July 19, 1974: The End of the Line on Rogers Road

July 19, 1974 was the last day for streetcar service on Rogers Road, and in honour of the anniversary, this post is a gallery of before and after pictures.

For an historical overview of the line, please see Sean Marshall’s article on spacing.ca.

The Rogers Road car, the last remnant of the York Township Railways, was not saved with the rest of the streetcar system in 1972 because York (then a separate municipality) did not want to spend the extra money required to repave their street with streetcar tracks in it. Although service on Rogers once ran every 3 minutes at peak, by 1974 this had fallen to every 5 minutes as demand was siphoned off by north-south service on 29 Dufferin and 41 Keele feeding south to the Bloor subway.

During off-peak hours, the line was a 15-minute long shuttle from Oakwood Loop at St. Clair to Bicknell Loop just east of Weston Road, but during the peak, cars ran east via St. Clair to the Yonge Subway. The combined service of Rogers, Earlscourt and St. Clair cars between Oakwood and Yonge was considerably more frequent in 1974 than it is today.

After a period as a branch of 63 Ossington, the line was eventually converted to diesel operation and now operates as a separate route, 161 Rogers Rd.

26 thoughts on “July 19, 1974: The End of the Line on Rogers Road

  1. This article in the National Post reminds me of the era when Toronto was getting rid of its streetcar routes: . A very biased anti-streetcar/LRT article reminiscent of the days when many US and Canadian cities were getting rid of this technology. Kind of amusing seeing anyone other than Rob Ford saying this sort of stuff nowadays.


  2. Steve, the photo you have captioned as “Eastbound on Rogers east of Dufferin St. 1974.07.11” doesn’t depict that actual location. To me it looks like it was taken a good deal farther west, between Caledonia and Old Weston Road.

    (I live in the area now, but certainly didn’t then…)

    Steve: Ooops! You are correct. The signal is at Silverthorn and the shot is taken from the railway bridge just east of Blackthorn. The steps on the north side of the street are still there. I will correct the captions on the two photos at this location.


  3. Nice trip down memory lane. Looks like the Globe is out to get streetcars, and you. You were mentioned in their latest article.

    Steve: Er, it’s the Post, and there is a rebuttal from another writer. I am not sure that Corcoran’s column deserves a reply for its errors, notably the fact that the TTC killed off its trolleybuses as a sop to the natural gas industry, a bus builder in need of work, and a bunch of technology-boosters at Queen’s Park who were desperate to justify their existence. As for taking over King Street, whatever happens there will be needed regardless of the technology, and it would be even more congested with buses.

    In this argument, I don’t think anyone comes out a winner. With the longer streetcars, riders lose out because headways will be wider. Drivers lose out because it becomes even more difficult to pass them (although this is alleviated somewhat by the fact that there will be fewer streetcars on the road). I always hear the argument about trolley buses as well, but they can’t leapfrog each other either. Your pictures of 1974 remind me of how well streetcars worked with the traffic conditions and automobile ownership rates of that time period. Now we are trying to retrofit long LRT cars to mixed traffic operation in a very automobile-congested part of town. It will be interesting to see how the general public receives them when they hit mixed traffic routes and the novelty wears off.


  4. Terence Corcoran is viewed by some as a 19th century relic himself.

    Steve: Did you use Digital ICE or some other software to clean the scans? It looks like the dust removal also took out the headlight on the car behind the last Rogers car running in on Wychwood.

    Steve: The headlight was burned out. No, I do not use Digital ICE as I have found that it can really trash an image.


  5. I had always assumed that after the original St Clair right-of-way was paved over in the late 20s, that cars could use the streetcar lanes (it also says this on Wikipedia). However in the St Clair photos in your post, there are yellow markings on the streetcar lanes that imply they were streetcar-only. Were these along the entire stretch? Do you know when cars were allowed to use the lanes?

