Text by James Bow.
Neville Park Loop at the corner of Queen Street East and Nursewood Road is tied with Bingham Loop as the easternmost streetcar loop in the City of Toronto. Of the two loops, Neville sees the most frequent service. Located at the eastern end of the prestigious Toronto Beach District, Queen cars end their eastern runs here. The sleepy nature of Queen Street, at this point, belies the importance of this loop as the starting point on the longest streetcar ride on the TTC system.
Traditionalists will always refer to this loop as just 'Neville', as that was the way it appeared on streetcar rollsigns for almost sixty years. In 1980, the CLRVs broader rollsigns allowed Neville to be renamed 'Neville Park'; they also renamed Bingham loop 'Victoria Park', but just as most railfans haven't heeded that change on Kingston Road, Neville Park's friends continue to call the Queen Street loop 'Neville'.
Still, we should count our blessings. At least the CLRVs didn't rename the loop 'Nursewood'.
A History of Neville Park Loop.
As discussed in the history of the Queen Streetcar, service along Queen Street began pushing east of the Don River as early as 1875. It did not reach Nursewood Road until the mid-1910s, however. At that time, the Toronto Railway Company pushed the Queen tracks east to a wye at Nursewood and Queen. The tailtrack of this wye extended onto the next western street, Neville Park Boulevard, and this may be why Neville Park Loop is referred to as such, even though its tracks do not touch Neville Park Boulevard.
To speed up service on the expanding Beach streetcar line, The TTC converted the Neville Park wye into a full loop, which opened for service on July 2, 1922. The tailtrack of the old wye remained in the ground, making only a north to east connection with the eastbound tracks. It could only be used by Beach (and later Queen) cars backing onto this track to park out of the way of operating streetcars, and was sometimes used to store cars at the ready to fill in gaps in service. In May 1989, trackwork removed the switch connecting this tailtrack with the rest of the system, and the tracks have remained isolated from the system ever since.
The first Neville Park loop was located completely off the street on the southwest corner of Queen and Nursewood. When the use of multiple-unit PCCs was approved for the Queen line in March 1967, a number of modifications had to be made to the route, including the addition of a passing track at Humber Loop, the rebuilding of the trailer yard at Connaught carhouse and the expansion of Neville loop. The new loop extended out onto Nursewood itself, to allow MU PCCs to turn more easily and to park without fouling the street. The new loop was ready for operation on August 13, 1967 and accepted the new MU PCCs in October of that year.
Neville Park was the first loop on Queen Street East that was not connected with an amusement park or similar attraction. Woodbine Loop had its fortunes tied with Woodbine racetrack, whereas the wyes on Munro Avenue and Scarborough Beach served major amusement parks as much as it served the Beach District. In many ways, Neville Park Loop represents the growing up of the Beach neighbourhood, away from the 'cottage country' of its youth into a suburban community in its own right.
In the early part of this decade, there was some discussion of cutting service to Neville Park loop. Some Beach residents were complaining about noise from the streetcars. The TTC responded that the only way to deal with the complaints was to cut back evening and overnight service to Woodbine Loop, and possibly substitute buses on the line east of Kingston Road. This was deemed unacceptible, and no action was taken. In any event, noise complaints have quietened down since.
The Power of Neville Park Loop
Neville Park has always been a special loop for me. In my opinion, it feels more like the easternmost outpost of Toronto's streetcar network than Bingham Loop does. Perhaps it is merely because Neville Park Loop sees streetcar service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whereas Bingham Loop only sees streetcars from six in the morning to six in the evening, Monday through Friday. Perhaps...
Or perhaps this is because Neville Park Loop is truly as east as Queen cars can go. No bus feeder route runs east from Neville Park Loop serving the area beyond, as the Armour Heights bus did to Nortown. The sleepy atmosphere surrounding Neville Park emphasizes this feeling of a streetcar line at the end of its natural length, unlike Long Branch loop, where development clearly extends far west of the end of streetcar service. East from Neville Park, Queen Street continues for four more blocks east before petering out and from here, Toronto's eastern suburbs center around Kingston Road, with Queen Street all but forgotten. As a result, Bingham Loop feels as though it is a streetcar line cut short, and that tracks can, and should, continue further east (Kingston Road cars used to operate east of Bingham all the way to Birchmount). On Queen Street East, streetcars have conquered all that needs to be conquered.
In my childhood, when my mother would take me on special streetcar rides, the most special ride of them all was the ride to Neville Park. It was as far as the streetcar could go, and from there one could walk to a beach containing some of the best skipping stones in Toronto. And Neville Park still carries that power; on a recent visit to the loop, these nostalgic feelings came roaring back. Neville Park occupies a special place amongst the streetcar loops of Toronto, and it will continue to do so for years to come.
Neville Loop in Pictures
- Bromley, John F., and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders' Association, New York (New York), 1978.
- Bromley, John F., 'Toronto Streetcar & Radial Loop History', Transfer Points, March 1999, p4-10, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario).
- Corley, Raymond F., 'Beach Car Lines Reach Back 120 Years', Rail and Transit, September 1995, p4-5, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario).