The Last Night of the Mt. Pleasant Car

Streetcar service on Mt. Pleasant Road ended at dawn on Sunday, July 25, 1976. To mark the occasion, a group of transit enthusiasts (or railfans if you prefer) chartered Peter Witt 2766 for an overnight tour around the city. We stopped at many places for photos, something that is only possible in the middle of the night, and then finished up with two round trips on the Mt. Pleasant line before calling it a night.

Here is a gallery of photos from that journey. I have published some of these before, but here is the full set.

Some of what we photographed remains, other views have disappeared or changed substantially.

There are more buildings in the way of the CN Tower than in 1976 and getting a clean shot top-to-bottom is much harder now than it was when the tower was new.

The buildings on Spadina have not changed too much, but it would take almost two decades from the photo here before we would see streetcar service return in 1997.

Bay Street is utterly transformed, now a condo canyon, including the stripped and repurposed Sutton Place Hotel.

The tail track at Bingham Loop that allowed a brief excursion into Scarborough was removed years ago as were spurs and tail tracks almost everywhere else.

The variety store beside Coxwell-Queen Loop disappeared under a condo in the past few years.

Now it was time to venture up to St. Clair for the last runs on Mt. Pleasant. Our first pass took us along St.Clair past the subway station over track used only by the night cars. Up at Eglinton, it was still quite dark although the deep blue of the dawn sky had begun to show. We returned south and west to St. Clair Station and then looped back east to Moore Park Loop where we met the first bus on the new Mt. Pleasant route. Another trip through St. Clair Station brought a meet with the last night car, and then we headed off for the final trip with the line all to ourselves.

As we were posing in front of the coal silos at Merton, a TTC Supervisor came by to chase us off of the line as they wanted to cut off the power. Our operator, Charlie Price, a veteran of many charters, was not too worried about getting back to the carhouse on time.

At Eglinton and Mt. Pleasant, nothing that was on the four corners remains today. A bus loop, currently unused, sits inside a seniors’ building on the northeast corner that once held a gas station and the streetcar loop. The bank on the northwest will return some day as the shell of the main entrance to Mt. Pleasant Station on Line 5 Crosstown. Eglinton Public School on the southwest was replaced with an ugly building whose architects assure me was the product of cost cutting by the Board of Education. The south east corner, formerly a typical 1920s-era row of stores with apartments above, now has a midrise commercial building that, like other developments along Eglinton, added nothing to the local character. It is sad to think that the bank, when it returns, will probably be the most distinguished building there.

At St. Clair and Yonge, even the “modern” towers don’t last forever. Updates and replacements are already in the pipeline.

The subway station had the distinction of being the first to have a restaurant inside of the paid area, a counter-example to the “though shalt not eat in the subway” bylaw that was never implemented. It eventually became a McDonalds.

Moore Park Loop is now a local parkette little changed except for the removal of the streetcar tracks.

Dominion Coal is long gone, and the area between Mt. Pleasant and Yonge along Merton is almost all condos in what was once an industrial area.

The cemetery, founded in 1873 when it was out in the countryside among farms, goes on, an oasis with the city’s best collection of trees.

Updated July 27, 2020: Service east of St. Clair Station to Moore Park Loop continued until October 2, 1976 but only for the St. Clair night car (and occasional daytime cars killing time because they were off schedule). Thanks to Philip Webb for sending me a copy of an article by Mike Roschlau in Rail+Transit, January 1977, with this info.

Bill Davis Had A Plan (Updated)

Updated June 3, 2020: A PDF version of the document has been added.

With all of Metrolinx’ recent hype about the Ontario Line and its design, I have been digging into my archives looking at the promises made back in 1972 when Premier Bill Davis announced “An Urban Transportation Policy for Ontario”. This was to be the transit answer to his cancellation of the Spadina Expressway, a new transit network that would bring rapid transit to outlying areas in Toronto, as well as to Hamilton and Ottawa.

There was to be a test track around the CNE grounds linking to Ontario Place. A new technology, trains that would fill the missing link between buses and subways that were far too expensive at the then astronomical cost of $25 to $30 million per mile.

This scheme was doomed from the outset by its dependence on an untried technology (although at the point of the announcement, the Krauss-Maffei magnetic levitation system had not been officially chosen). All that ever happened at the CNE was a small stand of trees near the Princes Gates were felled in anticipation of guideway construction, and a few column footings were built. So much for the brave new world of a transit network.

