spadina intersection.


  21. Happy New Year, Steve.

    Your pictures and blog form an important historical record of Toronto, and how our transit (transportation) has been at the core of it. I’m so glad you are taking the pictures, and publishing them here for all of us.

    It’s funny. I love streetcars, but I don’t think the big investment in them will speed up commuting. I hope they find a solution to get people between work and home in our futures. Streetcar (or light rail) transit is many things, but it has never been a fast way to go in Toronto. I hope the city finds an answer. I wish I could offer a solution.

    Boston installed elevated trains, and then removed them! I think everyone hates buried bus ways underground, but I don’t know the issues. Subways cost far too much.

    Whichever way our politicians choose, I’m glad you will be here to record it with pictures and words.



  22. Tom Nemeth of Railpace had a great editorial a few issues ago (wish I could find it) with the confusion between streetcars and LRT. I live in Burlington and see this happening in Hamilton where the residents seem to want the same number of stops for the proposed LRT as the B line bus. I think his position, to paraphrase, was that a streetcar stops everywhere but an LRT is designed with limited stops and commuters from the city perimiter in mind. Currently, the artics used on the B line do a credible job and the city has finally realized that they are not getting LRT for free. With a crumbling infastructure and a police dept demanding 5% budget increases yearly, it might be a tough sell.


  23. Happy New Year to everyone!

    Mike Lindsay said December 30, 2012,

    “My wife and I were recently in San Francisco and riding the PCC’s and Witts there on the MUNI F Market St line made me think back to all those great PCC memories in Toronto. (Wish Toronto had an equivalent of the MUNI F line, perhaps Union to the CNE).”

    Here is an interesting website for San Francisco’s Market Street Railway, which has a lot of material, including high-res pictures of antique streetcars and buses.

    I agree with Mike about a streetcar line running the occasional antique, but those cars looping at Union have very heavy loads. Last year I questioned the need for a Harbourfront East LRT, that a simple streetcar line would suffice. Much cheaper to build. Then, run the PCC and Peter Witt from Parliament to the CNE without touching Union Station. What do you think?

    Steve: The problem is that the people who will live, go to school and work on the eastern waterfront mainly want to go to and from Union Station, not to the CNE. You must look at the waterfront as it will be in 10 years or more, not what is there today.

    Also, from a purely technical point of view, it would be difficult to connect trackage from east of Bay through to the west of Bay trackage without dodging into the curb lanes around the portal.


  24. Damn, if this blog didn’t whip up some pleasant memories! I live just east of the last (?) extended runs for the PCC Rockets, just off of Broadview and what is still the 504/505 combo line down from Broadview Station, considerably before the 505 splits off on Dundas and the 504 shares space with the 501 until King begins about a klick to the west. Of course, all of what’s on there now are the 1973-built UTDCs, though it _is_ a nice treat when luck and timing allow me to ride on one of the ‘red-back’ prototype UTDCs (Reg. 4000-4005), which I count as a sign of good fortune. ^_^

    Steve: The CLRVs date from 1977-81. In 1973, the TTC had only just decided to keep streetcars and new vehicles were several years in the future.

    Seeeing Broadview’s original single-track boarding platform for the first time in several years, with nothing less than a PCC in the holder, was a really pleasant treat and flashback all in one. I missed it terribly when it went out of service for a couple of years to build the dual-track entrance there now, and while functionally the new setup I can’t complain about, I do miss the old one. Is good!

    Thanks for putting up all of the pics from the 60s and 70s, which I’m afraid is slightly before my time as a rider (unless you count my Dam riding during her pregnancy with lil’ old me ^_^). The pictures were superbly preserved and admirably processed into digital format. You mind at all if I save myself a few downloads of them at my end, ami?

    Steve: I deliberately posted the photos at a comparatively low resolution good enough for online viewing and downloading, but not so detailed as I have to worry about copies showing up in print media without someone asking nicely for a higher resolution scan.

    Cheers, chum, and a belatedly Happy Xmas & New Year’s!



  25. Happy New Year Steve. GREAT Photos, brought back many memories. I lived near the Runnymede Loop and the old Jane Loop which I remember so well.

    Would you or some of the fanfare out there have any more photos of the old Jane Loop and the old Annette St short turn on Beresford to Lincoln Ave to Runnymede Rd. Anything would be great!

    Steve: I am planning a trolleybus retrospective for later this year, and it will include photos on the Beresford Loop.


  26. HI Steve, Have you heard of any talk about streetcars returning along Bloor St or in the Junction? I thought I heard of some rumors going around that the TTC was considering it! Also will the new transit plan include streetcars along Eglinton Ave East. If so what would the proposed route be? Will the new LRT (Streetcars) run Trolley Poles or Pantagraphs? along their routes?

    Steve: Many years ago there was a report on possible expansion of the streetcar system and this included proposals for Dundas (including an idea of extending the St. Clair car to Kipling Station). These ideas were not well thought out, and the proposal has been off the table for a long time. As for Eglinton, there’s this little project called the “Crosstown LRT”.

    The new cars will run with pantographs from day one on the Metrolinx lines. On the existing streetcar system, pole and pan operation will co-exist for a time, but eventually all of the overhead will be converted to handle either mode. Once the older cars are off the road (or if a residual fleet is converted to pans), the intersections can be simplified to be pan-only.


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