    Steve: Those lines were a failed attempt at intimidating motorists into staying off of the tracks. A bright idea that quickly dimmed and fizzled out. The basic lesson is that if you want to keep motorists off of the tracks, then you have to keep them off of the tracks. Signs and paint just don’t do the job. Some years later, on King, the City made the same mistake again, and its ineffectiveness is there for anyone to see. The lines on St. Clair were fairly new and shiny when those photos were taken, but they didn’t last.


  6. Missed it by this much … I was 7 years old when services ended on that route. By the time I started visiting my relatives on Rogers who had just moved there. Service had already stopped but all the tracks was still in place and most of the overhead. I remember that each time I went to visit there was less and less overhead and then less and less tracks. Except for the tracks west of old Weston rd. It seemed, in the mind of a 7 seven year old that it took years to pave over the tracks but maybe that is just me. Wanted to know how long they took to repave most of the street. I do believe the picture that shows the first day of trolleybus service on July 21st at Bicknell loop might be incorrect as far as the picture is concerned. AS you can see the streetcar overhead wires are already gone and I know that the trolleybus did not share overhead with the streetcar and I doubt they took down those wires over the course of 2 days (Friday to Sunday.)

    Steve: The streetcar overhead was removed where it conflicted with the TB overhead such as at the loops and at the intersection at Oakwood. Everything else stayed in place until the overhead crew got around to taking it down. As for the section of track between Old Weston and Keele, this had been rebuilt in concrete so that the buses on 41 Keele did not shake themselves apart (that section was also a significant truck route). There was no reason to repave that stretch.

    I can assure you that the “first day” picture really is July 21.


  7. @ Dwight: There was a gap between the last day of streetcars and the first day of trolley coaches so that overhead crews could make the trolley coach overhead usable. Diesel buses were used for the gap day. The Spacing article also mentions it.


  8. Regarding the Terence Corcoran. It seems to me that he has missed the fact that many locations deeply regret getting rid of streetcars, and are looking to bring them back. Like much of rail, its time has returned. Bus is more flexible, but offers much less capacity. Also, as a result of having less capacity and less certainty (bus line can disappear or be move at a whim) they do not offer the certainty or capacity for higher density development.

    Rail offers more capacity, is more efficient, and smoother. If we could, in perfect world, yes lots of streetcar lines would be out of mixed traffic. They would have their own space. The car should be pushed to the margins in this higher density environment.

    In the high demand areas bus cannot reasonably carry the load, short of having a bus every 30 seconds. We cannot reasonably build that much subway, so what are we left? If there was room on King, or drivers would actually behave, I would suggest that the centre two lanes be rail exclusive, or better still a transit, cycle, local road only (however, who actually pays attention to those pesky no turn, or park, or stop, or local traffic only signs).


  9. Steve an alternate explanation to the demise of the Streetcar in much of North America.

    It is worth noting that in my mind this actually fits reasonably well with the other. The perception of them being big players along with fixed prices and large costs downloaded/transfered to streetcar operations, would make them vulnerable to any attack. Question for you Steve, when the streetcar tracks are being installed, and heavy foundations are placed under them, is this charged to the streetcar, or to the roadway?

    Part of this heavy construction will mean that other heavy vehicles like trucks and buses passing over will do much less damage to the roadway. If the streetcar, is being assessed all the cost, it will make the operation seem artificially expensive. Any allocation while somewhat arbitrary, should pass the common sense tests.

    Steve: The article is selective in its own way by concentrating only by private streetcar franchises even though many public systems were victims of the industry’s decline and political moves to be pro-road. An important point missed by the writer is the change in the nature of many American cities post-WWII when the population moved away from the areas historically served by streetcars. The balkanized nature of US municipal structures often mean that the population had moved into a different town or city than the streetcars once served, and the last thing these fringe cities wanted to do was to build a street railway network for a, by then, much more dispersed population. Toronto did not die from the inside out, and is now rebuilding its population base and transit ridership for the neighbourhoods the streetcars serve.


  10. Do you have the ridership numbers for the Rogers streetcar and 63F Ossington trolley bus? I would assume that the numbers may have gotten some sort of increase when the 48 Humber Blvd. bus combined into the new 16 Rogers Road diesel bus, but it seems not much if they compare it with the streetcar.

