King / Sumach Construction Progress

The intersection of King and Sumach Streets is the point where the former 514 Cherry, now the 504A King branch, splits off southward to Distillery Loop. It has been the subject of many complaints about noise over the years. The TTC has attempted various fixes with less than ideal results.

At the beginning of August 2022, the 504 King and 503 Kingston Road services began diverting around this location via Queen and Parliament, although actual construction did not get under way for a few weeks. Now, the work is incomplete, and the originally hoped-for restoration of service on September 4, something that is built into the September schedules, will not actually happen until later in September.

During that period, the “504A” cars will continue to operate as “504B” to Broadview Station, although I suspect that many will be short turned as they do not have enough running time to make such a long extended trip.

When this project began, I thought that we might see the implementation of double blade switches here, but that is not the case. There is no change in the facing point switches at this intersection.

Here some photos of work at King and Sumach as it progressed. The purpose was not a complete replacement but rather to do selective maintenance. In a way, this makes the work a bit more tedious than simply ripping up the whole thing, trucking in new, pre-assembled track on panels, and dropping the rails into place over a week or less.

August 19, 2022

August 27, 2022

At this point, the new westbound trailing switch was installed where the curve north to west out of Sumach joins the King Street trackage. Note that the switch blade is different from what we normally see in two ways:

  • The blade is pinned at its heel (the wide end) rather than sitting with a round heel in a matching casting.
  • There is a mechanism (the box between the rails) attached to the blade much as one would find for an electrified facing point switch.

The purpose of this is to eliminate “slap” of the blade within the switch casting (a familiar “clack clack” as each set of wheels passes over).

Here is the Google Street View of the switch illustrated below in its “before” state.

August 31, 2022

The curves in this intersection had seen a lot of welding work attempting to build them up and change the wheel/rail geometry. New tracks are now being installed presumably to match the desired alignment and reduce squeal on the curves.

September 2, 2022

The work continues although much remains to be done. In addition to the new track, the TTC is adding two new wheel lubricators on approaches to the intersection eastbound on King and northbound on Sumach.

Once upon a time, there was a scheme for the Flexity cars to have onboard lubricators that would would be activated by GPS readings in locations where wheel squeal was a problem. This was never implemented. Wheel lubrication is used in several places on the network, although more commonly near loops (for example, there is a lubricator southbound approaching Distillery Loop).

As this work progresses, I will add to the photo record.

Streetcar service is expected to resume sometime in September.

10 thoughts on “King / Sumach Construction Progress

  1. A new streetcar extension? King/Sumach? ?? Andy

    Steve: Sumach is the street King cars turn into to get to Cherry Street. Look at a map 😉

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  2. Good to see this (maybe) being properly repaired at last but it is typical of the lack of coordination or foresight at the TTC and Transportation that they do not seem to be taking advantage of having a crew in the area and no streetcars to repair a fairly short stretch of concrete (20 feet?) between the rails and the roadway on King just east of this worksite. Maybe they will get to it, probably not!

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  3. If the work needs to be done, so be it.

    I will say that customers are still waiting for a streetcar at the North West corner of King & Parliament. Should TTC employees tell customers where to catch the streetcars & buses?

    Steve: Yes, definitely. It’s a small enough intersection that just calling over to waiting riders would be quite easy.

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  4. Partially unrelated but I heard a Flexity take the south to west curve at Coxwell and Gerrard about a week ago, and the sound was painfully deafening. I don’t ever remember a streetcar being that loud… Is something happening with the Flexities causing them to be louder than the old “X”LRV series? Many people in the area had to instantly stop what they were doing and cover their ears… It was that bad.

    Steve: That definitely is unusual. One thing I know can occur, although I am more used to hearing it on subway trains, is that a car with new wheels that have not yet worn in can have louder than normal squeal. However what you describe sounds a lot worse than that.

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  5. Steve said: When this project began, I thought that we might see the implementation of double blade switches here, but that is not the case. There is no change in the facing point switches at this intersection.

    Steve, could you please explain these switches?

    Steve: On the subway and mainline railways, track switches have a blade on both rails, but on many street railways including Toronto’s there is a blade only on the “inside” rail of the curve. If the car is turning, that blade presses against the flange of the corresponding wheel pulling the axle into the curve. On the “outside” rail, the wheel just picks up the curving direction because the two wheels are linked through the axle. This can be a problem for low floor cars that are designed without a continuous axle because there is nothing to transfer the force from one wheel to the other. Another advantage of double blade switches is that the turning force is handled through both wheels, and mechanically it is difficult to “split the switch” with the outside wheel taking the straight while the inside takes the curve.

