King-Exhibition's Last Stand -- Summer 1999

Text by: James Bow, Photos by Rob Hutchinson

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Attendees of the 1999 instalment of the Canadian National Exhibition may not have realized they were saying good bye to an old friend. For decades, streetcars serving King Street had been diverted south on Bathurst to the eastern entrance of the Exhibition, providing a link between the grounds and the Yonge and University subway lines. The 1999 Exhibition was to be the last time 521 EXHIBITION EAST cars were to serve the CNE.

On July 24, 2000, service would begin between Union Station and the Exhibition, along a 800 metre 'missing-link' along Queens Quay between Spadina and Bathurst. When the 2000 CNE season opened, 509 HARBOURFRONT streetcars would offer direct service to Union Station following long sections of private right-of-way. So, as a bittersweet memorial, photographer Rob Hutchinson went out with his camera and captured shots of 521 streetcars in operation.

But this wouldn't be the streetcar line's last stand...

Molson Indy Reprieve

In July 2000, the year's instalment of the Molson Indy car race gave the 521 EXHIBITION EAST streetcar one last breath of life. The race was to take place over the weekend of July 14-16, and the 509 HARBOURFRONT streetcar was still not due to open for another week. Unable to clear the line for operation, the TTC scheduled the King-Exhibition cars to run again, bringing passengers from the Yonge-University-Spadina subway to the event.

This was a true last stand. By this time, the streetcar rollsigns had all been replaced, with all 521 KING EXHIBITION route exposures eliminated in anticipation of the Harbourfront line's arrival. So streetcar drivers made do. Many cars trundled with 504 EXHIBITION on their rollsigns, and some 508 and 509 signs even made an appearance. A black on yellow card displayed the 521 route on affected streetcars, and the 521 back rollsign exposure was used.

Thanks to Rob Hutchinson for taking the time to snap these last photos below. Such photos are always bittersweet, but at least the departure of the King-Exhibition route doesn't represent a death of a line -- merely its transformation...

King Exhibition's Last Stand Image Archive

521 car at King and Yonge

In August 1999, Rob Hutchinson stands at King and Yonge, next to the King Station subway entrance. The buildings of Toronto's downtown loom around the intersection. CLRV 4021 is facing east, and will soon be turning north on Church to loop via Richmond, Victoria and Queen. The passengers waiting across the street for the next westbound car might want to take this one instead. It would guarantee them a seat...

Turning from King onto Bathurst

Rob's next shot is at the corner of King and Bathurst, where the 521 (represented by CLRV 4179) makes its turn to head south towards the Exhibition.

At approach to CNE

At the approach to the CNE, the 521 trundles past old industrial buildings, the remains of the Molson's plant, and the Garrison of Fort York. Here, a 521 car crosses Garrison Road.

At Exhibition Loop

At Exhibition East loop, CLRV 4037 prepares for one of the last departures of the 521 streetcar. One year later, 509 HARBOURFRONT cars would sit in this spot.

521 car on Fleet Street

In July 2000, for the Molson Indy, we see CLRV 4003 running east on Fleet Street, towards the Tip Top Tailors building. Note the 521 back rollsign exposure.

King and Spadina

CLRV 4121 stops to pick up passengers at King and Spadina, while comrade 4056 passes eastbound. CLRV 4121 has had to use the new 504 EXHIBITION exposure.

At King and Bathurst

ALRV 4244 on Bathurst Street enters into this picture as CLRV 4003 prepares to turn south from King.

CLRV 4003 turning

CLRV 4003 turns south from King onto Bathurst, bearing a 509 EXHIBITION sign.

CLRV 4003 northbound on bridge

Returning north, CLRV 4003 puts on a 508 exposure (508 CHURCH VIA KING) as it crosses the Bathurst Street bridge over the railway tracks.

Bathurst Street looking north

CLRV 4088, northbound on Bathurst Street, pulls up to a traffic jam of streetcars at the King/Bathurst intersection.

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