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Yonge Subway

Subway train on an early post card. Old Time Trains Archives

The first subway line in Canada was built in Toronto after decades of talk, proposals, planning and more talk. Early proposals dating from 1911 were for streetcars to operate in an underground subway from downtown, north under Terauley (Bay) Street as well as east and west along Queen and Bloor Streets. In the end, a line mostly under Yonge Street was built for a distance of 4.6 miles to Eglinton Avenue with a total of twelve stations. North of Bloor Street much of the line was in the open to one side of the street or the other which not only saved costs but, also saved a considerable amount of disruption during construction. This construction started in September 1949 and the line was finally opened March 30, 1954 at a cost of $50.5 million. (About $388 million in today's money.)

The system was designed to provide a maximum capacity of 40,000 passengers per hour. This was far in excess of the capacity of the Yonge streetcar line which struggled with 70 two car trains over surface streets mixed with an ever increasing amount of vehicular traffic.

When it came time to order the trains themselves Toronto turned to an old established British manufacturer of such trains, Gloucester Railway Wagon and Carriage Company in Gloucester, England. They built 100 cars each 56 feet long and weighing 85,000 pounds, a weight 40 % higher than estimated, (they were built like battleships!) and therefore required a much higher consumption of electricity for their four 68 hp traction motors. They first operated in pairs as a four or six car train however; this was soon expanded to eight car trains with delivery of 34 new cars of the same design.

Construction scenes

Streets returned to normal above ground while work goes on below.

Subway trains

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