Search Transit Toronto

Powered by GOOGLE.

Part 2 - March 30, 2019:
65 years of Toronto subways

Continued from part 1.


North of the Davisville yard lead, two “Gloucesters” — the original Toronto subway cars — pass each other. This shot is taken from the Manor Road footbridge between Yonge Street and Duplex Avenue with the Hillsdale Avenue bridge in the background. (In fact, this is almost the same view as in the photo at the top of part 1 of this article, only fifty years earlier. Note how few trees appear beside the tracks in this shot.) Photo donated by Curt Frey and Pat Lavalée.

Opening the subway between Eglinton and Union significantly affected Toronto’s transit route network, with TTC planners ending service along several routes, introducing several more and altering many others so that passengers could connect with the new subway.

The changes took place in five phases.

  • First, starting Saturday, March 6, the TTC ended streetcar service on Yonge Street north of Eglinton, replacing the cars with trolley buses. It also reorganized the bus network north of Eglinton, canceling the Eglinton route and introducing a new trolley bus route, Nortown.
  • Second, starting the day of the official opening of the subway, Tuesday, March 30, it ended all streetcar service along the Yonge route, reorganized other routes to link to the subway and canceled still more bus and streetcar routes.
  • Third, in May, the TTC canceled streetcar service along the Church route and replaced its cars with buses. Although the TTC claimed that the power demands of the new subway reduced the electric supply along Church, making service erratic, the truth was that the subway was a success and passengers living and working along Church preferred walking to a subway station to board the rapid transit line, instead of waiting for streetcars pushing their way through traffic.
  • Fourth, the the TTC planned to replace streetcars south of Eglinton with four bus routes: 5 Avenue Rd between Eglinton and Davisville Stations; 33 Forest Hill between St. Clair and Rosedale; 82 Rosedale between Rosedale and Wellesley; and 27 Downtown between Rosedale and Union. However, work to remove the streetcar tracks on Yonge and then rebuild the roadway resulted in so many detours for the buses that the TTC was never able to completely implement this plan until October 1955. By September 1955, it abandoned most of this scheme, splitting the 82 Rosedale route into two, with the new 94 Wellesley route taking the west end of that route, abandoning service along the section between Crescent Road and Wellesley Street and shortening the *33 Forest Hill route to operate only to St. Clair.

(* Note: the TTC did not number its bus routes until 1956!)


A Gloucester car pulls into Queen Station. Picture featured in the April 1954 edition of TTC’s Coupler Newsletter.

  • Fifth, the TTC and its subsidiary, Gray Coach Lines, had operated popular extra-fare express services along Avenue Road (the Hill coach route) and Mount Pleasant Road (the Mt Pleasant coach route). These routes are similar to today’s Downtown express routes — two of which serve the very same areas! The competition from the subway proved too much for these routes, too, with the TTC abandoning them by late 1954.


Opening the subway marked the end of streetcar service along these streets:

  • Yonge Street
  • Front Streets West and East
  • Avenue Road between St. Clair Avenue West and Davenport Road
  • Church Street (in May, 1954).
  • Scott Street, George Street, Frederick Street, Shuter Street. (The TTC used these streets to short-turn cars operating along the Yonge and other routes.)

Specifically, it canceled service along these routes:

  • Yonge
  • Bathurst tripper
  • Bay
  • Bay tripper
  • Church (in May, 1954)
  • Church tripper (March 30, 1954)
  • Danforth tripper (these rush-hour only cars operated from Danforth Avenue to downtown Toronto along Church Street and are different from the new Danforth tripper the TTC established with the opening of the subway.)

However, it also established new streetcar routes:

  • Earlscourt - adding extra service along St. Clair Avenue West, after the TTC withdrew Bathurst tripper, Bay and Bay tripper service from that street.
  • Danforth tripper - short-turn service along the east-end of the busy Bloor streetcar line between Luttrell loop (east of Dawes Road) and Bedford loop on the site of today’s St. George Station.


This photograph, by Julian Bernard, donated by Curt Frey, shows the transferway at Bloor Street in action.

It also revised service along these routes:

  • Bloor - streetcars stopped at a new transfer point in the centre of the roadway, just east of Yonge with staircases leading passengers to and from the subway.
  • Carlton tripper - streetcars no longer went downtown to Adelaide and Victoria Streets. Instead they looped from Gerrard and Parliament along Parliament, Dundas, McCaul, College, Carlton and Parliament Monday-to-Friday mornings and reversed the loop afternoons.
  • Dupont - streetcars continued southward along Bay Street to the ferry docks, replacing Bay service.
  • St. Clair - streetcars entered the new terminal at St. Clair Station.

Trolley coaches

With the opening of the subway, the TTC introduced two new trolley bus routes:

  • *61 Nortown - replacing the former Eglinton bus route and transfering Lawrence bus service from nearby residential streets to Avenue and Mount Pleasant Roads; and
  • *97 Yonge - replacing the north end of the Yonge streetcar route.


Although opening of the subway heralded the temporary reign of buses as supreme in Toronto, the TTC also removed bus service along some streets as it reorganized routes:

  • Wellesley Street East between Sherbourne Street and Wellesley Station; and
  • Ronan Road and Elm Road (Lawrence buses formerly served these residential streets).

It also canceled one bus route:

  • Eglinton.

and, in September, 1954, two “coach” (extra-fare express routes)

  • Hill; and
  • Mt Pleasant

It introduced two new bus routes:

  • *5 Avenue Rd;
  • *27 Downtown (but not until October 1954 when work to remove streetcar tracks and rebuild Yonge Street ended);
  • *99 Yonge night bus.

It extensively revised its remaining bus network, especially north of St. Clair Avenue.

