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Toronto transit and railway history:
Museums and exhibitions

A recent post about Trevor Parkins - Sciberras’ efforts to return heritage Toronto transit vehicles from Ottawa back home to Toronto, reminded us to again let readers know where you can learn more about Toronto’s transit history (besides Transit Toronto, of course!)

The TTC proposed developing its own transit museum in 2010. However, funding cuts that saw the TTC significantly reduce service along many routes also spelled the end to that proposal.

Meanwhile, in a rural area of Milton — near the village of Rockwood, between Guelph and Acton — the Halton County Radial Railway Museum was already operating and continues to thrive.

The HCRR is a full-size operating electric railway and museum, featuring historic electric railcars and two kilometers of scenic track. The Ontario Electric Railway Historical Association (OERHA), a non-profit, educational organization owns and operates the HCRR, Ontario’s first and largest electric railway museum.

The museum displays and operates a variety of historic streetcars, radial cars and work cars and maintains a collection of photographs, memorabilia and archival materials. The oldest rail car in the collection dates from the late 1800s. The site operates some of its vehicles along tracks that originally carried the radial cars — basically, streetcars — of the Toronto Suburban Railway from Guelph to Keele and Dundas Streets in Toronto.

  • Halton County Radial Railway Museum, 1329 Guelph Line, Milton, Mondays to Fridays (July & August only) from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays (First Saturday in May until last Sunday in October), from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

And, while we’re on the topic of transportation museums, be sure to visit the Toronto Railway Museum in the former Canadian Pacific Railway roundhouse on Bremner Boulevard near the Rogers Centre.

Volunteers from the Toronto Railway Historical Association operate the museum, which helps preserve the physical legacy, history and experience of rail transportation in Toronto and Ontario. The museum encompasses Roundhouse Park with Stall 17 as the temporary home of the gift shop, railway simulator and small artifact display.

Transit Toronto contributor Richard White volunteers at the museum.

  • Toronto Railway Museum, 255 Bremner Boulevard, Unit 15. Wednesdays to Sundays and holidays, noon until 5 p.m.

And in the “see’em-while-you-can” category, check out two temporary exhibitions on local transit and transportation history.

At the City of Toronto Archives, curator Mark Osbaldeston’s “No Little Plans” examines significant municipal projects that were either never realized, or else built to one of a number of competing designs.

The exhibit especially documents road and transit proposals. It examines rejected subway and light rail plans to confirm the historic precedent for Toronto’s tendency to introduce ambitious transportation strategies, only to abandon them later.

A future Transit Toronto post will detail more about this exhibition.

  • City of Toronto Archives, 255 Spadina Road, Mondays to Fridays from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Exhibition continues until August.

The City’s Market Gallery, the exhibition, “Tunnel Vision: The Story of Toronto’s Subway”, highlights the building of Toronto’s subway system with photographs, maps and artifacts and explores the complexity and massive scale of Toronto’s subway’s operation.

The Toronto Transportation Society, including curators Adam Zhelka and Robert Lubinski, partnered with the gallery to present the exhibition.

Robert Lubinski is also a contributor to Transit Toronto.

  • Market Gallery, 95 Front Street East, Second Floor (South St. Lawrence Market), Tuesdays to Fridays, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., Saturdays, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Closed Sundays, Mondays and holidays. Exhibition continues until June 11.

In the news, read:

  • BlogTO post, “The Halton County Radial Railway Museum”, here.
  • BlogTO post, “Where to find the lost relics of the TTC, here.
  • BlogTO post, “A brief history of Toronto’s first subway cars”, here.
  • BlogTO post, “The Toronto Railway Heritage Centre”, here.
  • Globe and Mail article, “TTC nears deal for transit museum, new headquarters”, here.
  • Torontoist post, “Old Streetcars Don’t Die, They Just Retire to a Forest”, here.
  • Torontoist post, “Tunnel Vision: A History of Toronto’s Subway”, here.
  • Torontoist post, “The Daily Photoist: Inside of Number 1326”, here.
  • Toronto Star article, “Wheels turning at Toronto Transit Museum”, here.
  • Toronto Star article, “Councillors endorse transit museum”, here.
  • Toronto Star article, “When Toronto bubbled with pride over its subway”, here.
  • Toronto Sun column, “The Way We Were: Toronto’s transit history on display at museum”, here.
  • Urban Toronto post, “Explore the History of Transit at Two Toronto Exhibitions”, here.
  • article, “Wooden CN Rail caboose once a fixture in Woodbridge finds a new home in Toronto’s Roundhouse Park”, here.

From the Transit Toronto archives, read:

  • “Three Days in the Life of the Halton County Radial Railway Museum” (1957, 1999, 2014) by James Bow, here.
  • “The Toronto Railway Historical Museum” (2010) by Richard White, here.
  • “Save the Toronto Railway Heritage Centre” (2012) by Richard White, here.
  • “A transit museum for Toronto?” (2010) by Robert Mackenzie, here.
  • “Market Gallery’s ‘Tunnel Vision’ exhibition highlights Toronto’s subway story” by Robert Mackenzie, here.
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Welcome to Transit Toronto! This is an information site dedicated to public transportation in Toronto, maintained by transit enthusiasts for transit enthuasiasts. This is NOT the official website of the Toronto Transit Commission, Metrolinx or any other transit provider or government agency. To access the official websites of these agencies, consult this page here.