The Parliament Streetcar (Deceased)

Parliament Transfer

Parliament transfer before 1948, before the extension of the line to King Street.

Text by James Bow.

The Route at the Time of its Abandonment

Running from the off-street Viaduct Loop next to the Necropolis, Parliament streetcars trundled south, through Cabbagetown and old Corktown, to loop at Parliament loop just south of King Street. Parliament had no tripper services to speak of, although cars would run in from Danforth Carhouse via the Danforth Avenue and the Prince Edward Viaduct. Earlier in its history, other routes made use of Parliament's tracks (and some still do) for special rush-hour services. These include a King operation, and the Carlton Tripper, both of which stopped running before Parliament was abandoned.

Abandoned before the arrival of Canadian Light Rail Vehicles, Parliament was never given an official route number for its rollsigns. However, from May 3, 1965 through February 1966, the three PCCs serving the Parliament line were equipped with automatic transfer dispensers on a trial basis. The transfers were similar to cash register receipts, indicating the date, time, direction of travel, transfer number and route number. Parliament's route was listed as '00'.

A History of Streetcars on Parliament

Parliament is a very old street, with connections to the old Town of York. The industrial section south of Front Street once boasted Upper Canada's capital buildings and that is how the street got its name. As the area developed into a major working-class residential neighbourhood, demand for streetcar service soon followed, and tracks appeared early in the Toronto Railway Company's mandate. By 1910, three routes were running along the street. Winchester Cars operated from Downtown Toronto via Yonge, Carlton, Parliament and Winchester to a wye at Sumach Street. Parliament cars were looping downtown via Yonge, Front and Bay and running via Queen, Parliament and Gerrard Streets to a wye at Greenwood Avenue. Carlton cars bridged the gap between Gerrard and Carlton, as part of its service from Broadview and Gerrard to the Downtown via Gerrard, Parliament, Carlton and Yonge.

In 1918, Parliament cars were renamed 'Queen' and extended west of the downtown core to Roncesvalles. Winchester moved from Carlton south to Dundas in 1911 and shared service with 'Queen' between Dundas and Carlton. This was the routing arrangement when the Toronto Transportation Commission took over streetcar operations. Two years later, all service on Parliament and Winchester Streets was handled by a single Parliament route (recently renamed from 'Winchester', and the days of service on Winchester Street were numbered. On August 3, 1924, Parliament cars were rerouted along new track to Bloor Street where cars turned at a newly constructed Viaduct Loop. Parliament cars looped downtown via Queen, Church and Victoria streets before returning to Parliament along Queen. Winchester tracks languished unused for four years before being torn up.

Service was provided using single-ended cars, until the mid 1920s. By 1928, a crossover had been constructed on the Parliament tracks near Queen, and on Sundays, Birney cars were cut back here until May 1940. This was the routing arrangement through the Great Depression and the Second World War. Following the War, on January 5, 1947, service was extended south on Parliament to a new loop just south of King, and downtown service by Parliament cars ceased. This track was put in place primarily to route every third King car off of the Don River Bridge, relieving some of the congestion that was being experienced. Rerouted King cars travelled up Parliament and along Dundas to rejoin the route at Broadview. Parliament cars now operated between two off-street loops. PCCs were introduced to the line on June 8, 1948.

The Last Days and Why they Came.

The Parliament Streetcar was killed on February 26, 1966, by the Bloor-Danforth Subway, and replaced with the 65 PARLIAMENT bus route. Despite the fact that the off-street transfer facility for Castle Frank Station was just a stone's throw away from Viaduct Loop, the TTC did not attempt to make a connection. Tracks were soon abandoned on Parliament north of Carlton and paved over (although they are now starting to show again). This was in character with the TTC's policy until 1972 of gradually abandoning its streetcar system with every subway opening; had the subway opened after that, a Parliament car line might still be acting as a feeder route into Castle Frank station. Service on Parliament south of Carlton lingered after abandonment, however. Although reduced congestion on the Don Bridge reduced the need for routing every third King car over Parliament and Dundas, occasional King, Queen and Dundas cars were short turned using these tracks. Today, morning 508 Lake Shore occasionally return to Roncesvalles carhouse via King, Parliament and Carlton.

It is unlikely that Parliament will ever regain regular streetcar service, however. Plans to reinstate Parliament Loop in 1996 were shelved due to budget cuts, and although 65 PARLIAMENT was identified as the fourth most feasible route to convert to streetcar operation in the Conversion to Streetcars report, the route itself does not have the passenger traffic to justify it. Also, although the Parliament bus operation used to be as stable as its streetcar predecessor, travel patterns are changing on Parliament south of King Street which will make streetcar reinstatement even more difficult. When the 509 Harbourfront streetcar was opened in July 2000, and the 121 Front-Esplanade bus ceased operation, the TTC extended the Parliament bus along the Esplanade and Front to Union Station.

The TTC may have lost a golden opportunity in not converting Parliament into a feeder streetcar for the Bloor-Danforth subway, but the tracks in place on Parliament maintain the spirit of the streetcars that used to operate there...


Parliament Streetcar Image Archive


References

  • Bromley, John F., and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders' Association, New York (New York), 1978.
  • Filey, Mike, Not a One-Horse Town: 125 Years of Toronto and its Streetcars, Gagne Printing, Louiseville (Quebec), 1986.
  • Westland, Stu, 'The Winchester Carline' Rail and Transit, September-October 1979, p23-24, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1979.

Special thanks to Mark Brader, John Bromley and Ray Corley for their corrections to this web page.

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