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A History of Transit Service to Exhibition Place


A KING-EXHIBITION transfer, circa 1970.

Text by James Bow and John F. Bromley.

(Please note: this page is in the process of being revised. Stay tuned for further changes)

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Toronto's Exhibition Place is a 192 acre fairground located on the shores of Lake Ontario west of Strachan Avenue, east of Dunn Avenue and south of the Gardiner Expressway. Its best known event is the the Canadian National Exhibition, and end of summer fair that has run almost continuously since 1879 when it was established as the Toronto Industrial Exhibition (or Exposition). It would be renamed the Toronto Exhibition in 1902, and the Dominion of Canada Industrial Exhibition in 1903 (or Dominion Exhibition for short) before taking on its current monicker in 1904. The only time this fair didn't operate between 1879 and now was during the summers of 1942 to 1945, when the Second World War forced the re-appropriation of the Exhibition grounds for military use.

The Exhibition has also hosted many other special events throughout its history. Today, the Royal Winter Fair, the Molson Indy and the Toronto FC soccer team attract attendees; in the past, the Grey Cup, the Toronto Argonauts football team, the Toronto Blue Jays and even the Orange Lodge have brought in crowds. Transit service has played a big part in serving these crowds from the beginning when, in 1879, the Toronto Street Railway company extended tracks from the end of its KING line (at King and Strachan) south on Strachan to Wellington. In 1884, a Belgian inventor named Charles Van Depoele met with J. J. Wright and built an electric railway running between the Crystal Palace, inside the Canadian Industrial Exhibition fairgrounds, to Strachan Avenue near the terminal of the Toronto Street Railway horsecar line. This was the first electric railway to be built in Canada, and thousands of passengers flocked to ride the wondrous new trains. After five years of successful operation, the operators of the line went on to establish successful electric railway systems elsewhere and the experimental line was abandoned, but transit service continued to the Exhibition. By 1894, the Toronto Railway Company was operating electric streetcars. By 1898, the tracks south on Strachan had been replaced by tracks running on Dufferin, south from Queen Street to a loop south of Springhurst Avenue.

The task of serving large special events provide unique challenges that regular public transit operation doesn't face. By their nature, these special events gather large crowds from across the city to a small area. Quite often, these crowds have to be delivered quickly, for an opening gate or a game start time, and they often leave en masse, overwhelming individual buses or streetcars. This movement of people often requires many vehicles to wait until crowd pulses arrive. Vehicles often leave with crush loads, to deliver passengers to their destinations before returning largely empty to pick up another load. Supervisors usually have to be on hand to ensure enough transit vehicles are in place so that cars and buses are constantly picking up passengers. Crowds that are allowed to gather too long can exceed the carrying capacity of a platform, producing dangerous conditions, including the possibility of trampling.

At its height, the Canadian National Exhibition was the largest annual fair in the world. Even today, the CNE sees 1.3 million visitors over its two week period. It is no surprise that, through its history, it commanded a considerable amount of attention from Toronto's transit operators. The CNE and other special events at the Exhibition grounds would often rewrite transit schedules; new routes would be set up, and many established routes diverted.

Today, Exhibition Place is served by three routes that operate year round: 511 BATHURST, 509 HARBOURFRONT and 29 DUFFERIN, along with express bus route 193 EXHIBITION ROCKET which operates primarily when the Canadian National Exhibition is running. Thanks to the efforts of transit historian John F. Bromley, this article lists and describes many of the bus and streetcar services that were specially created or diverted to serve the CNE grounds.

(Diversion service, 1916-41, 1947-65; Regular service 1966-date)

The eastern entrance to Exhibition Place is currently served seven days a week by the 511 BATHURST streetcar. Although service is significantly increased during the Canadian National Exhibition, this service cannot be called a special extension, since it exists to serve the Exhibition grounds year round and has done so since 1966. Before the opening of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway, however, service on Bathurst to the Exhibition grounds was more complicated.

Before 1966, regular BATHURST service did not serve the Exhibition. Most cars operated from St. Clair Avenue via south on Bathurst and east on Adelaide to Church, while tripper cars extended service south on Bathurst and east on Front to Scott Street, or George or Sherbourne. Other routes followed the tracks that cut south (or southwest, before 1931, when the Bathurst Street bridge was realigned) to the Exhibition Grounds. But the first reference to special BATHURST service to the Exhibition appears in 1916.

On August 28, 1916, a Monday-to-Saturday late-evening service started from Lansdowne carhouse, operating via Lansdowne, Dundas, Arthur (named Dundas Street after 1920), Bathurst, the private right-of-way from Bathurst and Front through Fort York to Strachan, and from there to Exhibition Loop. BATHURST streetcars would pick up passengers and return via the private right-of-way and then via Bathurst and Dupont to Christie Wye, making a return trip to the Exhibition if a second trip from the Ex was required, or returning to Lansdowne carhouse via Dupont, Bathurst, Bloor and Lansdowne. This service continued until the end of the Exhibition season in 1921.

The TTC inherited this operation on September 1, 1921, and continued operating it until the last day of the Exhibition, September 10. The following year, starting August 26, 1922, the TTC renamed this route EXHIBITION, meaning that streetcars operated southbound with EXHIBITION-EXHIBITION on their rollsigns, and EXHIBITION-ST. CLAIR when heading north. This was to prevent confusion from having three services operating along Bathurst Street using BATHURST route signs (in addition to BATHURST-CHURCH (via Adelaide) and BATHURST-SCOTT (via Front). The EXHIBITION route was extended to operate from Vaughan loop, just south of St. Clair via south on Bathurst, southwest along the private right-of-way through Fort York, past Strachan and into Exhibition loop, returning via the reverse route. From 1922 until 1930, this route operated Mondays through Saturdays throughout the day.

Early in 1931, the bridge at the base of Bathurst was opened and Bathurst Street extended south from Front to Fleet Street. Tracks were removed from Fort York and run south on Bathurst Street to Fleet and then west on Fleet to Strachan and, from there, over private right-of-way into Exhibition loop. Just as FLEET (soon renamed FORT) made use of this new alignment, EXHIBITION cars were realigned, and continued to serve the Exhibition grounds straight through to September 1941.

