Facebook Page
Old Time Trains

What's New ~ Articles ~ Stories ~ Archives ~ Photographs ~ Preservation ~ Library ~ Home


Toronto Suburban Railway

Guelph Radial Line

Raymond L. Kennedy

The most extensive line of the Toronto Suburban Railway was the Guelph radial line which was a true interurban railway almost entirely on private right-of-way operating a long distance (49 miles) between cities and towns, carrying passengers, express and freight. It was a standard gauge 1500 volt DC system with catenary overhead, 60 lb. (Algoma Steel) rail on gravel ballast, substantial grading and filling along with extensive bridges and trestles. This included a 711-foot long 86 foot high steel bridge across the Humber River on the south side of the CPR main line, then in Islington an 80-foot steel bridge set on an angle over the Mimico Creek with the line then ducking under a CPR bridge. Additionally, a 315-foot wooden trestle at Mileage 23.3 across the Credit River's west branch. A number of other bridges, some substantial, were located along the line particularly at Georgetown and west of there.

Radial car westbound on the Humber River bridge. 1920

The line was surveyed in 1911, soon after Mackenzie took over the Toronto Suburban and construction began in July 1912 with most of the track laid in 1914 for 41.5 miles westward from Islington. The high bridge over the Humber River wasn't completed until 1916 due to problems with its foundations. Originally it included a 200 foot trestle to its approach on the east side of the river which was later filled in when the new extension was built in 1925. The Great War (World War I) had slowed down work, and it did not open for some time as it was further delayed for more than a year by court orders brought about by the City of Toronto over the fear freight cars would be hauled on the street because the TSR sought to standard gauge (4 feet, 8 ½ inches) the existing Lambton (broad gauge 4 foot 10 ¾ inches) route along Dundas Street to allow radial cars to operate as far as the Junction. Eventually, the railway prevailed and the line finally opened to the public on April 14, 1917. The entire TSR system was standard gauged in 1917.

Looking east along Dundas Street towards Kipling Avenue. Some of the 150,000 automobiles in Ontario c.1920.

Dundas Street and Islington Avenue.

Car 104 approaching Canning Avenue (Cordova Road) from Islington Avenue.
The right-of-way here became Central Park Roadway.
1919 Mary Carr

In typical Mackenzie and Mann style construction costs were kept down resulting in a line with many curves which affected speed, this was to avoid purchasing more expensive property. The line pretty well paralleled Dundas Street (Highway 5) all the way to Cooksville then it veered off to Meadowvale still near the CPR which also ran west from the Junction on its way to Streetsville and Orangeville or Guelph or London. The line made its way northwest to Highway 7 and more or less followed it all the way into Guelph as did the GTR which likewise came from the Junction on its way from Toronto to Stratford and London. All of this was to be a factor in low ridership in future years especially with the coming of the private automobile that even hourly service couldn't compete with ultimately. Little of the TSR traffic would have been from end-to-end rather it would be local riders going into Guelph or West Toronto the latter including some commuters. CNR and CPR trains served downtown Toronto which the radial did not and on much faster schedules, just not as frequent.

Brick combined station and substation in Georgetown. Canadian Railway and Marine World August 1917

Substations equipped by CGE were located in Islington (at Montgomery Road) and in Georgetown. The latter having two 500 KW rotary converters and the former one, to step down the 25,000 volts AC three-phase 25 cycle power to 1500 volts DC. A third one in Guelph was never used due to an extension to Berlin (Kitchener) being ended during the Great War shortly after a small amount of work was done on it.

Canadian Railway and Marine World August 1917

Stations were located only at Acton, Georgetown and Guelph; the latter in a store on Carden Street behind the GTR station. At other places there as a small open front shelter of typical interurban style. There were 100 official stops but, it is unknown how many actually had a shelter. Many would likely just be flag stops at a farmer's crossing.

Passing tracks were located at 16 places along the route mostly in towns and villages. Wye tracks were built at Lambton, Georgetown and Guelph (in the street) for the single-ended cars. Oddly enough there was no wye in the Junction since there was no room for two wyes of differing gauge in the intersection of Dundas and Keele so instead radial cars had to deadhead (empty) north on Keele Street, east on St. Clair to the car house property just west of (Old) Weston Road and where they could turn on a loop and deadhead back to Keele to the passenger terminal located in a store at 938 Keele Street (old numbering), just north of Dundas. Cars simply loaded in the middle of the street! Many years later the TTC created a safer off street terminal for their Weston route yet it didn't include a wye either. This time one wasn't needed since the cars used were double ended.

Carhouse looking north. Yard and wye looking west. Map of Lambton yard.

