Text by Godfrey Mallion
Revised by James Bow
Danforth carhouse, located at the southeast corner of Danforth and Coxwell Avenues, began serving streetcars in September 1915, and continued as a public transit operating division long after streetcars disappeared in 1966, before finally closing down on March 30, 2002. As with St. Clair Carhouse, it was built to support the operation of the Toronto Civic Railway, bringing streetcar service to parts of Toronto between 1911 and 1921, which the Toronto Railway Company refused to serve.
When the City of Toronto decided to launch the Toronto Civic Railways in 1911, its initial focus was on the neighbourhoods of the former Village of East Toronto, and along Danforth Avenue. They began work on building a line along Gerrard Street, from the end of the TRC tracks at Greenwood to Coxwell, then north on Gerrard to Upper Gerrard and then east on Upper Gerrard to Main Street. To help build the line, the TTC needed a place to deliver equipment and supplies. The City of Toronto arranged with the Grand Trunk Railway to borrow land on the south side of the tracks through the area, between Morton Road and Woodbine Avenue. A siding was built off the Grand Trunk line, and three-foot-wide construction tracks were laid alongside, and along Gerrard Street to Woodbine Avenue. Supplies started arriving at this yard on August 17, 1911, and work could proceed.
Work on the DANFORTH Civic streetcar line began in August 1912, the Toronto Civic Railway needed a second supply yard, and chose one at the southwest corner of Coxwell Avenue and Hanson Street, again near the tracks of the Grand Trunk Railway. Hanson Yard actually started construction in 1911 when the City of Toronto needed a place to receive and store equipment to build the Coxwell Avenue underpass beneath the Grand Trunk tracks. Again, three-foot-wide construction tracks were laid through the yard and up Coxwell Avenue to receive supplies for the streetcar line construction. It was also here that the Toronto Civic Railways received its first four passenger cars (numbered 1-4).
Once the Coxwell underpass was complete, permanent Toronto-gauge streetcar tracks were laid into the yard so that more Civic streetcars could be delivered and stored. However, it was clear that the Hanson Yard was not big enough to operate as a full carhouse, and the TCR looked elsewhere to store its streetcars. The TTC selected a site on the northwest corner of Gerrard Street and Morton Road (today known as Kildonan Road), near but not at the site of the Gerrard Street supply yard. The TCR built a iron shed that was 96 feet long and 27 feet wide, which was space enough to house and perform light maintenance on one streetcar; the remaining three plus a snowsweeper were left on a single outside track in the yard.
When the GERRARD Civic streetcar line opened on December 18, 1912, there was no longer a need for the Gerrard supply yard, and it was quickly closed down and given back to Grand Trunk. Hanson Yard stayed open while work continued to finish the DANFORTH car line. The TCR set to work building a single track along Coxwell Avenue, from Danforth Avenue to Upper Gerrard. This connection between the GERRARD and DANFORTH lines allowed the TCR to take delivery of new streetcars for both lines. When the DANFORTH car line launched on October 30, 1913, Gerrard Street yard was expanded to store the cars.
A Need for Space
Very quickly, it became clear that Gerrard Street Yard wasn't big enough to service two major streetcar lines, even with Hanson Yard providing additional space. However, Gerrard Yard's location meant that it was impossible to expand, so the TCR set to work designing a large permanent carhouse and maintenance shop. This wasn't just to serve the two eastern streetcar lines of the Toronto Civic Railway. The City of Toronto looked ahead to the end of the Toronto Railway Companh's franchise in 1921, and realized that a new eastern carhouse might be needed to service a large chunk of the eastern portion of the entire Toronto streetcar network. The new facility needed to be modern, built to last, and with room to expand.
The TCR selected a six-and-a-half acre site bounded by Coxwell Avenue in the west, Danforth Avenue in the north, Hillingdon Avenue in the east and Stacey Street (today's Woodrow Avenue) in the south. Work on the new carhouse began late in 1913 and was finished two years later at a cost of $25,000. The TCR had built an L-shaped building facing east and north. On the Hillingdon side, the TCR placed a three-track storage bay able to hold nine cars, and a three-track repair bay. All the tracks featured pits for under-car maintenance. The Danforth side featured offices, a operators' room, storerooms, a workshop and a boiler room. There was even a small stable, with space for two horses and a wagon. Tracks along the outside allowed for even more storage. Better yet, there was room. In 1918, the single track along the south end of the property was expanded to three tracks, adding capacity for another twenty-seven cars. Connections were made with the track at Coxwell Avenue to aid in the movement of streetcars.
