Our historian Eric Morse has rifted on the news of the final Metropass featuring Cabbagetown artwork to explore transit and Cabbagetown.
Last week we were greeted with the exciting news that the last TTC Metropass ever to be issued will be the December 2018 version, and will feature Cabbagetown!
In honour of this historic neighbourhood event, I was inspired to pull together a brief illustrated history of Transit in Cabbagetown, sourced mainly from the good bloggers at www.transit.toronto.on.ca , and focusing on routes long departed.
Organized urban transit in Toronto began in 1849 with horse-drawn cars, and reached Cabbagetown in the early 1870s. The service, under a succession of private companies, was electrified in the course of the 1890s, and finally the TTC was formed in 1921.
The TTC routes that service modern Cabbagetown are the 65 Parliament bus, the 75 Sherbourne bus, the 94 Wellesley buses, and the 506 Carlton and 505 Dundas streetcars.
James Bow, a transit enthusiast and author, says that “by 1910, Winchester cars operated from downtown Toronto via Yonge, Carlton, Parliament and Winchester to Sumach Street. Parliament cars were looping downtown via Yonge, Front and Bay and running via Queen, Parliament and Gerrard Streets to Greenwood Avenue. Carlton cars bridged the gap between Gerrard and Carlton, as part of its service from Broadview and Gerrard to the Downtown via Gerrard, Parliament, Carlton and Yonge.”
Few images of the Winchester car actually on Winchester Street survive. Here’s one from 1923 of the tracks looking westward toward Sackville from where the double tracks became single, with a “wye” (Y) turn at Sumach. (The wye terminals allowed the use of single-ended cars (with a driver’s seat at one end only, as now. They must also have been dreadfully noisy neighbours.)
A second photo shows a Peter Witt car in service at Queen and Church in 1921. The Winchester end of the route saw a gradual decline in ridership (it’s not THAT far a walk from Parliament to Sumach!), was converted to bus service in 1924, and went out of service entirely in 1930.
The Sherbourne car came into service as far north as Carlton in 1874. For some years it then ran along Carlton to Parliament but trackage was extended up Sherbourne to Bloor in 1878, and in 1883 the route was split into the Sherbourne and Winchester routes. From 1891 to 1923, service on Sherbourne was run as a circular (“Belt Line”) loop (Sherbourne, Bloor, Spadina and King) and soon electrified. In 1923, the new TTC did away with the Belt Line and re-established the Sherbourne car. Here’s Peter Witt car 2102 at the Rosedale Loop at the top end of the run in April 1946.
Oddly, the remaining photos of Sherbourne cars are all of the Peter Witt design. We say oddly because James Bow notes in his description of the route that the Sherbourne trackage was a pre-First World War legacy, never extensively rebuilt.
“As a result, Sherbourne Street maintained a narrower “devilstrip” (the pavement between the tracks) that was not wide enough to allow two newer generation streetcars to pass.
As a result, Peter Witt cars were rare visitors to Sherbourne Street (although some did operate on the infrequently scheduled King-Sherbourne tripper service), and it’s likely that PCC cars never operated on Sherbourne Street in revenue servi
After the Second World War, with the tracks in desperate need of replacement, and the TTC favouring new buses over maintaining its streetcar fleet, Sherbourne Street became one of the first streetcar routes to be abandoned as part of the TTC’s post-war contraction of its streetcar network. Streetcars were replaced by buses on January 5, 1947, and the tracks were torn up or buried soon afterward.
Sherbourne streetcars are thus long departed, but (courtesy of my fun with photoshop), here’s what it would have undoubtedly looked like if it had still been around in this century (below).
The historic Parliament streetcar route, now succeeded by the 65 bus, is very old indeed, and its roots apparently tangled enough that in his Toronto Transit commentary, James Bow does not give a detailed chronology. Bow states that by 1910, “Parliament cars were looping downtown via Yonge, Front and Bay and running via Queen, Parliament and Gerrard Streets to a wye at Greenwood Avenue. Carlton cars bridged the gap between Gerrard and Carlton, as part of its service from Broadview and Gerrard to the Downtown via Gerrard, Parliament, Carlton and Yonge.”
There were no tracks north of Winchester until after the Second World War; they were built only in 1924, running up to an off-street loop a stone’s throw from where Castle Frank station is now. It was the extension of the Parliament line to Bloor that killed the Winchester streetcar, and the construction of the Bloor-Danforth (Line 2) subway in 1968 that killed the Parliament car. The 65 bus succeeded it, and today there is only scheduled streetcar service on Parliament from Carlton to Gerrard.
TTC air-electric PCC (“Red Rocket”) #4196 waits at Viaduct Loop (now the Rekai Family Parkette just south of Bloor).
PCC 4377 heads southbound on Parliament while a Carlton PCC prepares to turn north from Gerrard in this 1965 shot. This is a lovely, atmospheric shot.
And finally, this dramatic winter scene of the 506 at Carlton and Ontario by your humble correspondent, which, coincidentally, can be found in The Tilted Dog Xmas Crafts Show coming up December 8!!.
All of the historic cars of the Toronto transit era from the 1890s onward can be viewed, lovingly restored, at the Halton Radial Railway Museum https://hcry.org/ , just about an hour outside of Toronto. Two of them, the first electric-driven model from 1894
and Peter Witt #2894 (The Peter Witts were in TTC service 1921-1965), can be ridden!