Oddly enough, buried in the announcement is the following acknowledgement that existing technology could be used, at least as a stopgap:

“As an interim measure it may be feasible to provide express routes through parts of these corridors using existing modes of transportation such as buses or streetcars. When operating in exclusive rights-of-way these facilities are capable of providing intermediate capacity transit facilities.” [p 15]

This was the only time the government acknowledged that a brand new technology was not a pre-requisite for building their network. Within a few years, Davis’ dreams would be dust. The government would resurrect the work on a new TTC streetcar design that was underway in the late 1960s, but was stopped when the focus shifted to Davis’ Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS). Eventually, a less technically complex system that we now know as the SRT in Toronto and Skytrain in Vancouver came along, but the plans were never resurrected on quite so grand a scale.

The announcement itself makes interesting reading with many comments that will be familiar today especially as they relate to the limits of car-based travel and expressways.

Continue reading

Planned Changes to King, Queen, Roncesvalles and The Queensway for 2021 (Updated)

Updated July 2, 2020: The contract award for this work will be before the City’s Infrastructure & Environment Committee on July 9, 2020, and then it will go to Council for approval at its meeting of July 28-29, 2020. This is a complex multistage project stretching over three years.

This includes the reconstruction of the TTC track allowance and platforms, roads, sidewalks; construction of new streetscaping; replacement of watermains, sewer relining; and the rehabilitation of The Queensway bridge over Parkside Drive.

Part of the work is planned for 2020 and was already awarded under another contract. This will not affect streetcar or road traffic.

In order to reduce the overall impact of construction on all road users in the area around Parkside Drive, the underside of the Parkside Drive bridge at The Queensway will, therefore, be completed in 2020 in conjunction with the Dundas/Howard Park and Howard Park (Sunnyside Avenue to Parkside Drive) project. This bridge substructure work includes abutment repairs, recoating structural steel, reconstruction of the TTC stairs and concrete patch repairs to the TTC owned portion of the bridge.

Major works begin in 2021 and these are divided into phases. The TTC has not yet announced the transit service arrangements corresponding to each phase

Stage 1: February 2021 to July 2021

The Stage 1 of construction will be carried out on The Queensway between Parkside Drive and the KQQR Intersection and on Queen Street West between Triller Avenue [one block east of Roncesvalles] and the KQQR Intersection. This work includes watermain replacement, sewer relining, TTC overhead wire removals, TTC track work, road reconstruction and hydro works along The Queensway, the KQQR Intersection, and along Queen Street West; and the rehabilitation of The Queensway bridge at Parkside Drive (outer lanes).

While this work is in progress, access to and from Roncesvalles Carhouse will be available only from the “north gate”. With the intersection closed, the 501 Queen and 504 King services will not be able to operate west of Dufferin Street. How much of the routes are converted to bus operation remains to be seen, but the TTC would be wasting vehicles if they converted two major routes for work that would not affect their entire length. Track replacement is also planned on Queen from University to Fennings (near Dovercourt) in 2021, and so it would make sense to retain streetcars at least on the eastern half of that route, and on King to Dufferin Loop.

Stage 2: July 2021 to April 2022

The Stage 2 of construction will be carried out on The Queensway from Parkside Drive to Sunnyside Avenue and on King Street West from the KQQR Intersection to approximately 100 m south thereof. This work includes watermain replacement and sewer relining on King Street West; TTC track work, road reconstruction and hydro works along The Queensway (Parkside Drive to Sunnyside Ave); reconstruction of the southwest corner of the KQQR Intersection including streetscape work at Beaty Boulevard Park (southwest corner of the KQQR Intersection); TTC overhead wire replacement along The Queensway, the KQQR Intersection and King Street West; and the rehabilitation of The Queensway bridge at Parkside Drive (inner lanes).

From this description, it is unclear which portions of the work will actually extend into 2022, and for what period the intersection will be impassible. That would determine the period during which streetcar service on the west end of Queen and King would have to be suspended.

Stage 3: April 2022 to August 2022

The Stage 3 of construction will be carried out on Roncesvalles Avenue from the KQQR Intersection to Dundas Street West. This work includes watermain replacement, sewer relining, TTC overhead wire removal and replacement, and TTC track work; and road reconstruction on Roncesvalles Avenue from the KQQR Intersection to Harvard Avenue. Stage 3 also includes minor work on Roncesvalles Avenue, from Harvard Avenue to Dundas Street West, to modify the TTC platforms for compliance with the Province’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requirements.

This stage involves Roncesvalles Avenue north from Queen including the North Gate at the carhouse. While this is underway, streetcars would not be able to operate on Roncesvalles, but should be able to use the South Gate.

I have sent a query to the City for clarification of the staging of this project.

The original article follow below.

Continue reading

The Early Days of the CLRVs

As I write this, it is Christmas morning in 2019, and the TTC’s fleet of CLRVs, now 40 years old, has only a few more days to run in revenue service.

Here is a gallery of photos culled from their early years. There is a preponderance of photos showing construction activities because that is what I tended to focus on in those days. Although the TTC had decided to retain its streetcars and bought a new fleet, track construction techniques had not caught up with the idea that things should be build to last. Untreated ties and rails that were only spot welded at the top, not with a solid top-to-bottom thermite weld, were not the most robust.

This design combined with the vibrations from the original Bochum wheels on the CLRVs led to the quick disintegration of roadbeds leaving the TTC by the mid 1990s with a double-dose of track repairs. Not only did they have to rebuild track that was 20-30 years old, they had a fresh batch that was 10-15 years old. The overall track repair program caught up with this backlog a few years ago for tangent (straight) track, but the adoption of panel-based and properly welded special work (intersections) took longer to get underway. Some major intersections, notably Queen & Roncesvalles, are falling apart leading to slow orders on various parts of the streetcar system. (Ironically, because this is a blanket order, there are slow orders on all special work whether it needs it or  not.)

Back in the 1980s, the CLRVs were brand new, and after many teething problems they became the workhorses of the network as the PCC fleet was gradually retired.

Continue reading

Humber Loop QEW Realignment 1973-74

There was a time when the curve between the Queen Elizabeth Way and the Gardiner Expressway at the Humber River was rather tight. In 1973-74, while the highway structures were realigned, the Long Branch car continued to run through the site on a single track with signals.

Rather than overhead contactors common on single track street railway operations everywhere, the TTC opted for subway-type track circuits to control access. With a lot of water in the construction site, especially through winter, “track down” conditions showing the presence of a “ghost” car, were an ongoing problem. Nonetheless, through service continued over the single track, first on the old alignment, and then on the new one.

Special work for the crossovers was mined out of the street. One location was on Dufferin north of King and the other on Spadina south of King.

The Dufferin crossover had been used originally for a shuttle service to the CNE western gate that operated with double-end equipment. Later, this location was a point where the TTC snow plows reversed direction. Yes, there were official routes for the plows and sweepers when the TTC still had such cars. Ironically, after the work at Humber, the TTC re-installed the crossover on Dufferin even though by then the snow fighting fleet that used it had been retired.

The crossover from Spadina was last used in 1948 when double-ended streetcar operation on the Spadina streetcar route (along with the route itself) ended, and it had been buried in asphalt for years.

Access to the construction site was much more relaxed than today when, of course, the streetcar line would have been shut down and replaced by buses.

The photos with Peter Witt cars were all on charters. The Tour Tram never got this far west.

Brill Bus Fantrip July 29, 1972

As a holiday gift to the fans of old buses (and I know you’re out there even if you think this is really a streetcar blog), a photo gallery from a fantrip I organized many years ago using one of the TTC’s Brill coaches. Bus 1935 dates from 1955, and was retired in the mid 1970s.

For more information on the TTC’s fleet before the arrival of the GM “New Look” buses, see Before the New Looks on Transit Toronto.

The Tour Tram Debuts in 1973

Forty-five years ago, on June 24, 1973, Peter Witt car 2766 began operating on the streets of Toronto as the Tour Tram. For that first day, the car was decked out with bunting, Canadian and Ontario flags, a Union Jack and photos of HM Queen Elizabeth whose official birthday was celebrated about a week earlier in mid June.

In a previous article, five years ago, I showed the restoration work at Hillcrest Shops. Now, here are photos from on-street operation in the early days. The photos are arranged geographically around the route rather than by date. At the end of the gallery are a few shots of a Tour Tram diversion on Adelaide Street on its third day of operation.

Throughout these photos there are many buildings that no longer exist and views that are now impossible to take because open spaces have been filled in with redevelopment.

Early Days of the CLRVs (Updated)

With the demise today of car 4000, the first of the Canadian Light Rail Vehicles, a look back on the prototypes when they were brand new.

The photos here were taken on June 4 1978 at St. Clair Carhouse. I don’t know which fleet numbers the cars shown here wound up with, but I’m sure there is a reader who knows these details and will supply feedback.

Updated December 25, 2017 John Bromley has provided additional information about the prototype CLRVs:

The car in the photos you posted is 4003 II.  The photo op was June 4 1978, I was there and have a few photos.  Perhaps the July date is the processing date on the slides?

Steve: Thanks for the correct date. I had neglected to write it on the slides at the time.

Below pic shows 4000 II from the rear June 29 1977 at SIG, taken from inside the unfinished carbody of 4003 II.  Even then 4000 II had the all-white top on front rather than the black just visible in 4001 II behind it.  Do I need to mention the pantograph?

Sorry for the delay in sending, we’ve been in Europe for three weeks.