EXHIBITION was also in use to serve patrons of the Orangeman's Parade at the CNE grounds on July 12, 1924, and every year after that up to and including 1929. From 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., cars operated from a wye at Adelaide via south on Bathurst, southwest through Fort York, past Strachan and into Exhibition loop; after 4:00 pm, EXHIBITION service was extended over the full route to St. Clair. It's possible that this operation may have taken place for Orangeman parades before 1924, but certainly not before July 1922. On July 12, 1930, EXHIBITION service operating from 8:30 a.m. throughout the day over the full route, with additional cars operating after 9:50 a.m. from the wye at Adelaide and Bathurst south. The supplementary service to Adelaide disappeared in 1931 with the emergence of the FLEET route (later FORT). Orangeman's Parade service continued on July 12 of every year up to and including 1939. It is possible that the service continued to 1941, but the records here are incomplete.

EXHIBITION service also operated to the Royal Winter Fair, starting with the 1927 season on November 16, 1927, and continuing up to and including 1941. As with Orangemen's Parade service, Royal Winter Fair service operated over the full route Monday through Saturday during the afternoons and evenings and, until 1931, at other times on Mondays to Saturdays, cut back to wye at Adelaide and Bathurst. Some late evening cars were extended from Vaughan Loop via west on St. Clair to Lansdowne loop, before running back to St. Clair Carhouse at Wychwood.

EXHIBITION cars were also called out to serve the Holy Name Rally on June 23, 1929 (from 1:00 p.m. onwards, over the full route), and on June 7-12, 1930, to serve the Shriner's Convention. This was one of the first times the service operated on a Sunday (June 8). On November 10, 1933 after 6:00 p.m. and all day Remembrance Day, EXHIBITION cars serviced a military display by the 6th Infantry Brigade. On March 5, 1934, the cars were on hand to service the Toronto Centennial Celebrations (the Centennial Civic Watchnight Service) after 9:36 p.m. Centennial celebrations brought the route out again on March 23, 24, 25 and 26, on July 2 after 9:00 a.m. and August 4 after 1:30 p.m. Finally, the American Legion convention at the CNE grounds required EXHIBITION cars after 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 4, 1941, and after 1:30 p.m. the next day, and all day the following Sunday.

The last time the EXHIBITION route was used in 1941 was for a week in the middle November 1941, to serve the Royal Winter Fair. Soon after, and from 1942 to 1946, the Exhibition Grounds were put to military use, training and billeting personnel for the war effort. Other services would be needed to serve the Grounds at this time.

On August 22, 1947, the Canadian National Exhibition re-opened, and EXHIBITION cars returned, following the old route of Vaughan loop via south on Bathurst, west on Fleet and onto private right-of-way into Exhibition loop, returning over the reverse route. EXHIBITION cars were also in use starting November 19, 1947 to serve the Royal Winter Fair. This continued every year up to and including 1953, with the last EXHIBITION-EXHIBITION car rolling on November 21 of that year. With the opening of the YONGE SUBWAY, and the removal of the BATHURST TRIPPER service on Front Street, effective March 26, 1954, the issue of multiple BATHURST branches wasn't so severe, so BATHURST-EXHIBITION returned on streetcar rollsigns on August 27, 1954, over the same route. This service continued every year up to and including the 1965 Royal Winter Fair. Following the opening of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway, the BATHURST-EXHIBITION service became the regular BATHURST service, operating between Bathurst Station and the Exhibition grounds. This arrangement continues to this day.


A 521 KING EXHIBITION transfer, circa 1995. Even though the route hasn't gone to Woodbine since 1968, the transfer timing points have not changed.

(1879-2000, with reprieve in 2013)

Although it was officially renamed 521 EXHIBITION EAST on August 13, 1980, this streetcar route retained its original route name of KING-EXHIBITION on its transfers, and is generally referred to as such by railfans, passengers, and TTC documentation after 1990. By that time, the route was one of the oldest streetcar routes in Toronto. Its earliest ancestor first operated on September 2, 1879 as the KING VIA STRACHAN route. On Mondays to Saturdays, when the Toronto Industrial Exposition was on. horsecars operated from a crossover at King and River via west on King and south on Strachan to Wellington. A single track ran down Strachan Avenue from King to Wellington, but the terminal at Wellington had two stub tracks.

From Strachan and Wellington, passengers had to walk the rest of the way to the Exhibition Grounds. In 1884, the experimental electric railway of Charles Van Depoele cut down this journey. KING VIA STRACHAN continued to serve the Toronto Industrial Exposition every year until September 19, 1890. Starting September 8, 1891, KING cars served the Exhibition Grounds via a new route, operating from River Street via west on King and south on Dufferin to a crossover at Huxley (today known as Springhurst), returning via the reverse route. Electric streetcars were in operation the next year when the route returned, on September 5.

Starting with the 1893 season (September 5), KING service to the Exhibition was extended east from River, via King and Queen to wye at Woodbine Avenue (some cars wyed at Kingston Road). By the 1894 season (September 4), the Huxley crossover had been replaced by Dufferin Loop. KING service operated again, with additional service provided from George and Front streets, via Front, Church, King and Dufferin. This continued up to and including the 1897 season, and the route was shortened to Kingston Road in 1898 (August 31), and then extended Munro Park loop in 1899 (August 30). This arrangement continued through the 1905 Exhibition season.

On August 28, 1916, the Toronto Railway Company installed a second branch of the KING-EXHIBITION service. Instead of operating to Dufferin Loop, these cars served the eastern entrance of the Exhibition, operating from Scarborough Beach Loop via west on Queen, west on King, south on Bathurst, southwest on private right-of-way through Fort York, past Strachan Avenue and into Exhibition loop, returning via the reverse route. Extra service was provided from Front and Sherbourne via Sherbourne, King, Bathurst and the Fort York private right-of-way. In addition to this, the older branch remained, operating from Neville Park Wye via west on Queen, west on King, and south on Dufferin to Dufferin Loop, with extra service operating west from Front and Sherbourne. Not much is known about how passengers and inspectors told the two routes apart, but somehow they made do, as this operation continued every year to 1921.

When the Toronto Transportation Commission inherited the KING streetcar in September 1, 1921, it maintained the dual KING-EXHIBITION services, and repeated them for the 1922 Exhibition season (starting August 26, 1922). September 9, 1922 would be the last time that KING-EXHIBITION cars would serve Dufferin Loop during the CNE, however. On August 25, 1923, KING-EXHIBITION cars operated on a single route (replacing BROADVIEW-EXHIBITION) from Erindale Loop on Broadview, north of Danforth, via south on Broadview, west on Queen, west on King, south on Bathurst, southwest through Fort York and past Strachan into Exhibition Loop, while QUEEN-EXHIBITION service (see below) began serving Dufferin Loop. The new KING-EXHIBITION route continued until September 8 of that year, and returned on July 12, 1924 to serve the Orangemen's Parade. On August 23, 1924, and for every Exhibition season up to and including 1941, KING-EXHIBITION service was extended east on Danforth from Broadview to Coxwell.

In addition to the CNE, KING-EXHIBITION served the Shriner's Convention in June 1930, the Toronto Centennial Celebrations (see BATHURST-EXHIBITION above), and the American Legion Convention on July 4-6, 1941. The line also served the Orangemen's Parade every July 12 from 1930 to 1941, and likely served from 1925 to 1929, although no records confirming this have been found. The Orangemen's Parade routing was an odd variant of KING-EXHIBITION service, however, with cars operating from Erindale Loop, via south on Broadview, west on Queen, west on King, and south on Dufferin to Dufferin Loop.

When the Exhibition fair resumed in the summer of 1947, following the Second World War, so too did KING-EXHIBITION service, but with a twist. While it still operated to the eastern entrance from Coxwell and Davenport, the Exhibition cars ran via Danforth, the Prince Edward Viaduct and Bloor to Parliament, before heading south on Parliament, west on King, south on Bathurst and west on Fleet. This service would replace PARLIAMENT cars outright after 9:30 a.m. on Exhibition days.

And so this continued until 1966, when the opening of the BLOOR-DANFORTH resulted in the abandoning of streetcar tracks on Danforth Avenue west of Woodbine. On July 14, 1966, to serve a Toronto Argonauts football game at Exhibition stadium, KING-EXHIBITION cars now operated out of the eastern entrance of the grounds via Fleet, Bathurst, King and Queen to Woodbine Loop at the intersection of Kingston Road and Queen. This service likely replaced the KINGSTON ROAD-EXHIBITION cars, which used to operate from Bingham Loop to Dufferin Loop via Kingston Road, Queen and Dufferin, up until the summer of 1965. This arrangement lasted until the 1969 Exhibition season, when KING-EXHIBITION service was cut back to Church Street (looping via north on Church, west on Richmond, south on Victoria and east on Adelaide), although some cars entered service from Woodbine loop, and left service by running to Woodbine before returning to Russell Carhouse. For the most part, connections with the subway at St. Andrew and King stations was enough to distribute passengers throughout the rest of the system.

This would be the final basic alignment of the KING-EXHIBITION route, although there were some variations. A walking transfer was allowed with QUEEN cars at Victoria Street from a stop one block south at Richmond. On certain summers, especially during the 1980s, KING-EXHIBITION cars looped via west on Richmond, north on Victoria and east on Queen to Church. When the route was given the number 521 in 1980, and CLRV rollsigns drafted, exposures were made for runs to Broadview Station, and Neville Park. There is no indication that service was ever scheduled to these destinations, though it is possible that 521 cars operated to Neville Park as they went out-of-service.

The line's last days came in the late 1990s. Then, declining attendance at the CNE reduced the need for special services to the fairgrounds. The line was also due to become redundant once work finished building the streetcar link on Queen's Quay between Bathurst and Spadina, allowing the 509 HARBOURFRONT route to operate as a full-time link between the Exhibition and Union station, on private right-of-way, no less. The 1999 Exhibition season was supposed to be the last hurrah for the 521 KING EXHIBITION service, but the route won a reprieve in the form of the Molson Indy.

The automobile race took place over the weekend of July 14-16, bringing thousands to the Exhibition. However, at the time, 509 HARBOURFRONT streetcar was not due to open for another week. Unable to clear the line for operation, the TTC scheduled KING EXHIBITION cars to run again. By this time, the streetcar rollsigns had all been replaced, with all 521 KING EXHIBITION route exposures eliminated in anticipation of the Harbourfront line's arrival. So streetcar drivers made do. Many cars trundled with 504 EXHIBITION on their rollsigns, and some 508 and 509 signs even made an appearance. A black on yellow card displayed the 521 route on affected streetcars, and the 521 back rollsign exposure was used.

This would have been the last we saw of the 521 service, except that, in the summer of 2013, 509 HARBOURFRONT cars could not serve the Exhibition due to trackwork on Queen's Quay. With construction bringing delays to the 509 replacement buses, and surplus streetcars available, the TTC restored service on the 521 KING-EXHIBITION route, starting August 20, 2013. Cars ran from a loop of west on Richmond, south on Victoria, east on Adelaide and south on Church to operate via west on King, south on Bathurst and west on Fleet to Exhibition loop. Again, since 521 rollsign exposures no longer existed, cars were signed 504 EXHIBITION and 504 CHURCH. Some streetcars were able to display the 521 route number on the back sign.

The 509 HARBOURFRONT streetcar was still under bus substitution during the 2014 Exhibition season, but the TTC did not decide to restore 521 service at this time. With streetcars returning to Queen's Quay in October 2014, the KING-EXHIBITION cars may finally have disappeared.

522 DUNDAS-EXHIBITION (1916-1986, with reprieve in 1995)

The Toronto Railway Company launched the DUNDAS-EXHIBITION service on August 28, 1916, as a late evening return service, with streetcars operating out of Dundas Carhouse via east on Howard Park, east on Dundas, south on Ossington (then known as Dundas until July 1, 1917), west on Queen and south on Dufferin to Dufferin loop. Cars would return via the reverse route, and continue west and north along Dundas to wye at Keele Street. There, the cars would either return to Dufferin Loop for a second trip, or would simply return to Dundas Carhouse via Dundas Street and Ritchie. This operation continued for the following Exhibition seasons up to and including 1922.

On August 25, 1923, the TTC expanded DUNDAS-EXHIBITION service to full time, operating from the wye at Keele via south on Dundas, south on Roncesvalles, east on King and south on Dufferin to Dufferin loop, Mondays to Saturdays after 8:00 a.m. The following year (on August 23), the TTC extended this service to operate east from Runnymede (a wye in 1924, and made into a loop in time for the 1925 CNE season). This arrangement continued for every season up to and including 1941, and resumed when the CNE was relaunched in 1947. Unlike other services to the Exhibition (particularly KING-EXHIBITION, EXHIBITION-EXHIBITION and DOVERCOURT-EXHIBITION), DUNDAS-EXHIBITION cars did not serve the Orangemen's Parade or many of the other special events listed here, but it did serve the Shriner's Convention on June 7-12, 1930.

On August 27, 1948 and until the end of that year's CNE, the TTC began to operate DUNDAS-EXHIBITION cars earlier than 8:00 a.m. From 6:10 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., certain cars would operate out of Dufferin loop via north on Dufferin to King, looping via east on King, north on Shaw, west on Queen and south on Dufferin to Dufferin loop. This shuttle service was likely to serve workers setting up and working at the fairgrounds. This service operated for the 1949 CNE season, and every season from 1951 to 1961. The last day of this service was September 1, 1961. The following year, the service was replaced by the 29 DUFFERIN bus.

For many years, an annual ritual would alter the DUNDAS-EXHIBITION route. Especially in the 1950s and the 1960s, the Labour Day parade on Labour Day would block traffic on King Street west of Dufferin, forcing DUNDAS-EXHIBITION cars to operate via north on Dufferin, east on King, north on Bathurst and west on Dundas to rejoin its regular route at Roncesvalles. Following the opening of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway in February 1966, DUNDAS-EXHIBITION cars were routed through Dundas West station but continued to operate to Runnymede. After the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway was extended to Islington, however, the tracks north of the Dundas West station loop were abandoned, forcing DUNDAS-EXHIBITION cars to operate south of the subway only.

The 1967 CNE season may have been the last time DUNDAS cars served Runnymede loop in Exhibition service, but is likely not the last time DUNDAS-EXHIBITION cars operated north of the subway. From the mid-1960s on, the DUNDAS-EXHIBITION service started to be used more often for special events outside of the normal CNE season. Starting July 14, 1966, the TTC started running DUNDAS-EXHIBITION service to serve the crowds leaving Toronto Argonauts football games at CNE stadium. Most cars operated from Dufferin Loop to Dundas West station only, but records indicate that some followed the full route to Runnymede. This service operated for every home game during the football season, except during the CNE (when it was part of the regular DUNDAS-EXHIBITION offering), for every season from 1967 onward. On April 7, 1977, the service served the inaugural home game of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball club, and continued to serve baseball and football home games up to and including 1979.

On July 5, 1980, the DUNDAS-EXHIBITION route was officially renamed 522 EXHIBITION WEST, although the line's transfers retained the name DUNDAS-EXHIBITION to the end of its days. Those last days took place in the mid 1980s. Service to the Blue Jays baseball games did not take place for the 1980 season, leaving cars to serve just the Toronto Argonauts instead. At this point in time, the line's ridership was declining, to a fraction of that carried by 521 EXHIBITION EAST. Further, the 29 DUFFERIN route offered a more direct route to the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway, with the possibility of express bus service.

522 EXHIBITION WEST streetcars served the CNE for the last time on September 1, 1986. The last post-game football cars operated on November 16, 1986. For the 1987 Exhibition season, the TTC replaced the 522 streetcar with the new 93 EXHIBITION WEST express bus, operating on Dundas and Dufferin, and bypassing stops on Roncesvalles and King Street West.

The 522 EXHIBITION EAST exposures would remain on CLRV rollsigns until the year 2000, but the streetcar received only one reprieve, as a result of a bus shortage during the 1995 Exhibition season. When the TTC considered restoring the 521 KING-EXHIBITION route for the 2013 Exhibition season, it also considered restoring service on the Dundas side, but this did not bear fruit. The run from Dundas West is now handled by the 193 EXHIBITION ROCKET.

(Diversion service, 1931-1941; Regular service, 1942-1966;
Diversion to Union Station, 1947-1953)

In 1931, the City of Toronto worked on installing a bridge running south from the Bathurst/Front intersection, across the railway tracks, allowing Bathurst Street to be extended to Fleet Street. On June 22, 1931, service began on the FLEET streetcar route, operating from Wolesley Loop via south on Bathurst and west on Fleet to loop around the lighthouse at Fleet loop. On July 11 of that year, service was extende west from Fleet loop to serve Exhibition loop, and the passengers heading to that year's Orangemen's Parade. Coincidentally, this was the last day of operation of the FLEET streetcar, as it was renamed FORT the next day (when it was also extended to the Exhibition to serve the Orangemen's Parade). The following day, FORT service returned to its regular route from Wolesley to Fleet loops.

Despite being the service which operated on Fleet Street as part of its normal routes, the FORT car was pointedly not rerouted to serve the Canadian National Exhibition. There is no record of service to the Exhibition for the 1932 CNE season and, from 1933 to 1940, cars operating after 9:30 a.m. during days the CNE was open, operated from Wolesley loop via south on Bathurst and east on Front to loop at Front and Frederick Streets, leaving other routes to operate via Bathurst and Fleet to the CNE grounds. For the 1941 CNE season, cars operated from Wolesley loop via south on Bathurst and east on Front to loop via Scott, Wellington and Yonge.

There were exceptions, however. FORT cars operated to the Exhibition Grounds on November 10, 1933 (after 6:00 p.m.), to serve a military display by the 6th Infantry Brigade, during the Toronto Centennial Celebrations on March 5, May 23-27, July 1-3 and August 4-6, 1934.

Starting on February 19, 1942, after the Exhibition Grounds were converted to military use for the Second World War, regular FORT service was extended from Fleet loop to the Exhibition, and this continued following the cessation of hostilities. When the CNE returned for the 1947 season, however, FORT cars were rerouted to provide additional service to the Exhibition, operating in both directions from Exhibition loop via Fleet, Bathurst and Front, looping via Scott, Wellington and Yonge. TTC advertisements at this time explicitly refer to this as FORT-EXHIBITION service, but photographs suggest that streetcars bore EXHIBITION-UNION STATION and EXHIBITION-EXHIBITION on their rollsigns.

On September 6, 1949, construction on the YONGE subway forced FORT-EXHIBITION cars to divert in both directions via York and Wellington. In 1951, subway construction prevented FORT-EXHIBITION cars from operating altogether. For the 1950 and 1952 seasons, the downtown loop operated via Scott, Wellington and Bay and, for the 1953 season, the loop was Scott, Wellington and York.

