Searching for Toronto's Transit Ghosts

Coming to the Surface

Text by Sean Marshall and James Bow

Forget Lower Bay Station and the last trolley coach in Toronto. There are many ghosts of Toronto’s transit history which don’t require trespassing and dangerous stunts to find. In fact, there are many relics that are still around, very visible, and yet almost unnoticed. This article will name a few of some visible, yet ignored features of days gone by.

The Ghostly Tracks of Rogers Road and Mount Pleasant

The last streetcar lines to be abandoned in Toronto were the Rogers Road streetcar in 1974 and the Mount Pleasant streetcar in 1976 (the latter was, two years before its abandonment, the portion of the St. Clair Streetcar running east from St. Clair Station to Eglinton and Mount Pleasant). Although gone for twenty-five years or more, their legacy lives on in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

After streetcars were abandoned on St. Clair East and Mount Pleasant, trolley buses based out of the Eglinton division took their place. Although tracks were taken up from the Mt. Pleasant/St. Clair intersection north to Eglinton, the tracks on St. Clair between St. Clair station and Mount Pleasant remained in place for years, until road-work removed even these vestiges. The tracks in the Mt. Pleasant/St. Clair intersection were not taken up, however; they were merely paved over. Twenty-five years later, tracks is still visible at the intersection of Mount Pleasant and St. Clair. Moore Park Loop (located at the northeast corner of Mount Pleasant and St. Clair) had been converted into a parkette for some time now, but one can see the rail leaving the loop and running into what used to be the southbound tracks on Mount Pleasant.

As for Rogers Road, the tracks from Old Weston Road east were removed soon after trolley buses took over service. However, rail remained along Rogers from the intersection with Old Weston Road up to, but not including Bicknell Loop. The track was not even covered over and remains plainly visible and in quite good condition. Staring west along Rogers Road towards Keele Street, one could imagine a streetcar coming along, were it not for the lack of overhead wires.

Parliament Loop Today

Parliament Street, looking south from King today (above) and in 1965 (below, by R. Hill donated by Rob Hutch). The tracks leading into Parliament Loop are returning to the surface.

Parliament Loop Yesterday
Parliament Loop Today

An abandoned bus shelter in Parliament Loop today, quietly awaiting its fate…

Parliament Loop, Coming to the Surface

Parliament Loop no longer sees regular bus service, although it remains TTC property and hasn’t yet been declared surplus or slated to be sold off. Streetcars last used this loop, located on the east side of Parliament, just south of King Street, in 1966, when the Parliament streetcar was replaced by the 65 PARLIAMENT bus. Although the special work at the King/Parliament intersection was replaced (so that only west-to-north and south-to-east turns are possible), the tracks running south from King and into Parliament Loop weren’t taken up, but were merely paved over. The pavement is now quite old, and the tracks are beginning to return to the surface.

The tracks were almost returned to the surface permanently in 1996, when the TTC considered reinstating Parliament Loop as a streetcar loop. This would have required new tracks and new specialwork to make new turns possible at the King/Parliament intersection. The project was abandoned due to budget cuts, but the TTC continued to consider the possibility of reinstating Parliament Loop for years. The 504 King streetcar suffers from unreliable service brought on by overcrowding, and the lack of viable short-turn loops along the east end of the route. Restoring streetcar tracks into Parliament Loop would have given the TTC more options for maintaining schedules. At the same time, the loop no longer saw regular service and the property was quite valuable, tempting the TTC to sell it off for redevelopment. This occurred soon after the turn of the millennium, and the site is now built over. The TTC’s plans for an additional short turn for King have shifted to Broadview Avenue near Queen.

Hillside Wye

For decades, Hillside wye was an oddity of the Toronto streetcar network. Outside of a carhouse (or a former carhouse) or an intersection between streetcar tracks, this short stub of track on Hillside Avenue in Mimico, was the only place in the system where streetcars could wye. There were other wyes in the system. Between 1966 and 1973, Bathurst streetcars could wye at Adelaide Street, using the remnants of the Adelaide streetcar tracks between Bathurst and Spadina, and from the closure of Wychwood carhouse until the tracks were disconnected from St. Clair in 1998, a wye existed at Wychwood and Benson, but neither of these were originally built to be used as wyes. The former was tangent track, while the latter was a former carhouse entry point.

Hillside Wye was a dedicated wye that opened on December 8, 1928, as part of the TTC’s reconstruction of the old Toronto and Mimico radial railway into the city-style Lake Shore streetcar (see Route 507 - The Long Branch Streetcar (Deceased)). Cars could enter the wye travelling westbound from the east or travelling eastbound from the west. Backing out on either track, they’d face properly in the direction of traffic.

Very little information can be found on the reasoning behind this wye. It didn’t exist while the Toronto and Mimico railway operated as a single-track line, and it is far from the boundaries of Mimico, which would be one reason why the TTC might want to turn some cars back.

The tracks of Hillside Wye were lifted as part of reconstruction on Lakeshore Boulevard during the summer of 2002. Today, only wires and metal poles remain as evidence that tracks once extended up Hillside Avenue.

Hillside Wye Yesterday

Ex-Kansas City PCC (TTC #4752) poses with a Kansas City rollsign in Hillside Wye. Outside of railfan visits such as this, this stub track was rarely used. Photo donated from the Curt Frey collection.

Hillside Wye Today

In this shot by Glenn Kapasky, taken in April 2003, you can see that the tracks are gone and the street repaved, but the wires and the metal poles remain in place. It may be some time before these vanish.

