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Castle Frank

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Text by James Bow

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Castle Frank station is a neighbourhood station on the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway line, serving southeast Rosedale and northeast St. James Town. It is remarkable for its beautiful setting and some architectural flourishes. As it is not linked to a major arterial road running north of Bloor Street, its ridership is modest. In 2015, only 8,350 passengers used the station on an average weekday, but it features a bus terminal serving routes connecting passengers to the Church-Wellesley neighbourhood, Cabbagetown and Corktown.

Early History

The entrance to Castle Frank station is located northwest of the intersection of Bloor Street East and Castle Frank Road, on a height of land located between the Rosedale Valley and the Don River Valley. Bus connections come in from the south via Parliament Street. Across the street from the station is the Rosedale Heights School for the Arts, and stairs leading down into the Don Valley, providing access to an athletic track and field.

Castle Frank is named after the summer residence of Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe, built at the confluence of the two valleys. The name was also given to a brook that flowed into the Don in this area, but which has since been buried. The residence no longer exists, having been burned to the ground in 1829.

The area was an isolated part of the city until the early part of the 20th century. The deep valleys cutting through the area made it difficult to build roads through. Bloor Street East originally ended at Sherbourne Street, which is one reason why, when streetcar service emerged in the city of Toronto, Bloor Street was soon served by the BELT LINE, operating in both directions via Bloor, Sherbourne, King and Spadina. Bloor Street was a concession road, which Danforth Avenue continued east of Broadview, but the topological challenges of the day meant that crossing the Don River required heading south to Winchester Street and taking a low bridge through the valley.

Around 1910, serious proposals emerged within the City of Toronto to close the gap between Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue. The mammoth undertaking was considered financially risky by some residents, and local ratepayer referenda defeated the proposal in 1910, 1911 and 1912, the last one by the slim margin of 59 votes. However, the need became more apparent and, in the 1913 referendum, the proposal to build a viaduct to cross the Rosedale and Don valleys passed by 9,236 votes. Construction began soon after the ratepayers’ approval in 1913, and finished in 1918, coming in under its $2.5 million budget. Upon opening, it was named the Prince Edward Viaduct after Edward, the Prince of Wales (who would become King Edward VIII).

Designer Edmund W. Burke proposed a 494 metres wide three-hinged arch bridge of concrete and steel, spanning the Don Valley 40 metres from its floor. The Prince Edward Viaduct is today a major landmark seen by commuters passing beneath on Bayview Avenue and the Don Valley Parkway, but that’s only part of the undertaking. A shorter span had to be built running southwest from the Don Valley to cross the Rosedale Ravine to Parliament Street. The section between Parliament Street and Sherbourne Street was built using fill to create an embankment along the side side of the Rosedale Valley ravine.

The opening of the Prince Edward Viaduct allowed for the extension of streetcar tracks east along Bloor from Sherbourne to Broadview, which opened for service on December 14, 1918. At the time, the Toronto Railway Company was nearing the end of its charter, and loathe to expand streetcar service, so the City of Toronto paid for the tracks’ construction instead, and the Toronto Railway Company altered its BLOOR service to operate between Lansdowne Avenue and Broadview. This was the only streetcar service into the Castle Frank area until August 3, 1924, when the TTC extended tracks up Parliament Street and routed PARLIAMENT cars to the newly constructed Viaduct loop at the southeast corner of Bloor and Parliament.

Subway Construction

The area saw only modest development since the 1920s. The fact that the area was caught between two ravines, and part of the exclusive Rosedale neighbourhood, kept densities low and housing palatial. However, as the 1950s dawned, the area came under development pressure. The City of Toronto’s highway plan called not only for a Don Valley Parkway and an extension of Bayview Avenue, but the construction of the Crosstown Expressway up the Rosedale Valley and west along the CP railway tracks to meet up with a southern extension of Highway 400, although this never materialized in the wake of community opposition to the Spadina Expressway. The Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto was also interested in building a subway paralleling Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue.

Southwest of the Bloor-Parliament intersection, the City of Toronto was planning a block-busting redevelopment of a 19th-century neighbourhood into a high-rise community known as St. James Town. Stops at Sherbourne and Parliament were obviously needed to serve this dense, new community. However, getting the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway through the Don Valley was a challenge. The Rosedale Valley made the area a pinch point.

Fortunately, back in 1913, the designers of the Prince Edward Viaduct had a plan to deal with this. Despite the controversy over the high additional cost, Toronto’s Commissioner of Public Works, R.C. Harris, required that a lower deck be built into the viaduct, to allow for the eventual passage of underground trains . The lower deck had been designed for use by streetcars, but the TTC discovered that converting it to handle subways was millions of dollars cheaper than bridge over the Don Valley.

Accessing the lower deck wasn’t easy, however. The BLOOR-DANFORTH subway was largely being built to the north of Bloor Street, to take advantage of laneways to ease property acquisition costs and to help ensure construction did not disturb Bloor Street traffic. The lower deck followed Bloor Street itself, and the deck beneath the bridge over the Rosedale Valley was not useable as it angled southwest, away from the subway’s approach.

The TTC solved this issue by using a bored tunnel east of Yonge station, bringing Sherbourne station south of Bloor Street. Then the TTC had to cross the Rosedale Ravine on their own bridge. They commissioned John B. Parkin and Associates along with De Leuw Cather Canada (today known as Delcan) to design and build a 552-foot bridge spanning the Rosedale Ravine. The bridge was enclosed in concrete to allay noise concerns from Rosedale residents. Initially, large ventilation holes were cut into the roof of this bridge, allowing in a considerable amount of natural light. This arrangement allowed the TTC to position the subway tunnel so it met the lower deck of the Prince Edward Viaduct over the Don Valley, saving the Commission millions of dollars in the building of an extremely long bridge or deep tunnel.

