Text by James Bow, pictures by George Davidson.
Most passengers of the Bloor-Danforth subway are aware of the subway tracks which branch off to the south of the main line as they travel at grade between Keele Station and Dundas West. This yard has often been referred to as "Keele Yard", and for many years, many considered it to be abandoned. This is not accurate. It is ironic, but Greenwood Yards, which are located off of the main line and out of sight of most subway goers has revealed far more of its secrets to the public in recent years than the yard between Keele and Dundas West stations. Although passengers pass by the Keele yard every day, Vincent Yard, as it is officially called, holds many surprises.
A Brief History of Vincent
I was as ignorant as the rest of the general public until a somebody from the TTC offered me a number of interesting tidbits. The fact that the yard I'd known as Keele was actually called Vincent was the first. The name derives from Vincent Street, a short street that ran east from Dundas, just north of Bloor (it vanished years ago with the construction of the Crossways apartment complex). The name is famous within TTC history as it was here until 1966 that the King Streetcar would loop, and the loop was named after the street. When the Bloor-Danforth subway was in its early stages of planning and construction, the station at Dundas was planned to be named Vincent. The TTC opted to name it Dundas West instead.
Vincent Yard supplemented Greenwood Yard and stored trains for the Bloor-Danforth and Yonge-University subways. It did not have the maintenance facilities that Greenwood had, but it had space, and when Davisville was operating at capacity, before Wilson Carhouse opened, Vincent would store the excess trainsets, including Gloucesters that were not in service on the Bloor-Danforth subway otherwise.The insides of the trains could be cleaned at Vincent and some minor maintenance was done.
The yards at Wilson had capacity enough to relieve pressure from Davisville, and when the Spadina subway line opened, Vincent no longer stored service trains. It languished, underused, storing work cars and the occasional retired train. In the early 1990s, the retired Gloucesters awaited their fates here until squatters started taking up residence.
The Hidden Vincent Yard
Passengers on the Bloor-Danforth subway can clearly see the yards on the south side of their eastbound train as they leave Keele Station. Immediately east of the scissors crossover between the main lines, the yard's ladder track branches off from the southern main line and opens up into four yard tracks. The yard tracks proceed east in the open until they come to a set of tunnels. From there, they disappear from view.
The tracks actually proceed for another 500 feet into their tunnels. Each is capable of storing a single service train within the tunnel (meaning that Vincent can store eight six-car trainsets, four indoors and four outdoors). At the end of the tunnels is a single platform, stretching across the tracks, providing access to the subway cars and to the yard offices. This miniature complex of offices is connected to Dundas West Station through a locked door.
Although not used as an active storage yard for many years, Vincent still storeed some subway work cars. The wall washer is stored in the Vincent tunnels during winter time, and the site is also the home of the TTC's gauge car (RT-22). The offices are used for the TTC's Way Training Centre.
The lack of service trains and the passage of time have taken their toll on Vincent yards. In 2005, the track was reported to be in poor condition due to dampness. The motor blowers and the MA sets used to dry and circulate the air, but these were not available for many years.
Vincent to Rise Again
Starting in 2011, the TTC began the preliminary work to bring Vincent Yard out of its slumber. With the TTC subway fleet expanding to handle increased traffic and the Spadina-York subway extension, the TTC is running out of room at Wilson, Davisville and Greenwood yards. In August 2014, work began to rehabilitate Vincent Yard (as part of a wider project which included adding storage tracks at Kipling Station) to deal with capacity issues. Perhaps as early as 2017, the TTC will be storing up to eight trains overnight at Vincent Yard, returning it to active service once again.
Vincent Yard may be off limits to passengers, but one TTC employee was able to take a few pictures of the site while he visited it on his rounds back in 2002, and he kindly donated them to Transit Toronto. These pictures provide a rare glimpse of a part of the Toronto subway few people actually see.