50 years of the Bloor - Danforth subway

Friday, February 25, 1966 — 50 years ago tomorrow — the TTC officially opened the crosstown Bloor - Danforth subway. (Regular service started Saturday, February 26, 1966.)


As 6 a.m. approaches on February 26, 1966, the first eastbound BLOOR-DANFORTH subway prepares to leave Keele station. Railfans like photographer John F. Bromley had been snapping pictures of last streetcar runs all night, and were bleary-eyed but ready to capture the first run of the new subway.

The opening marked the formal end of political confrontation between politicians that wanted the crosstown subway under Queen Street and those that wanted Bloor and Danforth. You can learn the background to the choice of route here.

The new line, which then only stretched between Woodbine and Keele Stations, effectively doubled the city’s rapid transit system and seemed to herald the end (at least temporarily) of Toronto as a streetcar city.


Keele’s unique “speed ramp”, connecting the temporary streetcar loop to the eastbound subway platform, now walled up. Photo: TTC

Elsewhere on this website, James Bow writes:

“The opening of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway on February 26, 1966, doubled the number of stations on the Toronto subway network and resulted in the largest cutback of Toronto’s streetcar network since the YONGE line opened in 1954. The BLOOR streetcar was reduced to a Bloor shuttle running from Keele station to Jane Loop and a Danforth shuttle running from Woodbine station to meet Scarborough buses at Luttrell Loop. The HARBORD streetcar vanished, with different parts of its route replaced by extensions of existing services (such as the DUNDAS streetcar and the new 72 PAPE bus), or not replaced at all (such as the Dovercourt and Davenport segments). The COXWELL and PARLIAMENT streetcars were replaced by the 22 COXWELL and 65 PARLIAMENT buses respectively, and the BATHURST streetcar was merged with FORT with services on Adelaide and on Bathurst north of Bloor abandoned. All of this was part of the TTC’s streetcar abandonment policy, which foresaw the replacement of all streetcar service by subways or buses by 1980.

“The BLOOR and DANFORTH streetcar shuttles had to be routed into Keele and Woodbine stations through new tracks installed before the subway opened. At Woodbine, Danforth streetcars turned right at a new T-intersection at Danforth and Cedarvale, turning into the station’s bus platforms at Strathmore Boulevard. The remains of these tracks can still be seen just outside of the Woodbine bus terminal.”


*This City of Toronto Archives photograph of Sherbourne station shows Gloucester subway cars, likely during the interlining period — Gloucesters usually only operated along the Yonge and University lines.

As James explains, after the line opened, the TTC abandoned regular streetcar service along many central Toronto streets including:

  • Adelaide Streets East and West;
  • Carlaw Avenue;
  • Coxwell Avenue (except for the small section between the two Gerrard Streets);
  • Harbord Street;
  • Davenport Road;
  • Dovercourt Road;
  • Ossington Avenue;
  • Pape Avenue;
  • Parliament Street (except for the small part between Carlton and Gerrard Streets);
  • Spadina Avenue; and
  • Riverdale Avenue.

Streetcars continued to operate along small sections of Danforth Avenue — between the end of the subway at Woodbine and Luttrel Avenue, near Dawes Road — and Bloor Street West — between the end of the subway at Keele and Jane Street — but not for long. By May 1968, the TTC had further extended the line eastward to Warden and westward to Islington. The subway finally reached Kipling and Kennedy in 1980.

The opening of the subway marked the first and only time that trains dropped off and picked up passengers in Lower Bay Station, a place of mystery that still seems to intrigue Torontonians today. In effect, it operated three separate subway routes along the new line:

  • Bloor - Danforth: between Keele and Woodbine stations;
  • Bloor - University - Yonge between Keele and Eglinton stations via downtown; and
  • Danforth - University - Yonge between Woodbine and Eglinton stations via downtown.

Alternate trains on the new line ran along the University and Yonge lines, using two-level stations at St. George and Bay Stations. The TTC abandoned the interlining plan and Lower Bay Station after just six months. You can read more about this controversial experiment and the decision to end it here.


This shot from the City of Toronto Archives shows Bay station in operation during the interlining period, including a sign pointing to the stairwell to the Lower Bay platform.

