Text by James Bow.
The Route at the time of Abandonment
The DUPONT streetcar spent far more time on Bay than on Dupont. Beginning at Ferry Loop at the northwest corner of York and Queens Quay, the route travelled east on Queen’s Quay and north on Bay Street to Davenport Road. There, it turned northwest on Davenport and followed this street until it reached Dupont and then continued west along Dupont to Christie Loop. At Christie Loop, connections were made with the ANNETTE trolley bus (which spent far more of its time on Dupont than it did on Annette) for points west.
At the time of its passing, the DUPONT streetcar operated seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day.
The Beginnings of Service on Bay and Dupont Streets
At the beginning of the 20th century, Bay Street came up from Front Street and ended at Queen. The portion of the street north of Queen that we now know as Bay was referred to as Terauley. These two streets did not align with each other, and the present S-bend on Bay’s intersection with Queen is the result of this.
Bay Street found itself taking a back seat to Yonge in terms of commercial development and transit service. In 1910, almost every streetcar that went downtown from the northern half of the city went down Yonge Street. Bay was primarily used to help loop the cars through the downtown.
However, as Toronto grew, so too did the number of commuters heading downtown. The number of streetcars running in from the eastern and western suburbs and heading down Yonge Street increased significantly, to the point where Yonge Street began to see serious congestion. Moving some routes off of Yonge Street onto nearby parallel streets was an obvious means of increasing the capacity of the Yonge transit corridor. By September 1921, the COLLEGE streetcar operating on College Street from the western part of the city turned south on Terauley, and ran down Terauley and Bay Streets to loop via Wellington, York and Front. Similar cars running on Dundas were also turning south at Terauley to loop downtown.
Bay Street was fortunate to boast a connection with Lake Ontario. The railway tracks around Union Station presented an effective barrier to streetcar service south of Front Street. However, a temporary wooden bridge over the railway tracks was installed in May 1926 closer to Bay Street than to Yonge Street. Streetcar service on a short shuttle run known as FERRY commenced May 22, 1926. This service provided a connection with the Ferry Docks and their services to the Toronto Islands.
Streetcar tracks on Dupont Street were inherited by the Toronto Transportation Commission from the Toronto Railway Company. Sources on the early days of Dupont operation are sketchy, but tracks on Bathurst had reached Dupont Street by 1889 and were in regular use by 1890. Service was extended west on Dupont Street to a wye at Christie on October 11, 1906, and it is conceivable that tracks were laid down on Dupont Street between Bathurst to Avenue Road at that time. When the TTC took over in 1921, a DUPONT streetcar was wying at the Bathurst/Dupont intersection and heading east on Dupont, south on Avenue Road, east on Bloor and south on Yonge to loop at Scott and Front.
Toronto continued to grow, north along Yonge Street, but also northwest, as evidenced by the development of Forest Hill and the unincorporated areas of the Township of York. This increased the problems of streetcar congestion on Yonge Street, to the point where service on Yonge was already operating at capacity south of St. Clair Avenue. The need to divert downtown-bound northwestern commuters away from Yonge Street became acute, as evidenced by the increase of service on other north-south lines as BATHURST and DOVERCOURT. Tracks had already been laid on Avenue Road from Bloor to St. Clair. As with Bay Street, Avenue Road was an obvious corridor for serving the areas around Yonge Street while reducing pressure on the Yonge Streetcar.
When the Toronto Transportation Commission took over all streetcar services within the City of Toronto, it set about integrating the Toronto Civic Railways ST. CLAIR line with the former Toronto Railway Company’s AVENUE ROAD line. Starting Monday, December 26, 1921, ST. CLAIR cars were cut back to crossovers between Yonge and Avenue Road, while the single-ended Avenue Road cars operated along the rest of the route to a newly constructed Caledonia Loop at Station Street. This was only a temporary revision; by July 1, 1923, ST. CLAIR cars were operating along the full route again, to Lawton Loop at Yonge Street and Lawton Avenue (now a parkette). Avenue Road cars continued to provide additional service west of Avenue Road.
The AVENUE ROAD streetcar moved onto Bay Street for Sunday service only on June 4, 1922, followed by tripper cars on February 26, 1923. The route, running from Caledonia Loop on St. Clair Avenue, via St. Clair, Avenue Road, Bloor and Yonge, kept its name until July 1, 1923, when it was renamed BAY and routed south on Bay Street. Similarly on July 1, 1923, DUPONT cars were pulled east along Bloor to head south on Church Street, looping via Front, Yonge and Wellington to help reduce congestion.
When the DUPONT streetcar was founded, its function was also to get suburban residents downtown. It too had to be adjusted to relieve the pressure on Yonge Street south of Bloor when, on July 1, 1923, it was rerouted to operate on Church Street instead of Yonge south of Bloor. However, the residential neighbourhoods it served were older, and as the city grew north and west, other lines began to take up the role of ferrying suburban commuters downtown. The nature of Dupont became more local in character. It was rerouted onto Bay Street in the mid 1920s, but was soon rerouted to terminate at the edge of Toronto’s downtown rather than looping through it.
The first City Hall loop, running onstreet from Bay via Albert, James and Louisa, was opened on August 30, 1921 and DUPONT cars were routed into this loop in the mid 1920s. The DUPONT cars shared the loop with the DUNDAS streetcar and the presence of BAY, DUPONT, DUNDAS and HARBORD cars trundling through the Bay/Dundas intersection made for significant streetcar congestion. City Hall Loop was rebuilt, running via Louisa, James and Albert, and reopened on November 3, 1930, with access from Elizabeth Street, which allowed DUNDAS cars to avoid the Bay/Dundas intersection.
