Remembering the Sherbourne Streetcar (1874-1942)

Text by James Bow
History Compiled by Pete Coulman

Sherbourne Street was, after Yonge Street, the first major north-south street in Toronto to reach north towards Bloor. As streetcar service grew and developed in the young city, it wasn’t long before streetcar tracks followed. By 1891, Sherbourne was a major streetcar corridor, as it was one of four streets playing host to the BELT LINE streetcar (operating in both directions via Sherbourne, Bloor, Spadina and King). This popular route provided the bulk of service on Sherbourne Street until 1923.

Even after Bloor Street was given its own streetcar service, Sherbourne, along with Church and Broadview, were major north-south corridors that fed rush hour streetcars from Bloor Street to the downtown although, gradually, Church and Broadview overtook Sherbourne in importance. Church put streetcars closer to the downtown core, and the Toronto Transportation Commission never extensively rebuilt Sherbourne’s streetcar tracks from its pre-1921, Toronto Railway Company days. As a result, Sherbourne Street maintained a narrower “devilstrip” (the pavement between the tracks) that was not wide enough to allow two newer generation streetcars to pass. As a result, Peter Witt cars were rare visitors to Sherbourne Street (although some did operate on the infrequently scheduled King-Sherbourne tripper service), and it’s likely that PCC cars never operated on Sherbourne Street in revenue service.

There was little incentive for the TTC to upgrade the tracks on Sherbourne Street. Although it was one of the first north-south streets east of Yonge to reach Bloor, further northern progress was cut off by the neighbourhood of Rosedale, and residents there provided traffic that was best served by a bus rather than a streetcar, and they were leery of allowing tracks into their exclusive enclave.

After the Second World War, with the tracks in desperate need of replacement, and the TTC favouring new buses over maintaining its streetcar fleet, Sherbourne Street became one of the first streetcar routes to be abandoned as part of the TTC’s post-war contraction of its streetcar network. Streetcars were replaced by buses on January 5, 1947, and the tracks were torn up or buried soon afterward.


A Chronological History of Streetcar Service on Sherbourne Street

November 1874

Service begins on a new horse car route operating out of the King Street carhouse. Cars operate from Front and York via York, King, Sherbourne to Carlton and then likely along Carlton to Parliament, wying at Parliament and Winchester.

1878

Tracks laid on Sherbourne Street from Carlton north to Bloor. Service is extended to Bloor Street, possibly with additional service splitting off at Carlton to Carlton and Parliament.

1881

Tracks laid on Winchester Street from Parliament to east of Sumach. Service extended accordingly, operating from a new carhouse on Front Street.

July 1883

Service on Carlton and Winchester broken off into its own WINCHESTER route. All SHERBOURNE cars operate via King and Sherbourne to Bloor.

November 16, 1891

SHERBOURNE streetcar replaced by the BELT LINE streetcar, operating in both directions on a continuous loop via Sherbourne, Bloor, Spadina and King. Electrification soon follows.

July 1, 1923

Almost two years after the Toronto Transportation Commission takes over streetcar operations from the Toronto Railway Company, the BELT LINE route is replaced as part of a general rerouting and upgrade of streetcar service across Toronto. Service begins on a new SHERBOURNE streetcar operating from an on-street loop at Elm, Glen Road and South Drive in Rosedale via South Drive, Sherbourne, King, York and Front, looping via Station Loop (located between York and Simcoe Streets), returning via the reverse route.

Service is operated out of Lansdowne Division using former Toronto Railway wooden cars.

December 23, 1923

A rush-hour tripper service added, extending service along Danforth Avenue. Operating out of Danforth Division in the morning, streetcars run from Coxwell and Danforth via Danforth Avenue, the Prince Edward Viaduct, Bloor, Sherbourne and King, looping via York, Wellington and Church to King, returning via the reverse route. In the afternoon rush hour, the service operates over the same route, except reversing the downtown loop. Regular service between Station loop and Rosedale unchanged.

April 30, 1924

As work commences replacing tracks in Rosedale with a new Rosedale loop, all SHERBOURNE cars wye at bloor and Sherbourne, with ROSEDALE buses temporary extended to provide service north of Bloor.

May 1, 1924

Rosedale loop opens at the corner of Sherbourne and Rachel, replacing the on-street loop of Elm, Glen Road and South Drive.

At the same time, all rush hour service is rerouted to operate along Bloor, the Prince Edward Viaduct and Danforth Avenue to Coxwell and back. On Sundays before 9:00 a.m., cars are cut back to wye at Bloor and Sherbourne rather than use Rosedale loop. All service is now operated out of Danforth Dividsion instead of Lansdowne Division.

May 23, 1927

New night car service provided by the DUPONT route, operating from Christie and Dupont via east on Dupont, south on Avenue Road, east on Bloor, south on Sherbourne and west on King, looping via Bay, Front and York to King, returning over the reverse route.

April 1, 1928

With the construction of Union Station taking place, Station loop is closed, with cars now looping from King via south on Bay, west on Front and north on King.

