Russell (Connaught) Carhouse

Russell Plan

Click on the thumbnail above for the official TTC plan of Russell, annotated by Ray Corley. Plan courtesy Ray Corley

Photos and Text by: James Bow and Hugh McAuley

Russell carhouse was built in 1913 by the Toronto Railway Company in 1913 as a paint shop. Six stub tracks entered the facility off of Queen Street. When the King carhouse burnt down in 1916, Russell was hurriedly turned into a carhouse, with painting restricted to one bay. TTC found when they took it over that the foundations were faulty, and the facility was sinking into the Ashbridge's Bay "fill". In 1923 they called for tenders for its demolition, and the erection of a new carhouse on the site, the new building re-opening on December 13th, 1924. The Traffic office was located at the northeast corner of the property.

Officially, the facilities are referred to today as Russell Carhouse, which causes some confusion. Just as Roncesvalles is named after the street it's located near, the habit has been for many (especially the generation under 30) to refer to these facilities unofficially as Connaught Carhouse. Connaught Avenue borders the property on the east and until recently, all streetcars heading into Russell signed themselves to Connaught. New streetcar rollsigns installed in 2000 allowed cars running in to display the more descriptive final destination. Cars on the Russell-bound 504 and 505 routes now read "Greenwood and Queen" while 501, 502 and 503 have "Greenwood/Connaught" and 506 has "Coxwell & Queen".

Why the name Russell? The TTC, in its August 1978 magazine Coupler claimed that Russell Carhouse was named after T.A. (Tommy) Russell, who was a prominent east-end resident. T.A. Russell also happened to be a friend of R.J. Fleming, a former mayor of Toronto and the General Manager of the Toronto Railway Company as the paint shop on the carhouse site was being built in 1913. Tommy Russell was the man behind the Canadian Cycle and Motor Company Ltd., (CC&M for short) and was later president of the Massey-Harris (later Massey-Ferguson) company whose former land holdings are now being developed in mid-southwest Toronto.

Ray Corley's research disputes this, however, noting that R.J. Fleming was also friends with a Joseph Russell. Joseph was a brick manufacturer at 1308 Queen Street East at Alton Avenue (northeast corner) and he provided much of the supplies used in the original construction of the TRC's paint shop in 1913, a more direct and obvious connection between the person and the naming of the site. Joseph was born on April 1, 1868, ran for the provincial leglislature in 1908 and won a seat in the federal legislature that same year. He died on December 14, 1925.

Many thanks to Ray Corley for supplying me with the above two paragraphs of information.

During the days of the Toronto Railway Company, cars entered from Queen Street. The TTC changed things before they rebuilt the carhouse in 1924 and had all cars enter from Eastern Avenue. This change occurred in 1922, when the TTC opened the western part of the yard. The property's importance to the TTC's streetcar fleet increased significantly in 1967 when Danforth Carhouse, its major rival in East Toronto, was converted to full bus operation after the opening of the Bloor-Danforth subway. Today, Russell exclusively stores the cars on the 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road routes, while sharing responsibility with Roncesvalles for 501 Queen, 504 King, 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton.

On the date that I was attending my first PCC Charter, the TTC were kind enough to allow visiting railfans to unobtrusively tour the facilities. It should be mentioned that Russell Carhouse, like any other TTC property, is private property, and that visitors should respect the trespassing laws.

Russell (Connaught) Carhouse Image Archive


Looking southwest from Queen Street. This shot is probably most familiar to people who walk past Russell Carhouse, or who pass it on the streetcar: rows upon rows of streetcars waiting to be dispatched to their daily duties. Connaught does boast a seven-track carhouse, but most of the streetcars are stored outdoors in the extensive yards.


Looking south from Queen Street, here is the carhouse itself, as I mentioned, where certain cars can rest away from the elements. You never know what you will find in a carhouse; on this day, I was pleasantly surprised to see a Witt car and the TTC rail grinders temporarily amongst the collection.


The traffic office resides at the northeast corner of the property. Here, drivers and maintenance staff report to work, or perhaps rest on break. One of the interesting things I spotted inside was a large board depicting the TTC's current track layout. This building is surrounded by tracks, not only on Queen, Connaught and the tracks you see here, but another set leading off the right of this photograph is used most frequently by streetcars entering service.


Connaught Avenue is a residential street. Personally, I'd love to live next to a carhouse, so that I can see interesting movements like this: ALRV 4205 heading south on Connaught, short-turning through the carhouse thanks to construction shutting down the Queen-Coxwell intersection. The double track continues south on Connaught to just past the carhouse exit, where it merges into a single track which turns right at Eastern Avenue and runs into the carhouse ladder track (21 tracks).


Carhouses are great places to take shots of lots of streetcars at once. Here, CLRVs 4056 and 4043 sit, resting on tracks 9 and 10 respectively, waiting to be called into service for the day. Note the Peter Witt car on the right of the shot.


Here's a shot of the carhouse itself, looking south, and three of its tracks. Within the carhouse, a number of maintenance procedures can be performed on the streetcars. Track 5 is a streetcar-wash, and the tracks you see here have pits in the middle of them allowing maintenance workers to descend and do some bodywork from below.


ALRV 4233 sits astride one of those maintenance pits that I've mentioned. Steps actually descend down five feet, so workers have to crouch with the streetcar overhead. It must be an interesting sight. I didn't try to take a picture from the steps, though, as that probably would have been a bit too presumptuous for my hosts.


This is a shot of the streetcar washing track (Track 5). It is operated on much of the same principle as a typical carwash, with a streetcar running slowly through rotating brushes spewing water and soap. The streetcar des this under its own power. A few minutes after I took this shot, the streetcar obscured by the brushes went through the carhouse. Unfortunately, I was conserving pictures for the PCC charter.


Here's a shot of Russell Carhouse though the back window of PCC 4500. Note the tracks on stilts, allowing maintenance workers to check the cars from below. I suppose its more feasible than mounting a CLRV on a hoist!


This sign warns people about the test track. The TTC is serious about safety, and I post this picture to remind you all that carhouses are places where permission to enter must be secured and safety always taken seriously. With dozens of parked streetcars and others moving slowly and quietly, accidents could easily happen. So, if you're visiting a carhouse, don't test the TTC's hospitality, and stay safe!

Thanks to Ray Corley for correcting this web page and offering additional information.

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