On August 1, 1927, the BAY line absorbed the FERRY shuttle. It would operate over the temporary bridge over the railway tracks to the docks until the Bay Street underpass was opened on May 1, 1930. With the Ferry Docks themselves a major trip generator, especially during summer, it made sense to link them to a line that offered access to much of the city. Also, combining the two streetcar routes eliminated the need to loop both routes downtown, where there was already enough streetcar traffic to contend with.
In 1931, the TTC extended tracks on Bay Street north of Bloor and soon the BAY cars were operating via Bay and Davenport to Avenue Road. DUPONT cars used these tracks to get from Bloor Street to the Dupont/Davenport intersection. The sections of track on Avenue Road south of Davenport and on Dupont Street between Davenport and Dupont were abandoned, and service took on the structure that would sustain it for the next three decades. The BAY streetcar was the premiere route, operating from the northwestern sector of the city and then parallel Yonge street, augmenting service along this major corridor. DUPONT streetcars were secondary cars, serving the neighbourhoods of the Annex and Wychwood, connecting them with streetcar services on Bathurst, Bloor, College and Dundas streets.
At the end of the 1920s, there were plans to extend the DUPONT streetcar west from Christie loop along Dupont to Dovercourt. From there, it would use existing tracks along Dovercourt, Hallam and Lappin Streets to Lansdowne before transferring to new tracks along Lappin to Dundas. The proposed line would continue west of Dundas along Humberside through the Toronto Junction to Jane Street via Keele and Annette. This extension would have brought streetcar service to an underserviced area north of Bloor and south of St. Clair. Unfortunately, the onset of the Great Depression killed this proposal, and it was not fulfilled until 1947 when the ANNETTE trolley coach was installed from Jane and Bloor via Jane and Annette to Christie Loop.
The YONGE SUBWAY was designed to replace the BAY streetcar as much as it was designed to replace the YONGE line. The two streetcar routes together were carrying thousands of passengers per hour along two roads that were never far apart from each other. When the YONGE SUBWAY opened on March 30, 1954, the BAY streetcar was replaced by the EARLSCOURT car, which channelled passengers over the St. Clair portion of the original route to the YONGE SUBWAY at St. Clair station. The tracks on Avenue Road were abandoned.
The section of the BAY line south of Davenport Road did not lose streetcar service, however, despite its proximity to the YONGE SUBWAY line. The Ferry Docks still needed service, Bay Street was still a busy thoroughfare through downtown Toronto, and the residence of the Annex and South Wychwood still required service. As a result, the DUPONT streetcar, which had been the secondary route along this street, was promoted. It was now responsible for all streetcar service along the length of Bay Street.
The Last Days and Why they Came
The DUPONT streetcar continued to operate from Dupont and Christie, Dupont, Davenport, Bay and Queen’s Quay to York loop until February 28, 1963, when the UNIVERSITY SUBWAY opened. Flanked by two subway lines instead of one, and with the TTC’s streetcar abandonment policy very much in force, the DUPONT streetcar was replaced by the 6 BAY bus. The 4 ANNETTE trolley bus was also extended east from Christie Loop, over Dupont Street, Davenport Road and Bedford Road, to St. George station.
The tracks on Bay remained for a couple of years after the fall of DUPONT so that DUNDAS streetcars could provide special runs during the summer months to the Ferry Docks. This service was abandoned on August 15, 1965. Regular streetcar service on one part of Bay continued in the form of DUNDAS cars looping around City Hall loop, but this too fell when the Eaton Centre development removed City Hall loop on January 6, 1975.
The TTC would later go on record saying that it regretted its decision to remove streetcars from Bay Street. During rush-hours especially, the route proved to be a popular alternative to the subway, and the skyscrapers which developed downtown during the 1960s and the 70s produced a canyon which trapped the fumes from diesel buses. The line proved to be ideal to convert to trolley bus operation in the mid 1970s, using equipment made surplus by the North Yonge subway extension and the conversion of the 97 YONGE trolley bus to diesel operation. The BAY trolley bus was the most frequent and most travelled trolley bus operation until the technology was abandoned in 1993.
Echoes of the BAY streetcar would sound now and again. The TTC seriously considered reconversion back to streetcar operation when it looked at changing the bus to trolley bus operation in the 1970s. In the late 1980s, a study recommended that the HARBOURFRONT line be extended north, partly underground, partly at street level, to the BLOOR-DANFORTH SUBWAY. No serious plans are in the books to restore streetcar service now, however. Tracks remain in place between College and Dundas Streets for short turns and diversions.
Bay Street has, to some extent, fallen back into the shadow of Yonge Street. When provincial cutbacks in 1996 forced major service reductions, the 6 BAY bus was hard hit. Plans to increase service on Bay come up hard against the presence of two high-capacity north-south subway lines scant blocks away. It will be some time, if at all, before this situation changes, and Bay reemerges as a major transportation corridor in its own right.
Bay and Dupont Streetcar Image Archive
- Bromley, John F., TTC ‘28, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1979.
- Bromley, John F., ‘Toronto Streetcar & Radial Loop History’, Transfer Points, March 1999, p4-10, Toronto Transportation Society, Toronto (Ontario).
- Bromley, John F., and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders’ Association, New York (New York), 1978.
- Hood, J. William, The Toronto Civic Railways: An Illustrated History, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1986.
Special Thanks to Mark Brader, John Bromley and Ray Corley for their assistance in the construction of this page