It rerouted buses operating along these routes so that they entered the bus terminals at subway stations, but otherwise maintained their regular routes:

  • *28 Davisville;
  • *32 Eglinton West;
  • *33 Forest Hill (but not until July 1954 when work to remove streetcar tracks and rebuild Yonge Street ended);
  • *52 Lawrence;
  • *56 Leaside;
  • *59 North Yonge;
  • *82 Rosedale;
  • *88 South Leaside; and
  • Sunnybrook (this route didn’t last until 1956, so it has no number. It fact, it ended in July 1954.)

The TTC extensively revised the *52 Lawrence route so it no longer operated in a U-shape, serving residential streets parallel to Avenue and Mount Pleasant Roads. Instead, buses ran straight along Lawrence east-west between Bathurst Street and Bayview Avenue. During rush hours, the buses diverted along Yonge Street to Eglinton Station.

Buses serving the *59 North Yonge route, which extended far north of the city limits of Toronto into North York, Vaughan and Markham Townships and the Town of Richmond Hill, operated express south of Glen Echo Loop on the north-east corner Yonge and Glen Echo Road. (A supermarket now occupies the site.)

It also revised the *75 Sherbourne route to serve south Rosedale and partially replace service on Wellesley Street East, which the TTC abandoned when it reorganized the 82 Rosedale route to serve the subway at both Rosedale and Wellesley Stations.

Two more routes started indirectly as a result of the subway and related road construction, but slightly later:

  • *19 Church (in May 1954); and
  • *14 Chaplin (in July 1954).

From the Transit Toronto — and other — archives

The City of Toronto Archives has a great on-line photo exhibit of “Canada’s First Subway”, here.

The TTC provides its own version of the story here.

From the Transit Toronto archives:

  • “Early subway proposals” by James Bow, here;
  • “A history of the original Yonge Subway”, by James Bow, here;
  • “The Unsung changes to the Yonge Subway”, by James Bow, here.
  • “Eglinton Station - Toronto’s former suburban gateway”, by James Bow, here.
  • “The Davisville Subway Yards” by James Bow with Robert Lubinski, here.
  • “Eglinton Carhouse and Garage” by Godfrey Mallion with photos by Roman Fomin.
  • “The Gloucester Series Subway Cars (1954 - 1990)” by James Bow with Robert Lubinski, here.
  • “A photo tour of Eglinton Station on May 3, 2003”, with text and photos by James Bow, here.

From our collection of streetcar route histories:

  • “A history of City streetcars on Yonge Street” by James Bow with Pete Coulman, here.
  • “The Dupont and Bay streetcars (Deceased)” by James Bow, here.
  • “The Bloor streetcar (Deceased)” — includes the “Danforth tripper” route — by James Bow, here.
  • “Route 511 — the Bathurst streetcars” by James Bow, here.
  • “Route 512 — the St. Clair streetcars” by James Bow, here.
  • “Route 512L — the Earlscourt streetcars” by James Bow, here.

From our collection of bus and trolley-bus route histories

  • Eglinton (1930 - 1954) by Jeffrey Kay, here.
  • Sunnybrook (1948 - 1954) by Jeffrey Kay and Alan Gryfe, here.
  • Hill coach (1925 - 1954) by Pete Coulman and Alan Gryfe, here.
  • Mount Pleasant coach (1941 - 1954) by Pete Coulman, here.
  • 5 Avenue Rd by Jeffrey Kay with Pete Coulman, here.
  • 14 Chaplin (1954 - 1973) by Pete Coulman, here.
  • 19 Church (1954 - 1996) by Jeffrey Kay, here.
  • 27 Downtown (1954 - 1989) by Jeffrey Kay, here.
  • 28 Davisville by Jeffrey Kay with Alan Gryfe and Pete Coulman, here.
  • 32 Eglinton West by Jeffrey Kay, here.
  • 33 Forest Hill by Pete Coulman here.
  • 52 Lawrence / 52 Lawrence West by Jeffrey Kay with D.C. Bardeau, Pete Coulman and Alan Gryfe, here.
  • 61 Nortown / 61 Nortown West (1954 - 1985) by James Bow and Jeffrey Kay, here.
  • 75 Sherbourne by Pete Coulman, here.
  • 82 Rosedale by Pete Coulman, here.
  • 94 Wellesley by Jeffrey Kay, here.
  • 97 Yonge by James Bow and Jeffrey Kay, here.
  • 99 Yonge night bus (1954 - 1974) by Jeffrey Kay and Pete Coulman, here.

  • TTC system map in 1952, before the subway opened, here.
  • TTC system map in 1954, after the subway opened, here.

Canada’s subways

Toronto’s — and Canada’s — first subway, the Yonge line, opened between Eglinton and Union Stations Tuesday, March 30, 1954.

Montreal opened three of its Métro lines Sunday, October 14, 1966. Service operated along what’s now the orange line between Henri-Bourassa and Bonaventure, the green line between Atwater and Frontenac and the yellow line between Berri-de Montigny and Longueil.

Vancouver opened what it now calls the Expo line of its Skytrain between Waterfront and New Westminster Stations Wednesday, December 11, 1985, including an underground portion in downtown Vancouver. (But, technically, it’s not a subway.) It opened the Canada line, which, arguably, is a subway, Monday, August 17, 2009.

Part of Edmonton’s light rail transit system operates underground through downtown Edmonton, similar to the how parts of the future Eglinton - Crosstown LRT will operate in Toronto. Similarly, Ottawa’s future LRT will run underground below downtown Ottawa. But, those are LRTs, not subways.


Two Gloucester-built Toronto subway trains pass each other while testing the right-of-way north of Davisville station, south of Lola Road (this view is looking north) in February 1954. Photo by Julian Bernard, from the Curt Frey / Pat Lavallée Collection.