The last FORT-EXHIBITION cars operated on September 12, 1953. After March 26, 1954, streetcar service was suspended on Front Street from York to Bathurst, with tracks removed soon after. Regular FORT service continued to the Exhibition until February 25, 1966. The following day, the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway opened, and all streetcar service on Bathurst was consolidated into the BATHURST route.


The KINGSTON ROAD streetcar had just been established in August 1937, as a renamed QUEEN car operating during weekday daytime hours and Saturday rush hours from Birchmount loop via Kingston Road, Queen and McCaul loop, when the TTC extended cars to the western entrance of the Exhibition via Queen and Dufferin to Dufferin Loop. This service, a continuation of the QUEEN-EXHIBITION service operated since 1923, would operate in the following summers until 1941, and resume in 1947. Starting with the 1953 Exhibition season, service after 6 p.m. was cut back at Woodbine loop.

KINGSTON ROAD also saw regular service to Dufferin loop. On February 2, 1948, selected rush hour trips operated from Birchmount via Kingston Road, Queen, King and Dufferin to Dufferin loop. Most rush hour trips looped via York, Wellington, Front and Sherbourne. The trip extensions were to serve industrial workers in the King-Dufferin area. Morning service to the loop ended briefly on November 1, 1948 before all tripper service was extended to loop via King, Dufferin, Queen and Shaw on March 26, 1951. Service was restored to Dufferin loop on November 26, 1951.

Both the special extensions via Queen and the tripper service via King continued until the mid 1960s. KINGSTON ROAD-EXHIBITION via Queen cars came to a close at the end of the 1965 Exhibition season. In February 26, 1966, the newly-opened BLOOR-DANFORTH subway caused extensive revisions to streetcar service on King Street, with KINGSTON ROAD tripper cars extended west from Dufferin to loop through Roncesvalles carhouse, or occasionally all the way to Dundas West station. The KINGSTON ROAD-EXHIBITION via Queen service never returned, as KING-EXHIBITION cars now provided service from Woodbine Loop via Queen, King and Bathurst.


On August 28, 1916, the Toronto Railway Company began service on a Monday-to-Saturday late evening return service operating from Yorkville Carhouse via east on Scollard, south on Yonge, west on Front, southwest on the private right-of-way through Fort York, past Strachan and into Exhibition loop, returning via the reverse route, past Scollard and north on Yonge to Price Wye. Cars returned to Exhibition loop if a second trip was needed, or returned to the carhouse via Yonge and Scollard. The next year, starting August 27, the service returned, extended north with the YONGE tracks to wye at Woodlawn Avenue. This operation continued up to and including the 1921 CNE season.

On August 26, 1922, the Toronto Transportation Commission modified the late evening return service to operate from St. Clair Carhouse via north on Wychwood, east on St. Clair, southeast on Vaughan, south on Bathurst, southwest via private right-of-way through Fort York, past Strachan to Exhibition loop. Cars then operated via Fort York, east on Front and north on Yonge to Woodlawn Wye, returning via Yonge, Front and Fort York to the Exhibition, if making a second trip, or via Yonge, Bloor, Avenue Road and St. Clair if returning to St. Clair Carhouse. This routing was a result of new steel trailers and the motors that hauled them being assigned to St Clair Carhouse rather than Yorkville Carhouse. It is also possible that a few single motors may have been operated from Yorkville Carhouse as per the routing that operated from 1917 to 1921.

With the opening of Eglinton Carhouse, the YONGE-EXHIBITION route was changed again for the 1923 CNE season, operating from Eglinton via south on Yonge, west on Front and southwest through Fort York, returning via the reverse route, past Eglinton to Glen Echo loop, returning to Exhibition loop if a second trip was needed, or directly to Eglinton carhouse if the day's service was done. This operation continued up to and including the 1941 Exhibition season (rerouted to follow Bathurst and Fleet starting from the 1931 season onward), although this service became sporadic after 1926, with only a few cars operating on extra-busy days, and no second trips made as a general rule.

When the Exhibition grounds returned to peacetime use in time for the 1947 CNE season, it is likely the YONGE-EXHIBITION service returned as well. There are no official records confirming the resumption of service, but author John F. Bromley personally witnessed these cars in operation for the 1948 and 1949 seasons. On September 6, 1949, the service was diverted due to construction of the YONGE SUBWAY, with cars operating in both directions via Yonge, Wellington, York and Front.

The service did not return for the 1950 CNE season.

QUEEN-EXHIBITION (1893-1894, 1903-1915, 1918-1949)

On September 5, 1893, the Toronto Railway Company began service on a QUEEN diversion, replacing the HIGH PARK VIA QUEEN-EXHIBITION service from the year before. During this season, cars operated Monday to Saturday from George and Front via west on Front, north on Church, west on King, north on Yonge, west on Queen and south on Dufferin to Huxley (Springhurst) crossover, returning via the reverse route. Dufferin Loop was opened in time for the 1894 CNE season, and QUEEN-EXHIBITION cars were rerouted to serve the new loop.

The service went on hiatus from 1895 to 1902, returning on August 29, 1903, operating from Church and Front via Church, Queen and Dufferin to Dufferin loop, returning via the reverse route. Starting with the 1907 CNE season, the eastern end of the route was cut back to operate from Richmond and Victoria. The service was replaced for the 1916 CNE season by PARLIAMENT-EXHIBITION service, but returned on August 26, 1918, operating as a late-evening return service from Gerrard and Greenwood via Gerrard, Parliament, Queen and Dufferin. The TTC inherited this route on September 1, 1921, and made no changes. For the 1922 season, service was extended east from Greenwood to Coxwell, wying in the intersection. The service was replaced the following year by the COLLEGE EAST TRIPPER-EXHIBITION service.

Effective August 25, 1923, the TTC began service between Kingston Road and Dufferin Loop, operating as a diversion of the revised QUEEN service. Cars operated from Bingham loop via southwest on Kingston Road, west on Queen and south on Dufferin to Dufferin loop. Regular QUEEN service to Sunnyside loop was not replaced, although service on the BEACH streetcar may have been increased to compensate for the gap west of Dufferin. This continued until the 1929 season, when QUEEN-EXHIBITION service was extended east to Birchmount; short turn service likely continued to Bingham and Woodbine loops only. This service was operated for the Shriner's Convention from June 9-12, 1930, and for every CNE season up to and including 1936.

