Streetcar and Radial Lines at Summerhill

Self-guided

DETAILS

Language: English 

Area: Downtown

Theme: Getting Around

Accessibility: Family-friendly 

By Kenneth Brown

Walk Description:

100 years ago, Summerhill was a transportation hub. We had the CPR rail line which had both freight and passenger trains, the latter stopping at the North Toronto Station. On Yonge Street we had a junction between streetcars to the south and radial lines to the north. If you wanted to go downtown from anywhere north of here, you had to get off the radial and walk across the CPR tracks to catch a streetcar. They were owned by different companies so you had to pay separate fares.

1

Stop 1: Summerhill subway

Description: 

100 years ago, Summerhill was a transportation hub. We had the CPR rail line which had both freight and passenger trains, the latter stopping at the North Toronto Station. On Yonge Street we had a junction between streetcars to the south and radial lines to the north. If you wanted to go downtown from anywhere north of here, you had to get off the radial and walk across the CPR tracks to catch a streetcar. They were owned by different companies so you had to pay separate fares.

 

Radial lines were a cross between streetcars and railroad coaches. They ran along roads or on their own right-of-way, and they picked up their power through trolley poles, just like streetcars, but they were designed for longer distances. Toronto had radial lines to Guelph, to Lake Simcoe, and many other destinations. Radial lines were called “interurbans” in most of North America, while streetcars were sometimes called trams or trolleys elsewhere.

 

The Yonge Street radial was called the Metropolitan Line, and it was owned by William Mackenzie’s Toronto and York Radial Railway Company. Its southern terminal was on the corner of Birch. It ran north as far as Sutton, serving towns such as Richmond Hill, Aurora, Newmarket and Jackson’s Point.  A sign on the Birch terminal office said Local Cars for Deer Park, Mount Pleasant, Davisville, Eglinton, Glengrove, Lawrence Park.

The streetcar line was the city-owned Toronto Railway Company. Relations were not good between the two, and over the years “battles had flared up between city and company over fares, service, roadbeds, rental fees. Many politicians and ratepayers “looked forward to that great day in 1921 when Mackenzie’s 30-year franchise would expire”. The section between Farnham and Birch expired even sooner, on June 25, 1915.

 

At the stroke of midnight on June 25th  the city moved in and tore up the tracks from Farnham to the CPR crossing. “We decided on this policy a month ago”, Mayor Tommy Church told the amazed crowd of onlookers. The Toronto and York hastily erected a temporary waiting room at Farnham and Yonge and resumed service. North Toronto commuters now had to walk the 400 metres to the streetcar terminus at Price Street, or pay a third fare to ride the unauthorized jitneys that started operating. The jitneys were the Uber of 100 years ago.

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Stop 2: Yonge & Shaftsbury

Description: 

The CPR tracks were built across Yonge in 1883/84. It was a level crossing until they raised the tracks and depressed the street between 1912 and 1916.

 

Construction of the radial line began in 1885 and it opened in 1889. It was continually extended until it reached Jackson’s Point in 1907 and Sutton in 1909. There was considerable opposition from farmers north of the city, because they feared it would depress their property values. It did the opposite.

 

It ran along Yonge Street to Newmarket and then they obtained their own right-of-way for much of the route to Lake Simcoe. It was a single track with passing tracks along the way. In addition to passengers, it picked up milk from farmers along the way. That is the origin of the term “milk run”.

 

The CPR North Toronto station was opened in 1916, replacing an older station located west of Yonge. The 45-metre clock tower was influenced by the Campanile of St. Mark’s square in Venice. It closed in 1930 because of declining traffic at this location.

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Stop 3: Yonge & Woodlawn

Description: 

In 1911/12 the Ontario Railway Board allowed the Metropolitan line to build a diversion south of Farnham. “The city is livid”, reported the Toronto Star on June 15, 1912. The city wanted to be rid of the Metropolitan line when the lease expired along this section in 1915. Star July 10, 1912 P1: T&YRR begins to tear down two houses on their new off-street PRW, in spite of city-ordered police surveillance.

 

In February, 1913, the city wins a suit and forces the railway to stop construction.

 

In early 1916 the city extended the streetcar from Price to Woodlawn, with a Y for turnaround. This still left a gap to the radial at Farnham.

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Stop 4: Yonge & Farnham

Description: 

Here is where the ill-fated diversion line started.

 

In 1921 the ratepayers approved the purchase of the radial and placed all services under the new TTC. In 1922 the radial takeover was completed.

 

TTC quickly replaced the old standard gauge single track on the west side of Yonge with a double-track TTC gauge to Glen Echo. (4' 10 7/8" vs 4' 8 ½") Glen Echo terminal was completed in March 1923 - short transfer to radial. TTC in 1927 regauged entire line to Lake Simcoe to streetcar gauge so that radial units could travel downtown, but it didn’t happen often.

 

In 1928 TTC created Grey Coach bus lines. In 1930 the Lake Simcoe radial north section was abandoned in favour of buses, the southern section in 1948.

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