The opening of Danforth carhouse meant that Gerrard Street Yard was now surplus. The property was closed in September 1915, with all personnel and equipment transferred to Danforth, and the tracks were removed. The property was eventually sold for redevelopment in August 1920. Hanson Yard remained, although all of its equipment was also transferred to Danforth. It was still useful to receive new streetcars from the Grand Trunk Railway. This yard survived the merging of the TCR into the newly created Toronto Transportation Commission in 1921, and continued to be the site where new streetcars were received by the TTC until Hillcrest Shops opened in 1924. The property was sold in 1934, and today is the site of a high school.
The TTC Years
Ahead of the takeover of the TCR by the TTC, work began in the summer of 1921 to expand Danforth carhouse and its yard in anticipation of its expanded role with the new city-wide transit company. The construction cost $235,000 and was soon finished in time for the carhouse to receive the TTC's newest streetcar acquisition: modern Peter Witt vehicles and trailers, which plied the system starting October 2, 1921. Danforth carhouse also allowed the TTC to shut down the dilapidated TRC Scarborough Beach carhouse. By 1922, Danforth carhouse had inside storage space for fifty-four cars, and seventeen tracks laid outside in the yard area. The repair bays, offices and the storerooms were also expanded to handle the additional traffic. The construction also changed the orientation of the yard. Previously, streetcars had run through the carhouse west to east, from Coxwell to Hillingdon; the renovations switched this to east to west, with cars exiting onto Coxwell Avenue.
Danforth carhouse was soon handling the streetcars of many of the major routes operating out of the east end, including BLOOR, BROADVIEW, CARLTON, CHURCH, COLLEGE, COXWELL, DANFORTH, GERRARD (and its predecessor, GERRARD-MAIN), HARBORD, KING, KINGSTON ROAD, COXWELL, PARLIAMENT and SHERBOURNE). Danforth carhouse housed and maintained every type of streetcar to operate on the TTC from 1921 to 1966, from the short Birneys and the old Toronto Civic Niles cars, to the cars inherited from the TRC, to the new Peter Witts and the even newer PCC cars.
Danforth carhouse was modified throughout its history as a streetcar division. Two loops were added on its property: Coxwell loop (located on the southeast corner of Coxwell and Danforth and also known as Danforth loop) opened in 1936 (replacing an older loop) while Hillingdon Loop, located at the southwest corner of Danforth and Hillingdon was added later. Streetcars entered Coxwell loop from the south, and could either detrain passengers and turn around back onto Coxwell, or continue east onto Danforth Avenue to enter the carhouse, and so this was the access point of many of the routes operating south of the Danforth. A brick passenger shelter at the north end of the loop gave passengers protection from the elements. Hillingdon loop could be entered from the west or east along Danforth Avenue. A loop-the-loop switch allowed cars to turn back onto Hillingdon Avenue, after dropping off passengers, and accessing the carhouse. This was the entry point of the many routes serving Danforth Avenue.
The Arrival of Buses and the End of Streetcars on the Danforth
In 1954, Danforth carhouse acquired a new responsibility: handling a significant portion of the TTC's bus fleet. On July 1, 1954, the TTC was transferred to the newly created Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto and given responsibility for all public transit operations in the City of Toronto and the twelve surrounding towns, villages and boroughs. On this date, the TTC acquired a number of bus operations, including routes and equipment from Danforth and Hollinger Bus Lines operating through old East York and Scarborough townships.
Danforth carhouse was not equipped to store buses, but its offices still served as the official headquarters of various satellite garages. It did signal a shift in the carhouse's priorities, however. As the City of Toronto pursued an east-west subway line, it eventually settled on a route that would replace the BLOOR streetcar and its DANFORTH tripper service. Indeed, a sizable portion of Toronto's streetcar network would vanish with the opening of the BLOOR-DANFORTH SUBWAY on February 26, 1966. Coxwell station opened one block north of the carhouse on that date, and regular streetcars vanished from both Danforth Avenue (west of Woodbine) and Coxwell.
