Text by James Bow.
Located near the Humber River, between the CN railway tracks and the Queensway, the Humber Loop interchange sees a lot less action as a hub than it did even ten years ago. Up until the early 1990s, the western end of the Queen Streetcar was a major transfer point, acting as a gateway into southern Etobicoke. Today, half the routes operate through it. It's location may offer little scope for redevelopment, however, so it is not expected that this loop will change significantly in the near future.
The Humber Loop Interchange has had a short but rather spectacular life. Although tracks have passed through this area since near the turn of the century, it was only after 1950 that the loop took on its gateway-like significance. Although loops appeared at the site in the 1920s, they did not see heavy traffic.
A History of the Old Humber Loops.
Until the creation of the Megacity, the City of Toronto proper ended at the Humber River. It's easy to forget that it wasn't always like this. Soon after the turn of the century, Toronto annexed the area including the site where the Humber Interchange now sits. However, this annexation was only a narrow strip of land running south of the railway tracks, from the eastern end of High Park to the river. The Village of Swansea occupied the territory north of the tracks, and it was oriented more towards Bloor Street than the lake shore. To the west, the burgeoning villages of Long Branch, New Toronto and Mimico brought about demands for improved public transit links with the city, so although interurbans and then streetcars laid down tracks through the area, there was little demand for a stopping point.
It was the beaches of Sunnyside that started to provide enough of a draw to get loops built. The first Humber Loop materialized on July 26, 1922 and was originally referred to as "Sunnyside Loop" for its first year in operation. There was also a Sunnyside loop at this time, but it was renamed Roncesvalles loop temporarily. Beach cars were the first to make use of this loop, carrying passengers from downtown Toronto past the Sunnyside Amusement Park. Beach tracks paralleled the Mimico interurban, which extended as far east as Sunnyside.
Perhaps the location of the loop, so far west of the amusement park, was a problem, because more looks were added soon after, further to the east. Sunnyside Loop was built around September 1927, and Parkside Loop was built on June 6, 1928. Beach cars were soon cut back to Parkside. Changes to the Mimico interurban further diminished Humber's importance. By 1929, Lake Shore streetcars were bypassing Humber Loop entirely taking passengers from Long Branch into downtown Toronto. Beach cars had been cut back to downtown Toronto as well.
Humber Loop didn't vanish, however. It was rebuilt in 1931, opening on July 29. In 1935, Lake Shore cars were cut back to operate between Sunnyside and Mutual loops only. The new Long Branch service started running from Long Branch to Roncesvalles. In 1937, Queen cars started their familiar run from Neville to Parkside Loops, with rush-hour extras extended to Humber. The second Humber Loop closed on September 12, 1939 to make way for ramp construction on the new Queen Elizabeth Way. The third loop opened on July 11, 1940.
The Two Zone Fare System Creates A Suburban Gateway
Humber Loop started to take up its modern arrangement on July 1, 1954. At the time, the TTC had taken over operation of all public transportation in the new Metropolitan Toronto, and had institued a two-zone fare system. The zone boundary roughly corresponded to the boundaries of the City of Toronto. While the Kingston Road streetcar was cut back to Victoria Park as a result of this new arrangement, the existence of a separate streetcar route operating mostly outside of the zone boundary made it make sense for the TTC to keep the Long Branch route. A second westbound facing loop was built opposite the then current eastbound facing loop. All Queen cars were extended to Humber Loop to meet Long Branch cars which had been cut back there.
The final major change to the Humber Loop interchange occurred on July 20, 1957. Then, the construction of new private right-of-way along the Queensway and removal of tracks along Lake Shore Boulevard east of the Humber provided the TTC with the opportunity to construct the interchange that sits to this day. The terminal, now a major suburban gateway, featured two turning loops (one for Queen cars coming from the east, and one for Long Branch cars coming from the west), shelters and a bus platform. Humber became a major transfer point while the two fare zone remained in effect, and it stayed as a major interchange for years after the two-zone system was abolished. By now, suburban development in Etobicoke had spread north, so that traffic was feeding into the Queen Streetcar both from Long Branch, from west along the Queensway and from north along Berry Road.
The last modification to the loop's track arrangement came in 1967 when the Queen Streetcar was converted to handle multiple-unit PCC operations. The Queen Loop was expanded and a storage track added. And this is how the loop has remained, even though the routes serving it have diminished. Prince Edward buses don't come as frequently nowadays (and rush-hour extras are routed along Park Lawn), and the Queensway bus was extended past the loop to Keele Station, serving Parkside Drive. On March 29, 1996, the biggest blow hit Humber when the Queen and Long Branch streetcars were amalgamated. The loop serving Long Branch cars is now rarely used, and most Queen cars just trundle on through the interchange.
Humber Loop is now significantly underused. Every second Queen car loops there, and most streetcars (including the 508 Lake Shore specials) trundle on through. Prince Edward buses make occasional appearances, and the Queensway bus is no longer a visitor. The loops location offers little opportunity in the way of redevelopment, however, so the site is likely to stay as it is for some time, reminding visitors of grander days.
A Whole Lot o' Loop!
- 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, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario).
- Bromley, John F., and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders' Association, New York (New York), 1978.
- Stamp, Robert M., Riding the Radials: Toronto's Suburban Electric Streetcar Lines, The Boston Mills Press, Erin (Ontario), 1989.