A History of the Rogers/Weston Streetcar Loops (Northlands, Avon and Bicknell)

Text by James Bow.

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The City Heads Northwest

As Toronto grew west, it encountered a number of obstacles. One such obstacle was the hilly and muddy terrain around today's High Park and Grenadier Pond. This forced Dundas Street, at the time one of the few roads leading out of the city, to take the odd detour it now takes. The Humber River was another obstacle, a deep and wide valley that formed from a glacial spillway. Bridges spanning this watercourse were slow to materialize. Dundas Street crossed it, as did the CP railway tracks further north. For some, however, it was better to ride north along the river, up Weston Road to the villages of Weston and Thistletown, before crossing the Humber.

As St. Clair Avenue grew from a country concession road into a suburban thoroughfare in the early part of the 1900s, it was confronted by these and other factors which limited its western development. The West Toronto Junction was already well developed near the Dundas/Keele intersection, just a few blocks south of the St. Clair/Keele intersection. The presence of the slaughterhouse and other industries north of Dundas Street made the land on St. Clair Avenue west of Keele very undesirable to potential residents. The pattern of traffic on St. Clair was generally south on Keele and west on Dundas over the Humber bridge, or north on Keele and Weston Road, and onto the villages of Mount Dennis, Weston and Thistletown. The presence of several major rail corridors (today's CN Weston and Newmarket subs) threw up further barriers to residential and commercial development at the west end of St. Clair.

Because of this pattern of development, there were no demands for streetcar service on St. Clair Avenue west of Keele Street. The Toronto Suburban Railway, which served the West Toronto Junction until 1921, focused more on Dundas Street and Weston Road. Even after the railway barriers came down and underpasses were built beneath the Newmarket and Weston subs, streetcars from the Toronto Transportation Commission turned around at Keele Street, and soon found themselves turning north from this point up Weston Road.

From TSR to TTC and TofYR

In September 1921, the newly-formed Toronto Transportation Commission was given the mandate to take over all streetcar services within the City of Toronto. One such step was the purchase of all operating Toronto Suburban Railway tracks within the city limits on November 15, 1923. This purchase included the TSR Davenport line (running from Davenport and Bathurst to Dundas Street West via Davenport, Ford Street, St. Clair and Keele) and the Weston line, from Dundas and Keele to Northland Avenue (where the city limits crossed Weston Road). The tracks on Keele Street and Weston Road were regauged from the TSR's standard to the TTC's broad and a Keele shuttle route started running from Dundas Street to a new loop at Northlands Avenue. This loop opened for service on December 23, 1923.

The Keele shuttle was incorporated into a longer Weston route when the Township of York negotiated a contract with the TTC to operate through service between Dundas Street and the village of Weston. On November 28, 1925, this new service opened with considerable fanfare. The service was operated with double-ended cars from the stub terminal at Dundas and Keele to the end of track at Humber Street, 4 3/4 miles north. Additional service turned back at Northlands loop. Because the service outside the city limits was being run on behalf of the Township of York Railways, the Weston cars carried twin fareboxes, one for the TTC fare and one for the TofYR fare. Cars turning around at Northlands operated entirely within the TTC's territory and only charged one fare.

The Weston streetcar was not the only service contracted to the TTC by the Township of York Railways. Late in 1924, construction began on the Oakwood and Rogers Road streetcars, the latter running from St. Clair and Oakwood, north on Oakwood and west on Rogers Road to Dufferin Street on November 19, 1924. A few months later, on August 29, 1925, the Rogers Road streetcar was extended west to a new loop on the northwest corner of Rogers Road and Bicknell. Bicknell Loop was just one block east of the tracks on Weston Road, but the TTC made no attempt to connect the two lines together. The Canadian National railway tracks (today's Weston Sub) proved to be a barrier that would not be bridged for almost fifty years.