On August 27, 1937, after BEACH service was renamed QUEEN and QUEEN service was renamed KINGSTON ROAD. The old QUEEN-EXHIBITION service was renamed KINGSTON ROAD-EXHIBITION, and the TTC began operation on a new QUEEN-EXHIBITION car, operating as a late-evening return service from Dufferin Loop via Dufferin and Queen to Neville Park Loop, returning to Dufferin Loop if a second trip was needed, or to Russell Carhouse if leaving service. This continued every season (with the exception of 1942 to 1946) until the end of the 1949 CNE season. There was no replacement service in 1950.


For the first years of its existence, the DOVERCOURT streetcar was diverted to service areas that were suddenly without service as a result of Exhibition diversions. However, on August 28, 1906, cars on this line were also sent to Dufferin Loop, operating from the wye at Van Horne (today's Dupont Street) via south on Dovercourt, east on College, south on Ossington, south on Dundas (today known as Ossington -- it was renamed on July 1, 1917), and then west on Queen and south on Dufferin. The service operated Monday to Saturday after 8:10 a.m., removing service on Shaw Street for the duration of the Exhibition. This service was repeated the following two seasons. Starting on August 30, 1909, service to Shaw was reinstated, with cars operating before 8:30 a.m. and between 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. via the regular route from Van Horne to Queen and Ossington and then east on Queen, south on Shaw, west on King and south on Dufferin to Dufferin Loop; at other times, the previous diversion to the Exhibition was employed.

This arrangement continued until 1915. In 1916, the afternoon rush-hour service to Shaw was dropped, and so this continued until 1921. The TTC inherited the route on September 1, 1921 and made no changes, operating the diversion service for the following Exhibition seasons up to and including 1941, even as the route was extended north on Dovercourt and west on Davenport to reach St. Clair and eventually Townsley loop. There were occasional noon-hour (1923) or afternoon rush-hour (1924-9) diversions via Shaw and King, but the task of serving the factory workers at the foot of Shaw primarily fell to the DOVERCOURT TRIPPERS, which operated over the regular route to King and Shaw, before proceeding downtown.

DOVERCOURT-EXHIBITION cars also operated for the Orangemen's Parade in 1924 and 1929 and from 1932 to 1939 (July 12, all years), as well as possibly for the 1922, 1923, 1940 and 1941 versions as well. It served the Shriner's Convention from June 7-12, 1930, and the Toronto Centennial celebrations on July 2-3 and August 4-6, 1934. On July 4-6, 1941, DOVERCOURT cars were again diverted to the Exhibition to serve the American Legion convention.

When the Canadian National Exhibition returned in August 1947 after its wartime hiatus, the same diversions affected the DOVERCOURT streetcar, but it would be the last time. The last DOVERCOURT-EXHIBITION car operated on September 6, 1947. The route would soon be replaced by the OSSINGTON trolley bus, which wouldn't serve the exhibition until after diesel buses replaced the electric vehicles in 1992.


This streetcar extension to the Exhibition Grounds is technically not a special service. On February 19, 1942, rush hour service on LANSDOWNE was extended from Lansdowne and College via south on Lansdowne, east on Dundas, south on Bathurst and west on Fleet to the Exhibition Grounds. This continued throughout the year. The service was not for fairgoers, but military personnel, as the Exhibition Grounds had been appropriated for military use as part of the Second World War. The LANSDOWNE service augmented FORT and BATHURST cars also serving the military base. LANSDOWNE-EXHIBITION service continued beyond the cessation of hostilities until July 22, 1946, when the Exhibition Grounds were restored to peacetime service.


Until it was removed a few years ago, the streetcar tracks on Dufferin Street used to boast a crossover just north of King. This oddity survived for decades after the TTC stopped operating double-ended streetcars, and existed for many years before that. With the tracks on Dufferin operating from a loop at the south end to a crossover not far from its north end, the possibility existed for a short shuttle operation to serve the Exhibition Grounds.

The earliest records of such a service confirm it began on July 12, 1929, to serve the Orangemen's Parade. Double-ended cars operated from the Dufferin Crossover just north of King via south of Dufferin to Dufferin Loop, returning via the reverse route. This service operated from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., possibly as a replacement service when the DOVERCOURT-EXHIBITION service was not being provided. Given examples of other services to the Orangemen's Parade, it's likely similar services were offered in previous years going back to at least 1924, or perhaps as early as 1922, but no such records have been found to confirm this. This service certainly repeated for the following Orangemen's Parades up to and including 1939, and possibly also for 1940 and 1941.

The operation returned for the Toronto Centennial celebration on July 2-3 and August 8-6, 1934, operating from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., again when the DOVERCOURT-EXHIBITION service wasn't running. It also served the American Legion convention on July 4, 1941. The following day, operation began on a regular DUFFERIN summer service, turning the route into a seasonal shuttle, rather than a special event diversion route.


The BEACH-EXHIBITION was a tripper service that may have borne a KING rollsign for westbound trips and a BEACH sign for eastbound trips (as was normal for other KING-BEACH TRIPPER cars), but internally known as the BEACH TRIPPER-EXHIBITION and not the KING-BEACH TRIPPER-EXHIBITION route, as one might expect. Starting August 25, 1923, the TTC scheduled extra runs during particularly busy times on the Monday to Saturday period, operating from Neville Park loop via west on Queen, west on King, south on Bathurst, southwest along the private right-of-way through Fort York, past Strachan and into Exhibition loop, returning via the reverse route to Neville Park. Some cars ended the trip trips at Connaught and ran into Russell Carhouse. This service ended on September 8 of the same year, and was not repeated the following season.