There were streetcars operating on Danforth Avenue: a streetcar shuttle remained ferrying passengers from the Woodbine terminal at the end of the subway to old Luttrell loop at the eastern city limits, but it was a temporary shuttle. It made more sense to retain Russell Carhouse on Queen Street, which was closer to most of the remaining streetcar routes. Even so, tracks remained on Coxwell Avenue to Danforth and on Danforth Avenue from Coxwell east, to allow DANFORTH cars to enter service. Even Coxwell loop remained, so that CARLTON cars could short turn. The carhouse itself became a temporary resting place of dozens of surplus PCC streetcars, before these were transferred by truck to the city's industrial docks for shipment to Alexandria, Egypt early in 1967. The tracks along Coxwell and Danforth abutting the property were lifted by the time the BLOOR-DANFORTH SUBWAY was extended to Warden on May 11, 1968, eliminating the DANFORTH shuttle.
New Life as a Garage
With Danforth's service as a streetcar storage facility at an end, the TTC set to work converting the facility to an all-bus garage. The buses that had been stored on-site were moved to Sherbourne Garage temporarily while work could continue. Finally, on April 23, 1967, a 60,000 square foot complex opened, able to handle 134 buses. There was space for a wash rack, a diesel fueling station, six hoists, and eight inspection pits. Danforth Garage shared work with Birchmount Garage, hosting the buses from the TTC's growing network of routes serving the eastern part of the city. Danforth Garage also had a role serving a number of the bus routes operating through Toronto's downtown. In 1993, the garage hosted various routes from downtown Toronto and the Beaches.
By the year 2000, however, Danforth Garage was into its eight decade as a division, and its third decade as a bus garage. It had also run out of space to expand, as the areas around the facility had been built up long ago. Portions of the property had even been leased to the Toronto Public Library, or sold to private landowners. When the TTC began work on a new New Eglinton Garage, it was planned that this facility should replace both the old Eglinton Garage as well as Danforth. There would be more space and a state-of-the-art maintenance facility. And so when the new garage opened on Comstock Road in Scarborough on March 30, 2002, Danforth Garage was shut down as an operating division, ending 87 years of service to public transit vehicles in the east end of Toronto.
Although Danforth Garage no longer services buses, it has not been declared surplus by the TTC. Further portions of the site have been sold off, but the TTC continues to own the property at 1627 Danforth Avenue, and uses the space as offices for station collectors and subway operators. A portion of the garage is used to store electrical and communications equipment while another portion has been leased to Habitat for Humanity. In 2007, the TTC examined the possibility of selling the property outright, but as of 2013, the building and the garage remain in the TTC's hands.
With the opening of Mount Dennis Garage in 2008, most of the former Danforth bus routes are now served by Birchmount Garage on Danforth Road while New Eglinton, its "successor", services a few of its routes as well as Wilson.
At the time of the closure, Danforth operated the following routes as of January 1, 2002:
- 8 BROADVIEW
- 22 COXWELL
- 23 DAWES
- 25 DON MILLS
- 31 GREENWOOD
- 57 MIDLAND
- 62 MORTIMER
- 65 PARLIAMENT
- 72 PAPE
- 75 SHERBOURNE
- 81 THORNCLIFFE PARK
- 82 ROSEDALE
- 87 COSBURN
- 91 WOODBINE
- 92 WOODBINE SOUTH
- 94 WELLESLEY
- 100 FLEMINGDON PARK
- 300 BLOOR-DANFORTH
- 303 DON MILLS
- 322 COXWELL NIGHT
As of April 2000, courtesy of Richard Hooles:
#6003, #6007, #6010-#6020, #6035, #6038, #6044, #6048-#6050, #6053, #6054, #6100-#6104, #6106, #6107, #6109-#6111, #6113-#6117
#6130-#6132, #6135-#6139, #6141-#6146, #6149-#6151, #6153-#6156, #6158-#6160, #6164-#6166, #6169-#6174, #6176, #6182-#6184, #6187, #6188, #6194, #6195, #6197-#6200
Danforth Carhouse and Garage Image Archive
- Boutilier, Robert, Bus Maintenance and Shops - 1999 Insider's Guide
- Hood, J. William, The Toronto Civic Railways: An Illustrated History, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1986.
- Kay, Jeffrey (ed.), Transfer Points, Feb/Mar 1993, Toronto.
- TTC History Cards, City of Toronto Archives, Toronto.
- The Coupler, TTC Employee Magazine, various issues