Service on St. Clair Avenue continued to push west, crossing the Newmarket and Weston Subs via underpasses in the mid 1920s and terminating at Keele Loop, located just off of Keele Street just north of St. Clair Avenue. St. Clair service on Weston Road began on March 9, 1942, with St. Clair trippers running north to Northlands Loop to augment service to the area's industries during the war. Northlands Loop closed August 31, 1943 after the afternoon rush-hour. The next day, Avon Loop was opened further north, near the corner of Weston Road and Rogers Road. Although Avon Loop was located within the Township of York, only City of Toronto fares were collected on Weston and St. Clair cars.

Bathurst-St. Clair tripper cars were never scheduled to go to Avon or Northlands loop, although it's not unlikely that inspectors directed random cars to those loops to fill service gaps during the wars. The Bathurst-St. Clair tripper ended on September 30, 1947, replaced by the plain Bathurst tripper and cut back to Vaughan Loop.

The tracks in Northlands Loop were not removed until June 4, 1948, but they were likely not operable during this period. The property was soon redeveloped.

The Streetcars Slowly Retreat

Northlands, Avon and Bicknell Loops were all modest loops, featuring no loop-the-loop capability, and facing only one direction of streetcar service (south for Northlands and Avon, east for Bicknell). Bicknell Loop boasted a modest shelter and a tailtrack extending west along Rogers Road. Avon had a dump spur, where cinders from TTC coal stoves and power generators could be dumped. Northlands facilities are not known.

Avon Loop survived the fall of the Weston streetcar on September 12, 1948. Rush-hour St. Clair and Bathurst cars continued to use the loop, connecting the industries along Weston Road with the residential neighbourhoods along St. Clair east of Keele. When Bathurst tripper cars disappeared with the opening of the Yonge subway, St. Clair rush-hour cars continued to be routed to Avon. This service drew to a close on February 25, 1965, the true date for the end of all streetcar service on Weston Road. Streetcar tracks were removed soon thereafter and the loop was used by short-turning Weston trolley buses (the wires were strung up at some point after St. Clair-Avon cars departed).

Bicknell Loop continued to be served by Rogers Road streetcars until 1974. In 1972, the TTC decided to retain its streetcar operations within the City of Toronto, but needed to rebuild its fleet of PCCs to keep the system going until a replacement vehicle could be found. In order to have enough spares to maintain service while the rebuilds were continuing, it was decided to end streetcar service on Rogers Road. Rogers Road was one of only two streetcar services still operating outside of the City of Toronto proper (the other was Long Branch), and the Borough of York was requesting that transit service be extended west on Rogers Road, north on Weston and west on Humber Boulevard. The TTC felt that this could not be done using streetcars, and so decided that the line should be replaced by a branch of the Ossington trolley bus. Trolley buses, they told the Borough of York, could be extended to provide service on Humber Boulevard.

On July 21, 1974, 63F OSSINGTON trolley buses replaced the Rogers Road streetcars from Bicknell Loop east. Service on Humber Boulevard was provided by the 48 HUMBER BLVD shuttle bus between Bicknell Loop and Jane Street. The promised extension of Rogers Road service to Jane would not occur until 1994, two years after the trolley buses stopped operating.

Avon Loop eventually fell into disuse, especially after the trolley buses disappeared from Weston Road in 1992. The loop was not conveniently accessible from Rogers Road, and although the TTC seriously considered extending Rogers Road buses the extra block west (even when the service was provided by a branch of the Ossington trolley bus), Avon Loop spent years just holding cars for a neighbouring car dealership. Finally, in October 2000, the stoplights at the Rogers/Weston Road intersection were revamped to allow buses on Rogers Road to access the loop. All bus services using Bicknell Loop further east were extended into Avon Loop. Bicknell Loop has now been declared surplus to the TTC's needs and will eventually be sold. Avon Loop will continue to be used by the TTC for years to come.


Avon Loop Image Archive


Bicknell Loop Image Archive


References

  • Bromley, John F., 'Toronto Streetcar & Radial Loop History', Transfer Points, March 1999, p4-10, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario).
  • Bromley, John F., TTC '28, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1979.
  • Bromley, John F., and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders' Association, New York (New York), 1978.

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