The car barn and shops were in a large brick building with six tracks inside it; along with some yard tracks and a wye were all located together next to Lambton Park and just west of Scarlett Road on the south side of the CPR main line. It serviced local cars as well as the radials. The site later was used by Triangle Conduit and Cable Company, Inc., United Co-Op and later still Hercules Sales (army surplus). This was all replaced in 1981 by 177 2-storey stacked townhouses for a social housing project named for the original Cooper's Mill in the area.

Service began with two roundtrips daily to Guelph and another as far as Georgetown. Additionally, there were five runs to Cooksville which were soon dropped from the time table although there was at one time a local service as far west as Islington using a very small city car, number 17. Voltage changed at Lambton from the city 550 volts to the interurban 1500 volts which required the conductor to call the substation operator at Islington to reduce power on that segment of the line before proceeding and, of course call again once safely back on the low voltage line. Interurban cars were equipped with a switch that changed voltage on the cars. This also had to be done when entering onto the tracks of the local streetcar line in Guelph to reach its terminal.

Saturdays a trailer car was parked at the end of track in Guelph where all day long women shoppers filled up the car for its later departure.

Fares were collected in the traditional railway style except in the suburban area from Islington and east of where a hand held "coffee pot" fare box was carried through the car in city style to collect the 10 cent fare.

Two 1500V Brill cars 28 and 29 built in 1916 were assigned to local service as well. These were both sold in 1926 to the Chatham, Wallaceburg and Lake Erie which discontinued passenger service July 2, 1927; re-sold them in 1928 to the Sudbury-Copper Cliff Suburban Electric Railway. (Car 27 used on the Woodbridge Radial had been sold in 1926 by TSR to Sudbury.) 28 was lost to a fire in 1942, the same year 27 was lost to a head-on colllison in a fog. Note the conductor's change maker. William Tayles standing on the steps. William Tayles Collection.

During the unnecessary delay in opening a small tragedy struck when fire* on Sunday, January 7, 1917 at the Preston Car & Coach Company's factory destroyed much of the plant and many cars including two of the six interurban cars built for the TSR. For some unknown reason they were not replaced. Possibly, they were being stored at TSR's own risk pending their need. In any event, two smaller existing city cars were used for local service between West Toronto and Cooksville.

* Ironically, the fire was blamed on a small gas-electric demonstrator car.

The six interurbans were 60 foot 40 ton steel cars, three being coaches (101-103) seating 69 passengers and three being combination cars (104-106) seating 53. 102 and 103 were destroyed. They had a center door which made for easy access rather than end doors used in typical railway practice. They were ahead of their time in that aspect.

TSR had previously acquired a number of wooden cars from Preston Car & Coach which also built steam railway cars as well although none for Canadian Northern.

CNER 201 stored at Lambton following abandonment. Later scrapped at CNR Leaside. Charles Bridges

An Express Department was created in 1917 with an office at 2896 Dundas Street West (which until recent years was the CIBC bank) in the Junction. This location also served the Woodbridge line which likewise reached the Junction. Rates were 30 cents per hundred pounds between Georgetown and 40 cents between Guelph and West Toronto. For this service TSR 201 an express motor was acquired in 1917 after having been stored at Preston as part of a two car cancelled order built in 1915. It was a 55 foot car with two large doors on each side. This was followed in 1920 by two near-identical 55 foot cars, 250 a motor and 251 a trailer.

A shortage of equipment saw four used elevated cars (150-153) from New York City acquired in 1918 for use as trailers even though their design seriously restricted speeds. They were later rebuilt with closed platforms but apparently kept their slow speed transit trucks for some unknown reason.

120 has arrived in Guelph from Toronto seen here next to GTR station at Carden Street. Circa 1920
Car will move to wye at Carden and Wyndham Streets and return here for layover.
LAC #PA.086854

Brand new 108 with 107 posing for photograph. Note new style destination sign.

Under CNR ownership two new cars were added, both were large standard railway design (unlike the previous center entrance cars), 107 a coach, on August 18, 1924 and 108, a combine, in April 1926 both having been built by the CNR's Niagara, St.Catharines and Toronto interurban railway. Unlike the center door cars, these cars required a step box be put down by the conductor in traditional railway practice. A step backwards!

With the arrival of car 107 service was increased to every two hours between Toronto and Guelph, a frequency which remained for the most part until the end of operations. And, with the arrival of 108, a new time table became effective April 1, 1926 showing hourly service as far as Georgetown. This was the peak of service ever operated.

A heavy line car (252) equipped with a snow plow was constructed by the NS&T as was a 60-ton box cab freight locomotive (300) in 1925.

All of the radial cars were rebuilt beginning with the 106 which re-entered service on October 3, 1924 as double-ended cars with the normal center motorman position moved to the right-hand side and a second one added at the rear.

