St. Clair (Wychwood) Carhouse

Roncesvalles Plan

Click on the thumbnail above for the official TTC plan of St. Clair carhouse. Plan courtesy Ray Corley

Pictures by Aaron Adel; Text by Aaron Adel and James Bow.

St. Clair Carhouse dates from 1913, about eight years before the Toronto Transportation Commission came into being. It is the only property still standing today retaining some of its streetcar heritage that was constructed by the Toronto Civic Railways to house its streetcars.

The Toronto Civic Railways was formed in 1911 to service those newly annexed areas of Toronto that the Toronto Railway Company refused to service. One of the major corridors to see service was St. Clair. Significantly removed from the rest of the system (which primarily operated in Toronto's east end), a new yard had to be built to house and maintain the streetcars necessary for the St. Clair and Lansdowne routes built at that time.

Service on St. Clair began on August 25, 1913; the carhouse on Wychwood Avenue (then called Bracondale Avenue) was opened on April 4, 1914. Until that point, St. Clair streetcars were stored in a temporary yard on Station Street (now Caledonia Road). The property chosen for the site was originally a park; no structures had to be demolished to build the carhouse.

The structure began as a simple building two hundred feet long and thirty-eight feet wide. It had a steel frame and concrete, brick and hollow tile walls. A storeroom and a traffic office were located at the Christie Street side of the building. In total, the original structure, still standing today, had room enough for three tracks. A fourth outside track provided additional capacity; in total, 12 cars could be stored. Double-ended cars drove into the stub tracks and, when they entered service, they did so on a single track up Bracondale (Wychwood) Avenue.

The structure was expanded in 1916 when the Lansdowne Civic route entered service. A second three-track structure abutted the original structure on its south wall, bringing the capacity up to twenty-seven vehicles, not including the snow sweeper.

Wychwood

Curt Frey donated this shot of east-facing Witt Car 2454 resting at Wychwood from its stint on the Bay route in 1958. In its day, St. Clair handled its fair share of streetcar routes within the city.

In 1921, the Toronto Transportation Commission took over operation of all the Toronto Railway Company and the Toronto Civic Railways properties and operations. Trackage on Bathurst Street was extended north from Davenport Road to St. Clair Avenue (other connections between St. Clair and the rest of the system were added at Yonge Street, Avenue Road, Lansdowne Avenue, Old Weston Road and Keele Street) and operations at St. Clair Carhouse were significantly increased.

That year, the TTC spent $220,000 to renovate the structure, adding two more three-track bays (Tracks 7-12) on the south side of the building, a two-track repair bay (Tracks A & B) on the north side of the building, large traffic offices at the northeast corner, doors over all the bays, and new track so that the cars could enter at the west (Christie Street) side of the barn and exit at the east (Wychwood Avenue) side, with runaround capability. There were nine outdoor tracks (tracks 13-21), and double track was laid down on the now renamed Wychwood Avenue to provide easier access for arriving and departing cars. By the end of the year, St. Clair Carhouse had capacity for a total of one hundred and sixty cars (50 in the carhouse, 110 in the outdoor yards).

From that point on, St. Clair carhouse was one of the more important properties in the TTC system, rivalling Russell, Roncesvalles and Eglinton in terms of its capacity and operations. Among the carlines operated out of St. Clair, notables included Avenue Road, Bathurst, Bay, Church, Davenport, Dupont, Earlscourt, Ferry, Fleet, Fort, Lansdowne, Mount Pleasant, Oakwood, Rogers Road, St. Clair and even the famous Yonge Streetcar (briefly in late 1921 and for much of 1922, until Eglinton carhouse opened).

Wychwood

Here is a shot, looking north on Wychwood Avenue at St. Clair carhouse in its heyday, when cars of all types bustled on many routes. Photo by P Lambert.

