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Eaton's Special (1930-1972, with reprieve in 1977)

Compiled by Pete Coulman
With additional text by James Bow

The EATON’S SPECIAL began life as a bus service operated by Gray Coach under contract with the Timothy Eaton Company in order to provide an easy ride between Eaton’s two downtown Toronto stores (at Yonge and Queen and Yonge and College). Fares were charged, but no transfers were issued or accepted with linking bus routes. In the early 1950s, the TTC switched the Gray Coaches for TTC “red” coaches, and continued the service until at least the early 1970s. The rise of the Eaton Centre and the exit of the Eaton’s store from what is now College Park likely precipitated the end of this special service.

October 30, 1930 (Thursday)

The Timothy Eaton Company launches the “Eaton Inter-Store Coach” service. Buses operate from the corner of Albert and Yonge via north on Yonge to Hayter (one block north of Gerrard). Buses return via west on Hayter, south on Bay and east on Albert Street to Yonge. The service is initially operated complimentary to Eaton’s shoppers.

November 25, 1930 (Tuesday)

Fares are now charged at a rate of 3 tickets for 5 cents. Tickets are sold at the Enquiry Desk at the Queen and College stores.

June 2, 1932 (Thursday)

On this day, Eaton’s contracts Gray Coach to operate additional coach service linking the Eaton’s stores with the Royal York and King Edward hotels. A number of trips are made during the mornings and afternoons, Monday to Saturday.

June 8, 1932 (Wednesday)

Gray Coach service to the Royal York and King Edward hotels is discontinued.

May 11, 1933 (Thursday)

Gray Coach now operates this service with buses using treadle rear doors. These doors are painted gray on September 27 of this year.

August 18, 1937 (Wednesday)

Gray Coach upgrades service to diesel-electric rear drive coaches.

March 12, 1942 (Thursday)

By this date, the EATON INTER-STORE service operates between 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday to Saturday (store hours are 8:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.)

October 21, 1942 (Saturday)

Last day of service for the duration of the Second World War. By order of the Dominion War Department, the EATON INTER-STORE coach service is discontinued to conserve gasoline and rubber.

June 4, 1945 (Monday)

Service on the EATON’S INTER-STORE coach resumes.

July 19, 1948 (Monday)

Service is temporarily diverted due to trackwork at the intersection of Dundas and Bay. Southbound buses divert via west on Hayter Street, south on Elizabeth and east on Albert to Yonge.

August 9, 1948 (Monday)

With trackwork complete at the Dundas/Bay intersection, regular routing resumes.

Circa 1962

Service transferred from Gray Coach to the TTC. As part of the change, three Gray Coach buses (1295-1297) are transferred to the TTC and renumbered 1395-1397. These buses maintained their Gray Coach livery, with added TTC crests, until they were retired in 1964. The service is operated out of Davenport Garage. No transfers are issued or accepted with connecting TTC routes, and the route does not appear on TTC maps or timetables.


Monday to Saturday, shoppers hours

October 1, 1970 (Thursday)

Fares increased from 15 cents/2 tickets for 25 cents to 15 cents/2 tickets for 30 cents.

March 11, 1972

A Canadian Coach article by Jack Knowles reports, “One of the oldest Canadian contract special bus services was discontinued on March 11th, 1972, when the Toronto Transit Commission ceased to run Eaton’s Inter-Store Service, which was inaugurated October 30th, 1930. Eaton’s service had operated during store hours, except for the period October 31st, 1942, to June 4th, 1945, when it was discontinued due to the wartime shortage of gasoline, tires, vehicles and manpower.”

January 20 to February 5, 1977

With the imminent closure and demolition of the Queen Street store and Budget Annex, the Eaton’s Company launched its “Hail & Farewell Sale”. and chartered a GM New Look bus to operate. On the side of the bus, Eaton’s featured an advertising sign which read, “For Eaton’s Hail & Farewell Sale we’ve brought back the Eaton Connection! This bus runs between the Queen Street and College Street stores from January 20th to February 5th.”

This bus is recorded operating via north on Yonge, west on Hayter (picking up at the south side of the College Store), south on Bay, east on Queen, north on James (picking up at the west side of the Queen Store), west on Albert and, presumably, north on Bay and east on Dundas to Yonge. The special fare for this service is five cents.

Little is known by this author about the operation of the EATON’S SPECIAL after the YONGE SUBWAY opened in 1954. If anyone has additional information, it would be greatly appreciated.

Eaton's Special Image Archive


  • TTC Route Histories, TTC, 1958
  • Knowles, Jack, “The T. Eaton Special” TORONTO DEPARTMENT STORE BUS SERVICES, Canadian Coach, April 1972, p3.
  • With thanks to Bill Robb
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