Remembering Birchmount Loop

Text by James Bow

The easternmost streetcar loop in the TTC's history is Birchmount Loop, located at the Kingston Road / Birchmount Avenue intersection inside the old City of Scarborough. Unfortunately, nothing of this loop exists anymore. A streetcar has not trundled out there in over forty-five years, and the property has since been redeveloped.

One does not normally associate Scarborough with streetcars, but the this area of Scarborough is not typical of the rest of this city of post 1950s, car-oriented development. The area south of St. Clair, east of Victoria Park, west of Birchmount and north of Lake Ontario developed early, just before the Second World War. Therefore, its style of development was not centred around the car, but was an extension of the 'fingers' of development extending around the Bloor-Danforth and Kingston Road Streetcars. The Kingston Road cars in particular served an area known as Birchcliffe. Cliffside is another early, more transit-friendly Scarborough neigbhourhood.

As was stated in our History of the Kingston Road Streetcars, Kingston Road first saw electric transit service in the form of the Scarborough Radial Line. Between 1921 and 1923, the newly formed Toronto Transportation Commission took up the radial rails on Kingston Road and laid down city tracks to Victoria Park and today's Bingham Loop. Soon after that, tracks were laid further east, into the suburban community of Birchcliffe, turning around at Birchmount Loop.

Dave Imrie said this about the easternmost outpost for the Toronto streetcar network: 'This loop connected to the old Scarboro Radial Line until the 1930s. The Scarboro Radial operated until 1936. The TTC's Kingston Rd. Cars operated to this loop until the 1950s. As you may know, the Birchcliff area of Scarborough was one of the earliest post-WWII suburban areas in the Toronto area. I am certain that I saw a photograph of a former Cleveland PCC car taken at Kingston Rd. and Queensbury Avenue, across the from the Hunt Club, that dated from the mid-1950s in either Larry Patridge's or Mike Filey's book. It may also have been in one of Robert Bonis' books on the history of Scarborough. That would be correct since these cars came to T.O. in 1953.'

Kingston Road cars continued to operate to Birchmount until July 1, 1954, soon after Metropolitan Toronto took control of the newly reorganized Toronto Transit Commission. With the institution of a new fare zone system, and a reorganization of the suburban bus networks, the TTC decided that streetcars east of Victoria Park Avenue were no longer necessary. The Long Branch streetcar faced a similar issue, and ended up being cut back to the fare boundary, where it met Queen cars extending from the city. The line from Birchmount to Victoria Park was not long enough to support a separate streetcar route, so streetcars disappeared.

As for Birchmount Loop, it remained in service for the Birchmount-Bingham 86A short turn of the SCARBORO bus until 1968 when the Bloor-Danforth subway opened and the 12 KINGSTON ROAD took over operations on that stretch of road. While the loop remained available for unscheduled short turns, the loop fell into disuse and languished until the late 1970s when the waiting shelter was demolished and the property was declared surplus to the TTC's needs. Condominiums were built on the site in 1985. During construction, the old streetcar tracks were visible; including the switch leading into the tailtrack that was the remnant of the Scarborough radial line.

Very little indication still exists that streetcars ever operated on Kingston Road east of Victoria Park, although Brad O'Brien notes that 'The black metal poles from this line still remain in place to this very day along Kingston Rd. between Victoria Park and Birchmount.' This may well be the only remaining evidence of streetcar operation.

Kingston Road almost wasn't the only TTC streetcar to operate east of the city boundaries -- in 1928, the TTC was considering extending the Bloor-Danforth streetcar east from Luttrell Loop to Pharmacy Avenue. Unfortunately, had this happened, it too probably would have disappeared, once the Bloor-Danforth subway opened. Had the depression not happened, eastern streetcar extensions could have increased the size of the transit-friendly neighbourhoods in Scarborough and altered the character of the city.


Birchmount Loop Image Archive


References

  • Stamp, Robert M., Riding the Radials: Toronto's Suburban Electric Streetcar Lines, The Boston Mills Press, Erin (Ontario), 1989.

Thanks to William Paul for his corrections to this article.

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