Starting in 1954, however, the use of St. Clair carhouse declined, as the TTC embarked on a campaign to eliminate its streetcars. By 1959, only Oakwood, Rogers Road, St. Clair, Earlscourt, Bathurst and Dupont were operating here. Oakwood was abandoned on January 1, 1960. Dupont disappeared when the University Subway opened. Bathurst was cut back to Bloor in 1966 (but continued to operate out of St. Clair carhouse), Rogers Road departed in 1974. The eastern portion of St Clair was broken away to form the Mt. Pleasant Streetcar in 1975, but that disappeared barely a year later. Earlscourt was merged into St. Clair in 1978.

By this time, the TTC felt that St. Clair Carhouse was no longer useful, serving as it was only two routes. Thus the decision was made to move all cars and personnel to Roncesvalles, and this took effect on April 15, 1978.

PCC 4511

Here is a shot of PCC 4511 inside St. Clair during the early 1970s. Photograph donated by Brad O'Brien

Since then, St. Clair saw a number of different uses. UTDC used the site to store and test CLRVs and the ALRV demonstrator (4900) before putting them into service. Even a Scarborough RT ICTS train was stored here early in 1985, when there wasn't enough space at the under-construction McCowan Avenue Yard to house the vehicle. The site has also had a number of grim functions, providing space as a graveyard for PCCs awaiting scrap, and even some of the old trolley buses.

Wychwood

Rob Hutch donates this picture of one of the last uses of St. Clair Carhouse, to store PCCs due for the scrapheap. This shot is taken from the west end of the yard, looking east.

Today, the site lies abandoned. All of the yard tracks were disconnected from the rest of the system on April 15, 1978 (#16-21) and October 31, 1991 (#3-13 & 15). The TTC, facing a nearly half-million dollar price tag if it hoped to renovate this structure to safe building standards, and about a hundred thousand dollars in annual charges for holding onto the property, handed it back to the city in 1998. The switches from St. Clair onto Wychwood were plugged and the property closed on May 29, 1998. The switches have since been removed entirely. The Toronto Historical Society is hoping to protect the original 1913 structure, but this doesn't seem likely at this point. The local residents are campaigning to have the site turned into a park. Thus, take a good long look at these pictures, for these may be the last you'll ever see of the once mighty St. Clair carhouse.


St. Clair (Wychwood) Carhouse Image Archive

4762.jpg

PCC 4762 is resting at Wynchwood after a short-turn trip to the carhouse. This photo was taken by W.N.Carr in December 1975.

streetcar-4303-11.jpg

Ian Folkard caught this shot of PCC 4545 receiving welding at Wychwood, while 4556 looks on. This picture was taken in March 1971.

streetcar-4303-10.jpg

PCC 4515 turns from St. Clair onto Wychwood at the end of its day. This shot was taken on June 26, 1973, near the end of St. Clair carhouse's life as an active carhouse.

PCC_4502.jpg

This picture, snapped by W.N. Carr in December 1975, shows off-duty 4502 and 4501 TTC training cars (class A-8), standing on track #15.

streetcar-4700-34.jpg

Ottawa Car Company Small Witt 2834 rests at Wychwood Carhouse in this 1958 scene. Photo by Peter Lambert, donated by Curt Frey.

Witt 2852, by Peter Lambert

Small Witt 2852 (one of 50 built by the Ottawa Car Company) rests with comrade 2892 and others at Wychwood Carhouse in 1958. Photo by Peter Lambert, donated by Curt Frey.

Witt 2894

Small Witt 2894 during its BELT LINE tour tram days (mid 1970s) is seen here at Wychwood carhouse. Photo donated from the Brad O'Brien collection.

PCC-4508.jpg

In this December, 1975 shot, W.N.Carr captured PCC 4508, resting in Wynchwood Carhouse on service track #7.


Wychwood circa 1998

Wychwood

Looking southwest.

Wychwood

Looking northwest at the bays.

Wychwood

Looking north to the former traffic office.

Wychwood

Deteriorating storage tracks


References

  • Hood, J. William, The Toronto Civic Railways: An Illustrated History, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1986.

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

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