The COLLEGE EAST tripper was a rush-hour branch of the COLLEGE streetcar, paired with a similar branch operating from the west end of the route referred internally as COLLEGE WEST. In both cases, streetcars bore the COLLEGE route sign. Starting on August 25, 1923, the TTC scheduled additional service during extra busy periods, with single trips operating from Danforth and Main via south on Main, west on (upper) Gerrard, south on Coxwell, west on Gerrard, south on Broadview, west on Queen, west on King, south on Bathurst and southwest on private right-of-way through Fort York, past Strachan and into Exhibition loop, returning via the reverse route to Danforth Avenue. Some cars began their trips from Danforth Carhouse via Coxwell to [upper] Gerrard or via Danforth to Main, and ended their trips from Main via west on Danforth to Hillingdon or from Coxwell and [upper] Gerrard via north on Coxwell and Danforth to Hillingdon. This service replaced part of the QUEEN-EXHIBITION route which wasn't operated that year, but it only operated until September 8, and was not replaced the following season.


On August 28, 1916, the Toronto Railway Company launched service on the CHURCH-EXHIBITION route as a Monday-to-Saturday late evening return service. Streetcars travelled from Yorkville Carhouse via south on Yonge, west on Front, southwest on the private right-of-way through Fort York, past Strachan and into Exhibition loop. After collecting passengers, cars travelled northeast through Fort York, east on Front, north on Church, east on Bloor, north on Sherbourne, looping on-street via Elm, Glen and South Drive, returning to Yorkville Carhouse via Sherbourne, Bloor and Yonge.

This operation continued every CNE season until 1922, with the TTC inheriting the service on September 1, 1921 without changing its route. The last run took place on September 9, 1922, with no replacement service in 1923.


Starting August 31, 1914, the Toronto Railway Company began operations on a Monday-to-Saturday late evening return service to the CNE. Cars operated from King Carhouse via west on King and south on Dufferin to Dufferin Loop, returning via north on Dufferin, east on Queen and north on Broadview to wye at Danforth, returning via the reverse route to Dufferin loop if a second trip was needed, or via Broadview, Queen and King to King Carhouse, if at the end of service. This is the earliest that this service has been dated, but records are sketchy, and it's possible that cars may have operated as early as 1910. This service was repeated for the 1915 CNE season.

Starting with the 1916 season (August 28), streetcars operated from King Carhouse via west on King, south on Bathurst, southwest on private right-of-way through Fort York, past Strachan and into Exhibition loop, returning via the reverse route and then east on King, east on Queen and north on Broadview to Danforth, returning to Exhibition loop if a second trip was needed, or returning to King Carhouse to leave service. Additional service may have operated from Front Street yard or Russell Carhouse for the 1917 season, due to the fire which damaged King Carhouse earlier that year. This operation continued for the following seasons and was inherited by the TTC on September 1, 1921, with no change in its operation. On August 26, 1922, the service was operated out of Danforth Carhouse via west on Danforth, south on Broadview, west on Queen, west on King, south on Bathurst, southwest through Fort York, past Strachan and into Exhibition loop, returning via the reverse route, making a second trip if necessary. This continued until September 9, 1922. The service would not reappear in 1923, having been replaced by a revision of the KING-EXHIBITION service.


The Toronto Railway Company began PARLIAMENT-EXHIBITION service on August 28, 1916, replacing the previous year's QUEEN-EXHIBITION cars. Cars operated as a Monday-to-Saturday late evening return service from the Exhibition loop via northeast on the private right-of-way through Fort York, east on Front, north on York, east on Queen, north on Parliament and east on Gerrard to wye at Greenwood, returning via the reverse route to the CNE if a second trip was needed, or operating via Gerrard, Parliament, Queen, Sherbourne, Front, Frederick and King to King Carhouse if leaving service. The following year, this operation was based out of Russell carhouse. The last day of operation was September 8, 1917, to be replaced by a resumed QUEEN-EXHIBITION service for the 1918 CNE season.


Staring August 31, 1914, the Toronto Railway Company established a late evening return service called AVENUE ROAD-EXHIBITION. From Monday to Saturday, cars departed from Yorkville Carhouse, operating vai south on Yonge, west on King and south on Dufferin to Dufferin loop, returning via north on Dufferin, east on King, north on Yonge, west on Bloor and north on Avenue Road to wye at St. Clair. Cars would return to Dufferin Loop over the reverse route if a second trip was needed, or would operate via south on Avenue Road, east on Bloor and north on Yonge to return to Yorkville Carhouse and leave service. This service operated again for the 1915 CNE, and its last day of operation was September 11, 1915. It was never seen again.

Although the earliest confirmed reports of this route's operations are dated to 1914, it is possible the route may have operated as early as the 1910 CNE season.


This brief service operated from September 6 to 16, 1892 only. Cars operated Mondays to Saturdays after 9:00 a.m. from George and Front via west on Front, north on Church, west on King, north on Yonge, west on Queen and south on Dufferin to the Huxley crossover (at today's Springhurst Avenue), returning via the reverse route. The following year, this service was replaced by QUEEN-EXHIBITION cars.


In addition to these special streetcar services, the TTC, along with its inter-city bus subsidiary Gray Coach, started to offer bus service to Exhibition Grounds during the Exhibition and other major events. In the 1950s and the 1960s, a special "FLAG BUS" looped through Toronto's downtown, before operating express to the CNE. In 1953, two buses operated from downtown, one looping from Bay and Front via east on Front, north on Yonge, east on Wellington, north on Church, west on King and south on Bay before heading west on Front, south on Bathurst and west on Fleet to the Exhibition grounds. This bus operated 9:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Mondays to Saturdays. A second bus, operating seven days a week whenever the CNE was open, looped by the Toronto Coach terminal via north on Yonge, west on Edward, south on Bay and east on Adelaide, before heading south on Yonge, west on Front, south on Bathurst and west on Fleet. Buses returned via east on Fleet, east on Harbour and north on Yonge.

By 1963, the two FLAG BUSes had merged into a single route operating from the Coach terminal by the 1953 loop, via south on Yonge, west on Front, south on Spadina and west on Lake Shore Boulevard to the CNE grounds. Buses returned via east on Lake Shore, east on Queen's Quay, north on York, east on Front and north on Yonge.

