Text by: James Bow, Photos by Rob Hutchinson
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...