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The Greenwood Subway Yards


Photos by: Aaron Adel (unless where noted).
Text by Aaron Adel and James Bow.

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Subway travellers riding between Donlands and Greenwood Stations often wonder why there is a sudden fork in the track, and a tunnel which appears to turn south to nowhere. Unlike Yonge and St. George stations, there are no connecting subway lines. Are the tracks part of a secret subway that only those in the know can use to bypass the congestion at Bloor-Yonge station? Has the Downtown Relief Line started construction at last?

Not quite. The tunnel doesn't bypass the Bloor-Yonge station and offer an alternate route downtown, but it is a secret subway that only authorized personnel may use. The tunnel lead to the Greenwood subway yard, where all the trains that operate on the Bloor-Danforth subway are stored overnight. The tunnel makes a turn underneath Greenwood Avenue and heads south, emerging out of a portal into broad daylight a few blocks south of Danforth Avenue. Those at the front of the car are treated to a field of tracks and subway cars.

The Greenwood yards were built in the mid 1960s and opened at the same time as the opening of the first segment of the Bloor-Danforth subway line. With subway mileage almost doubling, the TTC not only needed more space to store its equipment, but it also made more sense to build a yard where repairs and maintenance could be carried out (previously, such work had been shared between Davisville Yard and Hillcrest Shops). Land was purchased (some 31.5 acres!), and some houses knocked down, to make way for the facility. The bulk of the site was originally a clay quarry (as evidenced today with the nearby Torbrick Road), and then a garbage dump. The TTC had to remove up to 75 feet of garbage in order to clear the site for use. The yard's proximity to the CN tracks also offered the opportunity to take deliveries right on the subway system, instead of at Hillcrest as had previously been the case.

Although the subway routes have a Transit Control Centre which controls the switches enroute, each carhouse (Greenwood, Davisville and Wilson) has their own control centre for operations within their boundaries. Prominent in the control centre is a console displaying the track arrangement within the yard. Here, using switches located on the map itself, controllers can move switches remotely and control the signals to control train movements through the yard.

The Greenwood Yards includes a maintenance facility where repairs are carried out. Subway cars come in here to be serviced and repaired, but are otherwise usually stored outside in the elements. The maintenance facility includes tracks elevated on stands to support the subway trains and allow workers to carry out repairs on the cars' undercarriage. The interior of the subway cars are usually accessed through portable yellow stair-ladders placed at the front of each car. Few side platforms exist to allow workers to access the subway interiors the normal way.

Safety is a priority everywhere on the TTC and the yards are no exception. The workers know that they are dealing with heavy and potentially dangerous equipment, and numerous precautions are taken. Trains on the stilt tracks always have their electric pick-up shoes (found on the side of the subway trucks to connect the train electrically with the third rail) marked with a red flag to warn workers that the shoe is live and must be treated with care. No one wants to get shocked with 600 Volts.

The Greenwood yards also played host to a number of Scarborough ICTS cars. The RT's yards east of McCowan are too small to perform duties more involved than storing trains and minor repairs. Greenwood has the facilities to perform major rebuilding work. At the time Aaron visited Greenwood Shops in research of this article, an RT vehicle was in the shops for a complete rebuilding of its truck assembly and its interior. The work was necessitated by the vehicle's derailment in the summer of 1997, causing lasting structural problems to the car. With no physical connection between the Scarborough RT tracks and the subway tracks, the car was probably trucked to Greenwood. Deliveries can also be taken by road through the entrance onto Greenwood Avenue.

The Wilson Yards, built for the opening of the Spadina Subway in 1978, also perform many of the duties performed by the workers at Greenwood. However, since the Greenwood yards opened, Toronto's subway system expanded rapidly. There are enough subway cars around to keep the storage and maintenance facilities at both Greenwood and Wilson busy for many years to come. And only Greenwood can accept delivery of new cars by rail...

Greenwood Yards Image Archive


  • Bromley, John F., and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders' Association, New York (New York), 1978.
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