What did agencies like the Toronto Transit Commission do before pixel and microchip to show residents and decision-makers what future transit services would look like? They turned to graphic artists.

Steve Munro uncovered these watercolour illustrations that the TTC used to depict what how it expected the stations on the Bloor-Danforth and University lines would appear. The TTC commissioned them in the mid 1950s as planning continued on the crosstown subway.

The artist they hired was Sigmund Serafin. Learn more about subway art by Serafin here.


Keele station, showing the elevated tracks but, intriguingly, no tail tracks. Note that the bus terminal stretches over Indian Grove, instead of stopping just shy of it. Note also the brick and glass styling, reminiscent of Rosedale station.

Steve has also profiled the early days of the Bloor - Danforth subway in several recent posts:

  • “There’s a New Subway on the Way”, here.
  • “There’s a New Subway on the Way (2)”, here.
  • “There’s a New Subway on the Way (3)”, here.
  • “There’s a New Subway on the Way (4)”, here.
  • “There’s a New Subway on the Way (5)”, here.
  • “There’s a New Subway on the Way (6)”, here.

The arrival of an east-west subway significantly redrew the Toronto transit map.

The TTC massively rerouted many of its bus and remaining streetcar routes to accommodate passengers transferring to and from the new line, including:

  • 6 Bay;
  • 7 Bathurst;
  • 8 Broadview;
  • 25 Don Mills
  • 29 Dufferin;
  • 41 Keele;
  • 47 Lansdowne;
  • 56 Leaside;
  • 62 Mortimer - Main;
  • 63 Ossington;
  • 70 O’Connor;
  • 75 Sherbourne;
  • 77 Spadina;
  • 81 Thorncliffe Park;
  • 89 Weston;
  • 90 Vaughan;
  • 91 Woodbine;
  • 93 Woodbridge;
  • 94 Wellesley;
  • Bathurst cars;
  • Dundas cars; and
  • King cars.

The new subway marked the end of these bus and streetcar routes:

  • 3 Ashbridge;
  • crosstown Bloor cars between Luttrel and Jane;
  • Bloor tripper cars between Jane and Bedford;
  • Coxwell cars;
  • Danforth tripper cars between Luttrel and Bedford;
  • Fort cars;
  • Harbord cars;
  • Parliament cars.

However, these bus routes made their first appearance:

  • 10 Bloor - Danforth night;
  • 22 Coxwell;
  • 31 Greenwood;
  • 72 Pape;
  • 79 Scarlett Rd;
  • 65 Parliament; and
  • 92 Woodbine South.


Greenwood Yard under construction. Photo: TTC.

From the Transit Toronto archives, read:

  • “A History of Subways on Bloor and Queen Streets”, by James Bow, here.
  • “The Abandoned Streetcar Shuttle Passages”, by James Bow, here.
  • “Toronto’s Lost Subway Stations”, by James Bow, here.
  • “The Truth Behind the Interlining Trial”, by James Bow, here.

and don’t miss:

  • A history of the 3 Ashbridge route, by Pete Coulman, here;
  • A history of the 10 Bloor - Danforth night route, by Pete Coulman, here.
  • A history of the 22 Coxwell route, by Pete Coulman, here.
  • A history of the 25 Don Mills route, by Pete Coulman, here.
  • A history of the 31 Greenwood route, by Pete Coulman, here.
  • A history of the 41 Keele route, by Jeffrey Kay, here.
  • A history of the 72 Pape route, by Pete Coulman and Jeffrey Kay, here.
  • A history of the 81 Thorncliffe Park route, by Pete Coulman, here.
  • A history of the 89 Weston route, by Pete Coulman, James Bow and Mike Vainchtein.
  • A history of the 90 Vaughan route, by Jeffrey Kay, here.
  • A history of the 92 Woodbine South route, by Pete Coulman, here.
  • A history of the Bloor streetcar route, by James Bow, here.
  • A history of the Coxwell streetcar route, by James Bow, here.
  • A history of the Fort streetcar route, by James Bow, here.
  • A history of the Harbord streetcar route, by James Bow, here.
  • A history of the Parliament streetcar route, by James Bow, here.


At the east end of the Prince Edward Viaduct, the TTC used “cut-and-cover construction” for this short section of tunnel and Broadview station. Photo: TTC.