    (I noted your chagrin to the TTC installing track curves at intersections where there never were before – Kipling Loop – but elsewhere omitting them where logically one would expect.)

    Similarly, Steve, elsewhere you mentioned about the compatibility or incompatibility of streetcar overhead wires. Issue was the antique cars unable to use them. Meanwhile, I often see Flexities still using trolley poles. Perhaps you could explain to us non-tech types the situation? Eg., what is a “frog”?

    Steve: A “frog” is a fitting in overhead or track where two wires or rails cross. The term derives from 19th century clothing where there were elaborate decorations for buttons or other types of closure in, typically, a jacket. For overhead, there are three types and they behave differently depending on their function. At a switch where two contact wires diverge or meet, the frog guides a trolley pole to the correct wire. If it is not properly aligned or is worn, the pole may take off in the wrong direction and dewire. For pantograph operation, a frog is not required and the pan just slips from one wire to another. For mixed operation, there is a pair of skates that hang lower than the frog and the pan rides through the junction on them while poles continue on the wire and through the frog. When the TTC finishes the conversion, the skates and frogs will be removed.

    Where two contact wires cross at an angle, up to 90 degrees, the fitting will handle both poles with a shoe riding through/across the junction, and a pan sliding under it.

    Three other areas of incompatibility are found on tangent (straight) wire.

    The hangers used on some of our older overhead are an inverted U shape and they hang down below the contact wire. A trolley pole will ride through the “U”, but a pan would snag on the span wire attached at the bottom of the hanger. Even if the hanger and span are clear of pans, the old style with the hanger directly attached to the span creates a “hard” for a pan pressing upward. The pan-friendly overhead has a two-level suspension with a pair of hangers holding up the contact wire from the span giving more flexibility, or on curves a bracket that exerts force from the side to keep the wire properly aligned.

    Contact wire for pans is slewed back and forth from one span to the next to even out wear on the carbons. For trolley poles it is left in a straight line and this can wear a groove on a pan (a common problem early in the conversion process).

    Finally, contact wire for pans can have discontinuities not just at intersections but along the route where self-tensioning overhead is used. The contact wire veers off to a spring loaded device on a pole that keeps the tension constant, and a second contact wire picks up where the previous one ended. Pans slip from one to the other, while poles cannot.

    (Speaking of antique streetcars, I often have PCC’s and Witts in my night-time dreams, and it is the old Toronto; I presume that is my going back to childhood and youth. However, I also dream of future ultra-modern, smooth & convenient, and fast new subways!)

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  6. Steve! Thank you so very much for your thorough explanations on streetcar switches and wires. I’ve read elsewhere without really understanding. Much appreciated.

    I am keeping this info for reference.

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  7. With the double mated trailing switch does the TTC have any policies that operators must check the switch position before proceeding as they do at the facing point switches? Related question, if the trailing switch is set incorrectly could it cause a derailment if a car were to proceed through?

    Steve: They are not double switches, only a single blade, but with a damping mechanism so it does not slap when a car passes through, typically on the straight. They can be pushed open just like any switch.

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  8. Steve, thank you for your great answers and informative article. I’m fairly certain the TTC did work in this exact same area less than 5yrs ago. That work was in response to noise complaints from local residents constantly hearing the shrieking of turning streetcars. Any idea what the difference is this time?

    Steve: Until cars are actually running through the intersection, we won’t be able to tell what works or not. The changes are:

    • Trailing switches on King bothways have been modified to include an anti-slap mechanism so you don’t get the familiar “clack-clack clack-clack clack-clack” as each car passes.
    • Wheel greasers will be installed eastbound on King west of Sumach and northbound on Sumach south of King. These should reduce squeal on the curves.
    • Curved rails have been replaced with the hope that they have a better profile and can reduce squeal.

    It has been frustrating to see the TTC try to make this location “work” without basics like this, and count on vehicle-borne fixes (GPS-based wheel greasing which was never installed, dampening rings on wheels that depended on assignment of specific vehicles to the 504A).

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  9. Earlier today, I saw that King Street is allowing thru-traffic again, but Sumach south of the intersection is still fenced off. Any word on when this will be done? Or, at least, when 504B streetcars will be done diverting along Parliament and Queen?

    Steve: No. I have been trying to get an answer out of the TTC on this, but all they will say is “late September”.

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