After Hillside and Adelaide wyes, the last wyes to be removed from Toronto’s streetcar network include the Junction wye (Keele north of Dundas, a remnant of the Weston streetcar, removed June 27, 1963), and Glencairn wye (Glencairn west of Yonge, used by Yonge trailer-trains for short turns, closed March 6, 1954).

Parkside Loop

Parkside Loop opened for service on June 11, 1928, at the northeast corner of Parkside Drive and Lake Shore Road. It was built as part of the reconstruction of the Toronto and Mimico radial railway into the Lake Shore streetcar and it allowed streetcars travelling west along Lakeshore Road to turn around, without having to head all the way to Humber loop.

Lake Shore streetcars used it to short turn and, when the line was split into Lake Shore (easterly) and Long Branch (westerly) components, on October 28, 1935, Lake Shore cars used Parkside, overlapping Long Branch service which looped at Roncesvalles. This arrangement continued after August 2, 1937, when the Lake Shore and Beach streetcar lines merged to become the modern-day Queen route.

In 1957, road improvements around Sunnyside connected the Queensway to Queen Street, and diverted Lakeshore Boulevard downtown. A new streetcar private right-of-way was built along the Queensway and tracks on Lakeshore were abandoned between Humber Loop and Roncesvalles. Parkside Loop was a casualty of this. It closed for service on July 20, 1957.

Parkside Loop Overview

An overview of the remnants of Parkside loop. This is Parkside Avenue, looking north towards the Gardiner Expressway. During the original road construction, it appears that the tracks were simply paved over. They are now coming to the surface.

Parkside Loop Track Cracks

A closer shot shows the tracks’ profile emerging from the pavement, at an angle to the street, suggesting the entrance to a loop.

Parkside Loop Close up

Track segment close-up.

Other Sections of Isolated Track

  • A short section of single track running south on the surface of Neville Park Boulevard from Queen Street. Originally part of Neville Wye back in the early 1920s, it was maintained as a tail-track for Neville Park loop until the mid 1980s when the switch onto Queen Street was removed.
  • The former St. Clair Division carhouse on Wychwood Avenue has its own article as a significant TTC Ghost. The tracks which used to run south on Wychwood Avenue from St. Clair have now been disconnected from the rest of the system but remain on the surface.
  • The former Lansdowne Division garage has its own article as a significant TTC Ghost. However, ghosts of ghosts, the streetcar tracks dating back from the time when the garage was a carhouse were merely paved over, and these tracks are now coming to the surface near the Lansdowne/Wallace Intersection.
  • A one block section of track is clearly visible on Strathmore Boulevard running east from the driveway exiting the Woodbine station bus terminal to Cederbrae Avenue. This is all that remains of the temporary tracks that were run up Cederbrae to loop through a temporary platform connecting the Danforth streetcar shuttles to the Bloor-Danforth subway.

The Metal Poles

The next transit ghosts to be discussed are the ubiquitous and distinctive metal poles which hold (or held) up overhead wiring for streetcars and trolley buses. Streets that still have these poles, but no electric service include:

  • Yonge Street, from Eglinton to Glen Echo (streetcar, 97 trolley)
  • Harbord, Ossington, Davenport
  • Dundas, Dundas West loop to Runnymede (Dundas, King streetcars, 40 Junction)
  • Rogers Road
  • Weston Road, Keele Street
  • Parliament Street north of Carlton and south of King
  • Bay Street (especially interesting as the metal poles were reused as TTC wiring was restrung for the 6 Bay trolleys, which was removed form the same poles from the Dupont and Dundas cars)
  • Lansdowne
  • Avenue Road and Mount Pleasant
  • Lawrence
  • Oakwood
  • Dupont and Annette
  • Carlaw, Riverdale and Pape (Harbord cars)

These are remnants of many more poles that have been removed. The ones that remain tend to hold hold lamp posts, utility wiring, signage or other things that would be inconvenient to replace. However, there are a number of poles in Weston that seem to have no purpose being there at all. Here’s more about Toronto’s trolley bus remnants.


Ghostly Images

Harbord Tracks Resurface on Davenport

Road work on Davenport Road near Symington revealed tracks that had simply been paved over after being abandoned in the 1950s. The Harbord streetcar used to operate on these. Photo by William Zenetos.

Bicknell Loop

Rogers Road had the best known example of ghost streetcar trackage, with several blocks worth running east from Bicknell Loop. A few years ago, these tracks were finally removed as part of scheduled road repair. The tracks themselves didn’t enter Bicknell Loop anymore, and the loop itself is now surplus and will soon be abandoned.

Bicknell Loop Then

A quarter-century earlier, we see a PCC leaving Bicknell Loop and turning east along Rogers Road. Photo by R. Hill; donated by Rob Hutch.

Eastern End of Rogers Road Tracks

The end of track, at the eastern end. At the Rogers Road/Old Weston Road intersection (seen here, looking west), the former Rogers Road tracks come to an abrupt halt.

Moore Park Loop Exit

The tracks leading out of Moore Park loop and southbound onto Mount Pleasant.

Mount Pleasant and St. Clair

Tracks reappearing in the St. Clair/Mount Pleasant intersection.


Sources

  • Bromley, John F., ‘Toronto Streetcar & Radial Loop History’, Transfer Points, March 1999, p4-10, Toronto Transportation Society, Toronto (Ontario).
  • Bromley, John F., TTC ‘28, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1979.
  • Bromley, John F. and Ray Corley, ‘Toronto Streetcar & Radial Stub Terminals’, Transfer Points, June-July 1999, p6-8, Toronto Transportation Society, Toronto (Ontario).
  • Bromley, John F. and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders’ Association, New York (New York), 1973.