There were two daily express car runs leaving each end at 6.00 a.m. daily except Sunday which normally met at Norval. Express and freight handled included milk from the Guelph reformatory for the Ontario Hospital as well as milk cans for Toronto from the various farms along the run, also fish at Royal York Road. Coal and paper were picked up at Georgetown and bricks at Cooksville, as well as cattle from farms to the abattoirs in Toronto. The latter commodities were likely hauled as carloads by the locomotive although it is possible the express motors could haul a few cars from distant points with heavier multiple car loads such as bricks requiring the locomotive. However, it seems the locomotive actually spent more of its time hauling long trains of excursion riders going to Eldorado Park for a picnic than it did hauling freight. A Sunoco gas station on the corner of Dixie Road had a small tank farm served by TSR.

The TSR was officially turned over in September 1918 to the Canadian Northern Railway; all were part of the Mackenzie and Mann Empire which soon became troubled financially resulting in its being taken over the Government of Canada's Canadian National Railways.

In 1922 ratepayers voted for the city of Toronto to buy the radial line by assuming the outstanding bonds of $2,628,000 paying $200,000 for lines within the city limits and provide for $150,000 of betterments. Agreement was reached for the HEPC to operate it as part of its radial system. However, this never happened since the voters on January 1, 1923 in an election that was one of the most bitter fought in Toronto history disapproved of a bigger scheme promoted by Sir Adam Beck to create a radial system over much of southern Ontario including bringing high speed cars into downtown Toronto via a tunnel up Bay Street to City Hall! Defeat of the Hydro Radial Proposal by the Ontario government was a bitter blow for Beck who fell ill from it all and died in 1925. With him died any hope for the radial railway system.

On November 15, 1923 all TSR lines within the city of Toronto were acquired and turned over to their TTC which had been established September 1, 1921 to operate all public transportation in the city. This saw the radial service on Dundas ended due to the track being re-gauged to the broader TTC gauge of 4 feet 10 and 5/8 inches, just slightly narrower than the TRC and TSR old gauge of 4 feet 10 and 3/4 inches, as far as the city limit at Runnymede Road. Radial cars had to wye at Lambton and back east along the roadside of Dundas to Willard Avenue to connect with the TTC. Why here? Willard is two blocks east of Jane Street but, still four blocks short of Runnymede. It may have been some sort of compromise possibly having to do with the schedule and the additional running time caused by having to wye at Lambton. Rather than build a wye at Runnymede involving two gauges such as existed in the Junction this method was chosen possibly with the knowledge of a new right-of-way to soon be built.

This changed again when on November 25, 1924 the Lambton route of the TSR was acquired by the Township of York and handed over to the TTC to operate. Radial service then ended at Lambton where passengers transferred to old ex-TRC cars used on the Lambton route as far as Runnymede where for some unknown reason (possibly having to do with fares) they were again required to make a transfer to the TTC Dundas car to reach the Junction. Luckily, this didn't last very long as the streetcar line was replaced August 17, 1928 by a bus service which again ran directly from Lambton to the Junction. It was soon extended to Lambton Avenue (Prince Edward Drive), on June 24, 1929 when the new high-level bridge on Dundas Street over the Humber River opened.

The CNR created Canadian National Electric Railways December 17, 1923 to operate many of its electric properties (Oshawa Railway remained separate since it enjoyed freedom from taxation by the city!). Thereafter, it operated as the Toronto Suburban District of the CNER. Fares were reduced from 2 7/8 cents per mile to 2 ¼ cents. Commuter tickets were introduced lowering the fares further e.g. Cooksville to West Toronto at $5.85 for 50 rides a month was less than half the normal 25 cents.

June 26, 1927

CNER Extension including a new bridge over Weston Road.

In 1924-25 a new entrance to the city was built along a private right-of-way from Lambton under the CPR main line along the Toronto & Niagara Power Company hydro-electric transmission line connecting to the former Toronto Belt Line Railway acquired from the failed GTR by the CNR, to their West Toronto Yard at Keele and St.Clair at what was intended to be a temporary end of the line. For that reason an old car was parked at the end of the track and used as a station beginning early in December 1925 (freight service had begun in February), until a proper one was finally built in 1929. It was intended to electrify one track of the CNR main line from that point into Union Station to provide a fast, direct ride downtown. It might have used the nearby ex GTR Guelph main line or, building along the same Niagara Power right-of-way, gone farther east and down the ex NRC main line at St.Clair and Caledonia. Both of these lines meet in Parkdale before continuing to Union Station and are now used by two GO train routes. Because of the delay in getting the new Union Station open caused by the city, this never happened and service continued to end there, an even worse location since it required a transfer to a city car to reach the Junction's business district, which was previously reached directly via Dundas Street.

Part of this was once the Toronto Belt Line Railway and it remained in CNR's hands to service some local industries east of Jane Street including CIL and local fuel dealer Johnson-Bonham into the 1960-70's. The last segment then known as Lambton Spur was finally removed effective February 26, 1980 by which time it ran only to Mileage 0.75 Symes Road.