    Steve: The TTC was not publishing route by route stats back in 1974.


  11. Steve said:

    The article is selective in its own way by concentrating only by private streetcar franchises even though many public systems were victims of the industry’s decline and political moves to be pro-road.

    Absolutely, however, it fits with a couple of others.

    The fact that roads were built anyways and rail had to come out of their own budget would make streetcar appear very expensive, even in the budget of the new towns. The desire to have the latest and greatest would also place pressure on them. I am sure the particulars of each situation would be unique. Toronto, is different from most US cities in that it retained a residential core. I suspect that other Canadian cities wish they had retained their networks.


  12. Steve wrote:

    The basic lesson is that if you want to keep motorists off of the tracks, then you have to keep them off of the tracks. Signs and paint just don’t do the job.

    Not without enforcement, the third leg of the tripod of low cost separation. Without it (a Toronto specialty), it falls by the wayside.

    Melbourne does a nice job of restricting vehicles from tram lanes in various places around the city. In the CBT, generally vehicles are permitted to make use of the tram lane as long as they don’t delay any tram movement. In some areas outside the CBT, tram lanes are sometimes either exclusive during peak hours or exclusive round the clock.

    That said, enforcement is the key, whether police issue tickets or photo-tickets are issued by on-board cameras. As I always say, a rule (or law) is comprised of two parts: the description of what one can or cannot do along with any exceptions to it, and the punishment for not abiding by it. If the second is not dealt with (or is considered an acceptable “cost of doing something”) , the rule (or law) effectively does not exist.

    Steve: As I said, you have to keep motorists off of the tracks. Barriers, enforcement and fines, or precision guided laser beams are all an option.


  13. Toronto retained its streetcar network beyond the 1950s simply because it was cheaper to buy streetcars from other cities who were dumping theirs at bargain prices. It never made economic sense to maintain or expand them in mixed traffic operations, and a very strong argument can be made that the Queen St. subway could have been built ages ago with all the money that was sunk into repeated streetcar track and overhead maintenance over that last 45 years.

    I understand what Streetcars for Toronto was all about, but in hindsight their goal should have been to lobby for the survival/retention of one line with rehabilitated PCCs (like San Fran did) for heritage/tourism reasons. SfT never liked the CLRVs that replaced the old PCCs anyway.

    What we have now is the worst of both worlds. Over at UrbanToronto a lot of people point the finger of blame at Jane Jacobs and Steve Munro for triggering the pivotal moments in our expressway and streetcar policy history that ultimately led to the anti-expressway anti-subway transit mess we find ourselves in now. This isn’t entirely fair, as they both meant well. Having said that, I did notice that once Ms. Jacobs was successful in protecting her Annex neighborhood from the bulldozer, she was nowhere to be found years later when the 407 was gobbling up farmland in the early 90s.

    Steve: Jane Jacobs was about neighbourhood preservation and the continuity of people-oriented urban form. Farmland preservation is quite a different issue, and the sprawl that triggered the need for the 407 was by far the greater problem both in land use and in its effect on the character of future communities.

    As someone rather deeply involved in SfT, I can second that remark. The TTC’s original idea in the 60s was to build an updated PCC, but this was highjacked by Queen’s Park who were desperate for an “LRT” product after the demise of the maglev proposals. What we got was an overbuilt, overweight car capable of 110km/hr operation on lines that would never be built in Toronto.

    I don’t agree with your idea of just keeping a tourist line given the level of demand on the downtown routes, especially with our population growth. SfT’s aim was to champion an LRT network in the suburbs (the very thing the TTC was talking about in the late 60s until Queen’s Park intervened), but Bill Davis and his Ontario Transportation Development Corporation screwed that idea out of existence. This was one of many cases where a “better idea” at the Pink Palace has been a disaster for Toronto’s transit system. I find it hard to believe that they will stay committed to and pull off the RER plans which are the LRT equivalent for commuter rail systems. Surely there is a corporate carpet bagger somewhere with a new technology that will render RER unnecessary, although I have always felt that hot air balloons would be ideal as a government project.