Castle Frank station opened along with the rest of the first phase of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway on February 26, 1966. A story goes that, on opening day, two Rosedale couples, dressed in suits or fur coats, boarded a subway train at Castle Frank with a card table, opened it out in the middle of the train and proceeded to play a round of Bridge while the train rattled through the system.

Castle Frank Station Features

Castle Frank is located underground at the east end of the TTC’s bridge over the Rosedale Valley. The station building is located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Bloor Street East and Castle Frank Road. The station building itself is a single-level modernist structure with brick walls, tall glass windows, and a white roof stretching back over the station’s accompanying bus terminal. The station entrance is a rounded building adorned with a dome. The modest, but ornate style is in keeping with the richness of the neighbourhood immediately north.

Inside the station, stairs and escalators lead from street level to a small concourse, and then down to the station platforms. Castle Frank follows the style of the other stations of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway, with plain ceramic tiles arranged in a two-tone design, with beige background tiles set against red-brown trim and detailing.

Castle Frank station served modest crowds for the bulk of its career, as there were few prospects for increasing density in the immediate vicinity. The station has only ever been served by two bus routes: 94 WELLESLEY and 65 PARLIAMENT (including its night variant). Although Viaduct loop was located within sight of Castle Frank station, no plans were made to extend streetcar tracks into the station’s terminal, serving it with a PARLIAMENT streetcar, although in the late 1990s, the idea was briefly revived as part of the TTC’s Conversion to Streetcar report, and again as the TTC considered ways to serve streetcar tracks on Cherry Street in the Port Lands.

Even so, Castle Frank station was identified in 2008 as a high priority for a second exit from the subway platform to the surface. By this time, the TTC had experienced a number of significant subway fires (one east of Donlands station, and one at Old Mill station) that highlighted concerns not only of the chimneying effects of some of the TTC’s ventilation equipment, but also the difficulty passengers had in evacuating the subway if they were stuck on station platforms or between stations themselves. The concrete bridge over the Rosedale Valley was a particular concern because of the ventilation holes in the ceiling possibly feeding fires at track level, and the long walk from the bridge to a safe exit point.

The TTC began work in 2008 to install a second exit, commissioning Strasman Architects to build an addition to the western side of the bus terminal that was in keeping with the style of the station building. Although it was planned to open in January 2010, construction delays in rebuilding the bus terminal pushed the opening to December 2012. When it opened, passengers could access the stairs to the exit-only doors from the subway platforms, and also from the bus terminal itself.

Past and Future Plans

Modest though Castle Frank station has been, there have been plans to make greater use of it. As well as proposals to restore the PARLIAMENT streetcar, the TTC considered using the station as a northern terminal of an express bus route designed to divert passenger traffic away from the Bloor-Yonge interchange. The concept got as far as a route designation and a tricolour rollsign (99 DOWNTOWN EXPRESS](/photos/images/ttc-6220-1989.jpg), before further study suggested that the route would not generate enough ridership to justify its existence. A downtown express service was eventually tried using Sherbourne as its connection, but it too faded from existence within a few years.

Around 2006, proposals emerged for a bus rapid transit line operating along Don Mills Road and accessing Toronto’s downtown via a bus-only extension of Redway Road to the Bayview extension. One proposal called for the bus rapid transit line to connect with the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway at Castle Frank station. A problem with this proposal was the vertical distance between the Bayview Avenue extension on the floor of the Don Valley, and Castle Frank station above it. Buses would either have to leave Bayview Avenue and climb up to Bloor Street, adding several minutes to the journey, or some connection would have to be made between the station and the buses on the valley floor. That is, until it was pointed out that these would require some of the longest escalators on the planet to achieve. The bus rapid transit proposal faded after that, replaced by an LRT proposal running to Pape station, and then by a proposed extension of the Downtown Relief Line.

Castle Frank will continue to be a modest station serving its local neighbourhood on the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway line. Although few opportunities exist for new developments around it, it still serves the revitalizing St. James Town and its bus connections offer links to Cabbagetown, Corktown and the rising Toronto Port Lands.

Service Notes (as of January 1, 2017):

  • Off-Site Resources:
  • Line: 2 Bloor - Danforth
  • Hours of Operation:
    First Train to Kipling: 5:56 a.m. weekdays, 6:01 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:05 a.m. Sundays.
    First Train to Kennedy: 6:07 a.m. weekdays, 6:14 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:30 a.m. Sundays.
    Last Train to Kipling: 1:48 a.m.
    Last Train to Kennedy: 1:58 a.m.
  • Address: 600 Bloor Street East
  • Opened: February 26, 1966
  • Wheelchair Accessible: No (Accessibility planned for 2023)
  • Average Weekday Ridership: 9,760 (2018), 8,350 (2015), 7,070 (2014), 7,830 (2013), 7,950 (2012), 8,240 (2011), 7,510 (2010), 8,650 (2009), 6,560 (2008)
  • Entrances:
    • Main entrance, located on the west side of Castle Frank Road, 10 metres north of Bloor Street East.
    • A second exit is provided from the platform level to Bloor Street, west of Castle Frank Road.
  • Escalators (click here for maintenance schedule):
    • South Side - Centre - Eastbound Platform To Concourse (Up At All Times)
    • North Side - Centre - Westbound Platform To Concourse (Up At All Times)
    • Lower Concourse To Street Level (Up At All Times)
  • Parking: None
  • 2 Side platforms
  • Token vending machine

TTC Surface Connections:

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