Former CNER West Toronto Station on Keele Street looking east. September 1952
James V. Salmon/Toronto Reference Library Baldwin Room
S 1-1736

Here it is occupied by Premium Lunch and a taxi office. Supertest gas station is on northeast corner of Keele and St.Clair. CNR West Toronto Yard in the background. Townhouses now fill this entire site.

Supertest gone and a garage continued. TTC St.Clair car about to turn left along St.Clair Ave. West.
Note the Globe and Mail newspaper box.

Premium Restaurant upgraded from Premium Lunch! Note the new picture window!
Note: Taxi office is gone replaced by a direct phone at opposite end of building.

TTC 4751 swings off Keele Street onto Weston Road bypassing Keele Loop and bound for Avon Loop.
Destination sign still reads Northland which became loop for short turning Weston Road trolley coaches.
Extension of St.Clair car had become rush hour only same as Weston Road TC.

Note: Although the actual Toronto city limit was just north of Northland Avenue, the fare zone was located at
Avon Avenue to allow for walking transfer over the old humped bridge over CNR & CPR tracks which prevented
Rogers Rd. streetcars crossing it. Rogers and Weston routes north of here were in York Township
and required a separate fare. TTC contracted with York (and Town of Weston) to operate these streetcar services.

TTC 9137 Marmon-Herrington trolley coach on route Weston 89 Albion Road Keele Subway, is swinging off
Keele Street onto Weston Road crossing the tracks to/from the Keele Loop used by St.Clair streetcars and
Runnymede buses. By now streetcar tracks up Weston Road to Avon Loop have been removed.
Note: ABC Taxi sign marks a direct telephone callbox which had replaced their office.
June 1970 Mike Harrington

TTC 4769 enroute to Avon Loop a rush hours only extension of St.Clair route. Passing by Weston Road Lumber
(later ABC Lumber) former hydro-electric transformer station. Swift plant looms in the background.
Taken from on top of CNR bridge carrying industrial spur formerly CNER Extension Guelph Radial line.
5/27/1965 Paul Mc Grane Collection

Aerial view West Toronto

Earlier street views on Keele Street and Weston Road

Weston Road looking north to City Limit.

Weston Road looking south from City Limit.

Eldorado Park

A 128 acre amusement and recreational park was opened in 1925 on the Credit River near Churchville north of Meadowvale at Mileage 20.4. Eldorado Park attracted a large number of Sunday picnic riders requiring many extra runs and additional equipment. Old open platform gas lit wooden coaches were rented for the season from the CNR.

Video of picnic train hauled by loco 300
Train is first seen running on the Extention over former Toronto Belt Line.

The Guelph radial line was never really successful since passenger and express business was all it had with very little freight, only one locomotive was ever owned to handle it. Interchange was made with the CPR at Cooksville and later the CNR in West Toronto. Private automobiles were a new threat and losses mounted in the 1920's until by 1925 its operating ratio was 145%! ($145 spent for every $100 received). Only public ownership by the CNR kept it running.

In 1929, the property, with total capital of $4,378,000 and investment in road and equipment of $4,723,398.63, had gross earnings of $166,902, and operating expenses of $238,160 leaving an operating deficit of $71,258. Miscellaneous income was $13,713, leaving an operating income deficit of $57,545. Taxes were $12,411, interest on funded debt, $118,260, and other deductions totalled $6,189, making total deductions from income $136,860 and leaving a net loss for the year of $194,405. Revenue passengers carried were 278,917 and freight traffic was a mere 43,865 tons.

Ridership dropped to only 300 passengers per day by 1931 in the Great Depression at the same time Highway 7 was carrying 1662 cars along with nine buses. The end was near; CNR let the TSR bond interest go unpaid on July 15, 1931 much to the protest of the bondholders causing it to go into receivership and shut things down on August 15, 1931. Eventually, in 1934, CNR paid off the bondholders at 25 cents on the dollar. Following which the Receivership was ended on September 13, 1935, the line promptly dismantled and equipment disposed of much of it simply scrapped although some went to other CNR properties. Express motor 250 became Montreal and Southern Counties 306 and line car 252 which became M&SC 305. Combination car 108 was eventually rebuilt into a plow, M&SC 300 2nd. Express trailer 251 became NS&T 251 a work car and Car 107 became NS&T 83 where it ran until abandonment in 1959. Box cab locomotive 300 was traded through an equipment dealer and became Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Northern 7 in Iowa. In return, the CNR received an ex South Brooklyn GE 1914 55-ton 1000 hp steeple cab loco which became NS&T 20.

The Guelph radial line was ahead of its time killed off by the private automobile, buses and trucks. A high speed frequent commuter service on its own right-of-way unhindered by freight trains would be welcome by thousands of people today.

Old Time Trains © 2009 2014 2018 2023