    It is a deep misrepresentation of SfT to claim that we were interested only in keeping “streetcars”, but I don’t expect the subway bigots at Urban Toronto to know much history.


  14. M. Briganti wrote:

    … she [Jane Jacobs] was nowhere to be found years later when the 407 was gobbling up farmland in the early 90s.

    Your timeline is messed up, as most of that farmland was gobbled up in the late 60s for the future 407 construction. Yes, pretty much all of the 407’s land was acquired by the provincial government BEFORE the 401 was completed from Windsor to the Quebec border.


  15. The 407 sits in the area of the “Parkway Belt West” plan, which is the only part of 1970’s Toronto Centered Region Plan to survive. The TCRP was an early sprawl-limiting plan. We know how that worked out. The Parkways were supposed to be recreational/utility corridors. We know how that worked out as well. Blaming Jane Jacobs for the failure of TCRP is an astounding claim.

    All this information was found in the Urban Affairs Library, including many Government of Ontario documents and publications from the period. I imagine they’re in the Central Reference Library now.


  16. I think the argument they’re making is that our transit history would have unfolded differently, depending on whether the TTC truly believed buses could have handled it all. If, say, the streetcar abandonment policy had continued its course many believe it would have necessitated the construction of the originally proposed BD-like local Queen St. subway at a time when it would have been still affordable and practical to build it. This would have been just before today’s “widely-spaced-station-all-tunneled-megabucks” subway model was adopted as the norm.

    If the originally proposed cut-and-cover Queen line had been built, it would have bled much of the local demand off King and Dundas, and the lower downtown area would have developed differently. With only Carlton, St. Clair, and Bathurst left, there would have been no point in keeping the remaining disjointed lines except for maybe one for nostalgia/historical reasons. Given that the PCCs had rusted through to the point where Peter Gross from CityTV could break off a chunk from the underside with his bare hands, I don’t think more than one line’s worth could have been rebuilt anyway.

    With Jane Jacobs and Spadina, it was more the precedent than anything. Nobody wanted to go through that again, so all expressway expansion everywhere (even where it made sense) was forever halted.

    The TTC never had any sentimental feelings towards anything, and were just too darn “practical”. I was extremely surprised when they didn’t keep at least one G and M subway train for historical reasons. Those both had historical significance.

    The current thinking is that we have to keep streetcars no matter what, because we’ve already sunk so much money into track reconstruction. Another route-by-route phase-out plan will never take root, so we’re stuck. Streetcars can’t handle it … buses can’t … subway now too expensive.


  17. Streetcars can easily handle the demand, the primary problem is interference of automobiles. Many European cities manage quite well be rightfully separating or eliminating autos from streetcars. The ridership levels are still too low for subway but way too high for buses for downtown Toronto. The daily ridership for GO Transit is lower than the daily for streetcars. Add in proper planning for route management as well as city cooperation and it would be close to perfect. We already have what we need, the TTC and the city need to have autos take a back seat for it to work. Otherwise we need to build an unjustified expensive subway, but then again Toronto is already doing that.


  18. “The current thinking is that we have to keep streetcars no matter what, because we’ve already sunk so much money into track reconstruction. Another route-by-route phase-out plan will never take root, so we’re stuck. Streetcars can’t handle it … buses can’t … subway now too expensive.”

    Well at least for the next 25 to 30 years in a very small area of the city.

    Some new technology will arise.

    Maybe in 100 years.

    Expanding the streetcar system (like a new line on Rogers road, where ever that is) will not work.


  19. I notice in some of the later photographs the streetcars have waterbags on their front.

    I can also remember waterbags on cars back in the day.

    What is the history of these waterbags and the TTC? What was the reason for their removal?

    Steve: The idea was to provide a cushion in case of collisions, but this assumed that the point of contact matched the location of the bumper. The design didn’t work on multiple-unit cars because of the couplers, and the CLRVs as delivered were MU cars.