June 21, 1930

Service extended to the Ferry Docks from King and Bay every day after 6:25 p.m., 1:26 p.m. Saturdays and all day Sundays and holidays.

August 22, 1930

Service to the Ferry Docks ends, and regular routing resumes.

September 22, 1930

Simcoe Loop opens at the corner of Front and Simcoe, and Sherbourne cars are rerouted to operate via King, Bay and Front to Simcoe Loop, returning via the reverse route.

November 8, 1931

Pay-Enter one-man type cars replace the two-man cars during Sunday service. All cars operate to Rosedale Loop all day Sunday instead of wying at Bloor and Sherbourne before 9:00 a.m.

November 22, 1931

Likely due to complaints from nearby residents, all SHERBOURNE cars are wyed at Bloor and Sherbourne before 9:00 a.m. on Sundays.

April 18, 1932

Pay-enter one-man cars (Toronto Railway converted type) replace the two-man cars on regular daily service, and gradually replace the two-man tripper cars and Multiple Unit trains.

February 19, 1933

Regular service rerouted to operate from Rosedale loop via south on Sherbourne to loop at Frederick Loop at the northwest corner of Front and Sherbourne, returning over the reverse route. Early morning Sunday service continues to wye at Bloor until 9:00 a.m., while rush hour service continues to operate from Coxwell and Danforth to Simcoe Loop.

May 2, 1933

Additional service extended to Maple Leaf Stadium when the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs baseball team plays. Service operates via Sherbourne, King, Bathurst and Fleet to Fleet Loop, returning over the reverse route. Service continues until August 21.

November 1, 1933

Morning rush hour service altered to operate from Sherbourne via west on King, south on York, east on Wellington and east on Front to Sherbourne, before returning north on Sherbourne. Afternoon rush hour service follows the reverse loop. Saturday rush hour service operates from Sherbourne via King, York and Front to Simcoe Loop from 9:05 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

July 25, 1934

Repairs to the Sherbourne Street bridge over the Rosedale Ravine forces SHERBOURNE cars to cut back to a temporary cross-over switch located immediately south of Bloor. Double ended cars used during the duration of repairs, which continue until August 16.

May 2 - August 17, 1935

Service extended to Maple Leaf Stadium whenever the Maple Leafs play.

April 30 - September 15, 1936

Service extended to Maple Leaf Stadium whenever the Maple Leafs play.

May 6 - September 10, 1937

Service extended to Maple Leaf Stadium whenever the Maple Leafs play.

November 13, 1937

Saturday rush hour service (9:05 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) altered to operate south on Sherbourne to King, west on King to Church, south on Church to Wellinton, west on Wellington to York and north on York to King, returning along King to Sherbourne.

May 5 - September 10, 1938

Service extended to Maple Leaf Stadium whenever the Maple Leafs play.

May 4 - August 19, 1939

Service extended to Maple Leaf Stadium whenever the Maple Leafs play.

May 2 - September 14, 1940

Service extended to Maple Leaf Stadium whenever the Maple Leafs play. (does not operate during CNE)

May 5, 1940

SHERBOURNE streetcar and ROSEDALE bus routes combined into a “through” bus service on Sundays and holidays. Buses operate from Summerhill and MacLennan Avenue through Rosedale and south on Sherbourne to King, looping via King, Frederick and Duke to Sherbourne and returning via north on Sherbourne. Bus service operates with 3 crews out of Davenport Garage and 5 crews out of Danforth Division. No change to night service, where streetcars are still in use.

sherbourne-transfer.jpg

SHERBOURNE transfer from Thursday, March 13, 1941

September 9, 1940

Through bus service from ROSEDALE extended to operate on weekdays after 6:30 p.m., replacing streetcars.

May 1 - September 6, 1941

Service extended to Maple Leaf Stadium whenever the Maple Leafs play. (does not operate during CNE)

March 2, 1942

Sherbourne rush-hour service from Coxwell replaced by the CHURCH TRIPPER. All Sherbourne cars now operate between Rosedale loop in the north to Frederick Loop in the south.

April 29, 1942

Service formally provided to Maple Leaf stadium cancelled this year. The TTC needed all of its streetcars serving industrial workers feeding Canada’s war effort.

June 7, 1942

All bus service replaced by streetcars. The evening, Sunday and holiday ROSEDALE-SHERBOURNE service is discontinued, replaced by regular ROSEDALE buses and SHERBOURNE streetcars operating between Rosedale loop and Frederick loop.

October 28, 1942

The last SHERBOURNE car was arranged to leave Frederick Loop at 12:40 a.m. for the accommodation of the late War Workers from the various Industrial Plants.

January 5, 1947

Service discontinued, replaced by the SHERBOURNE bus, operating from Bloor Street to Front. Last streetcar to operate over the SHERBOURNE route is Run 1 from Frederick loop at 12:40 a.m. on Sunday January 6th.


Sherbourne Image Archive

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