In addition to this, starting in 1954 and expanding into the 1960s, the TTC started operating express buses between the Exhibition and a number of suburban locations. In 1963, locations included Lawrence & Markham Road (operating local via Lawrence, Brimley, Danforth Road, Midland and Kingston Road to Victoria Park, and operating express from there), Islington & Elmhurst (operating local via Islington, Anglesey, Kingsway, Ashley, Royal York, Kingsgrove, Kingsway, Prince Edward, Park Lawn and Lake Shore to the Humber River, and operating express from there), Yonge & Steeles (operating local via Yonge to Glen Echo and express from there), York Mills & Victoria Park (operating local via Victoria Park, Parkwoods Village, York Mills, Leslie, Lawrence, and Don Mills to Eglinton and operating express from there), Jane & Wilson (operating local via Dallner, Kirby, Haymarket, Wilson, Jane, Lawrence, Weston Road and Jane to Bloor and operating express from there), Eglinton & Pharmacy (operating local via Craighton, Pharmacy, Eglinton and O'Connor to St. Clair Avenue and operating express from there), and Bloor & Roydon (operating local via Tremont, Lynnford, Roydon, Bloor, Islington, Queensway, Royal York and Lake Shore to the Humber River and operating express from there).

These buses operated separate from the TTC network, with no transfers issued or accepted. In 1963, adults were charged $0.50 to use the express routes, while children (under 56 inches) paid a quarter. The Flag bus in 1963 cost $0.35 for adults while children paid $0.15.

Buses tended to unload south of the Automotive Building on the Exhibition Grounds, near the Princes Gates, giving passengers an alternative access point to the Exhibition grounds and preventing overcrowding at Dufferin Loop. These services continued into the 1980s. Ridership dropped during some lean years in the late 1970s. Just as things were picking up in the early 1980s (at least eight bus routes were operating for the 1981 Exhibition season), however, the Canadian National Exhibition significantly increased its charge for buses using the CNE grounds. The TTC was not impressed, and cancelled the bus services by 1984. It wouldn't be until 1987 when dedicated express bus service would return to the CNE, in the form of the 93 EXHIBITION WEST EXPRESS operating between Dundas West station and Dufferin Loop.

Services Diverted Away from the Exhibition

Perhaps a clear illustration of the impact the Canadian National Exhibition had on transit services in the city can be seen in how the fair affected services that didn't serve the grounds. This is particularly apparent with the KING streetcar. In 1893, as most KING service was rerouted to the Exhibition, the portions of the remaining line were maintained as shuttle services, with one or two cars operating on King Street between Roncesvalles and Dufferin, and another handful operating on Queen Street between Woodbine and Balsam (from Kingston Road to Munro Park for the 1898 season). The eastern shuttle vanished after the 1898 season, while the western shuttle continued until 1906. Starting in 1903, temporary crossovers installed at King and Dufferin helped increase frequencies on the western shuttle operation. The western shuttle returned for the 1909 season, operating from the King-Dufferin temporary crossover to Sunnyside loop.

Starting in 1906, the non-Exhibition KING service began to operate into downtown Toronto. On August 28, the eastern KING remnant service returned, operating from Munro Park loop via Queen and King to loop via George, Front and Church. Although this service didn't return for the 1907 season, the western KING shuttle was extended starting on August 28, 1916, with cars operating from Sunnyside loop via Queen and King to loop via Church, Front and George. Starting with the 1918 season, the downtown loop was expanded to operate via Church, Front and York. When the TTC operated the service for the 1922 season, the downtown loop was rerouted to operate via Church, Wellington and York, and the service continued past Sunnyside loop along Lake Shore Road to Humber loop.

From 1924 to 1932, the KING streetcar was effectively split in two equal parts during the CNE season. In addition to KING-EXHIBITION cars serving the eastern portion of the route, remaining KING service operated from Vincent loop via south on Dundas, south on Roncesvalles and east on King, to loop via Church, Front and George before returning via the reverse route. From 1933 to 1940, the looping arrangement was altered to George, Front and Sherbourne. This operational diversion also occurred for the 1930s Shriner's Convention, from June 7-12 of that year.

Following the 1940 CNE season, regular KING service operated over its normal route during CNE events, in addition to dedicated KING-EXHIBITION service.

Other CNE-related route diversions that did not serve the CNE included LEE, (1892 only, operating from Lee Avenue via Queen, King, Church and Front to York), WOODBINE (1892 only, operating from Woodbine Avenue via Queen, King, Church and Front to York), PARLIAMENT (1895 only, operating from Pape and Gerrard via Gerrard, Parliament, Queen, Sherbourne, King, Church and Front to York), WINCHESTER (1895-1906, operating from Winchester and Sumach via Winchester, Parliament, Carlton, Yonge and Front to York), QUEEN & DUNDAS (1901-1902, operating from Dundas and Keele via Dundas, today's Ossington Avenue, Queen, Yonge and Front to Church), ARTHUR (1907-1908, operating via Lansdowne, Dundas, Arthur [today's Dundas, east of Ossington], Bathurst and Front to George, looping via George, King and Church), and COXWELL (1948-1952, operating on Coxwell Avenue between Danforth and Queen only). PARLIAMENT streetcars would case operation almost entirely during the CNE season from 1947 to 1965, leaving KING-EXHIBITION cars to provide service along the length of its route.

The Future

The Canadian National Exhibition does not command the crowds it has done in its heyday. Competition with Canada's Wonderland, as well as a general decline in industrial trade shows has reduced attendance. Even so, with 1.3 million people coming through the gates in 2013, it is still a major destination on the TTC network, having a significant impact on transit service.

The need for special routes to serve the Exhibition has diminished, however. The TTC has improved transit infrastructure to the Exhibition, with an expanded loop at the eastern entrance, and a streetcar line on private right-of-way connecting the Exhibition to Union Station. Also, since 1967, GO Transit has had an increasing influence on transit use to the CNE; Lakeshore trains can whisk passengers from the grounds as far west as Aldershot and as far east as Oshawa. During big special events, special trains have also served the Exhibition from the Milton, Georgetown and Barrie lines.

In a way, GO Transit has replaced the TTC as the primary carrier connecting the CNE to Toronto's suburbs, while the TTC's regular services can handle the rest of the slack.

Exhibition Streetcar and Bus Image Archive


  • Bromley, John F., TTC '28, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1979.
  • Bromley, John F., and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders' Association, New York (New York), 1978.
  • Filey, Mike, Not a One-Horse Town: 125 Years of Toronto and its Streetcars, Gagne Printing, Louiseville (Quebec), 1986.
  • Pursley, Louis H. The Toronto Trolley Car Story, 1921-1961. Los Angeles: I.L. Swett, 1961. Print.

Thanks to John Bromley and Ray Corley for their corrections to this web page.

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