  20. Toronto, and many other Canadian cities will not solve their transit capacity problems until, and if, the public at large gives up its entitled attitude to drive. The U.S. is oft-criticized for outdated attitudes about politics, faith, etc., but man, are they ahead of the curve in implementing better transit alternatives– not everywhere, but still more than what we up North are doing. The thing is, we (still) have infotainment politicians like the Fords, whose mantra about subways is just a chimera for their true contempt of people who take public transit: they get in the way of their Escalades, and the Fordists don’t want to have to see the “poor people”, so shunt them underground. Some journalist made the comment of them pretending to drink Timmies coffee from a Timmies cup, but they’ve really replaced it with Starbucks….


  21. Another point about water bumpers was as I recall a tendency to have a negative effect of the structural integrity of the front end of the vehicles, not to mention quite a mess upon impact.


  22. Calvin Henry-Cotnam says:
    July 23, 2014 at 6:38 am

    M. Briganti wrote:

    … she [Jane Jacobs] was nowhere to be found years later when the 407 was gobbling up farmland in the early 90s.

    Your timeline is messed up, as most of that farmland was gobbled up in the late 60s for the future 407 construction. Yes, pretty much all of the 407′s land was acquired by the provincial government BEFORE the 401 was completed from Windsor to the Quebec border.

    A person I worked with in the early 70s was [in] the riding association for the transport minister (ONT. PC) for a number of years. He and a bunch of his friends became very rich buying up land around the 403 and #10, which is now Square One and Erindale Road and 403 which is now Erindale Town Centre. There was of coarse no, absolutely no, insider knowledge for they were all honourable men.


  23. Steve, I saw the original and loved this article.

    I grew up in the 60s, 70s, and early 80s just one block south of Rogers, just east of Dufferin. I took that route to high school at St. Mike’s. When I wasn’t working downtown, I was one of many from my school that took it home. And there were a lot of people that took that car, especially during the rush hours! With it coming from the Yonge subway during peak times, it was always full during those times.

    And if I remember correctly, the last car out of the Oakwood Loop was usually around 2:10AM and at Bicknell around 2:35AM. And the speed … one driver showed me on the last run one night. He started to stop the streetcar just after Dufferin for my stop at Northcliffe Blvd. We stopped just short of Lauder Ave., the next street. Man, could those old streetcars ever fly!!! Steve, I still go down to the area to see friends, and the buses are not the same.

    This route was an east-west route operating to the Yonge subway … where most wanted to go. Now, it is part of the north-south routes that operate to the Bloor subway … You can get on any other route along the way that will take you to Bloor (Weston, Keele, Symington, Lansdowne, Dufferin, and Ossington along with Rogers Road).

    BTW, last year in November, a group of my peers from my high school had our 40th anniversary of our graduation at a restaurant on St. Clair in Hillcrest Village. One person in this group I was chatting with said something to the effect, “Why did we know each other so well (this group only!)? I said to him we all took the Rogers Road streetcar together at the end of the day. This person looked at everyone and said, “You’re Right”!! 40 years later and we still remembered it fondly!!!


  24. “Steve: The TTC and Hawker-Siddeley had a preliminary design for an updated PCC and were talking to the Czech firm, Tatra, who held the PCC design rights, about licensing arrangements. All that stopped when the ICTS scheme surfaced.”

    Would the look of an updated PCC from Tatra/Hawker-Siddely have been significantly different than the look of a CLRV? Or did SIG came up with their own totally appearance?

    Steve: The car was an updated PCC, all round edges somewhat like the air-electrics, somewhat like a bus, not at all like the CLRV. See my article on the Torontoist site.


  25. That Hawker-Siddeley rendering was supposed to be the updated PCC? The style doesn’t look at all related to the PCC.

    Steve: Yes, it’s more like a bus than a streetcar, but the guts of the car and especially the trucks were based on PCC designs. Don’t forget that the era is the 1960s before solid state controls (the H-1 subway cars were brand new) or any thought of low floor cars.


  26. Are there any modern streetcars being manufactured today using PCC-based technology?

    Steve: No, because everything has moved to low floor cars and solid-state propulsion control.


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