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Toronto Terminals Railway

By R.L.Kennedy

The most noticeable asset of the Toronto Terminals Railway is Union Station, yet the name Toronto Terminals Railway itself is almost unheard-of to the public. One of the few places it was displayed was on the cap badge of the Red Caps, yet even that likely went un-noticed by most people once they saw the familiar Red Cap.
What names the public did see at Union Station were those of its two owners, Canadian National Railways and Canadian Pacific Railway, and in later years, tenants GO Transit and VIA Rail. Toronto Terminals Railway.

The Toronto Terminals Railway was created July 13,1906 with ownership 50/50 between the Grand Trunk (later CNR) and the CPR. It came about in response to the need for bigger station facilities due to the ever increasing growth of travellers.

Initially, Toronto was served by separate stations of the different railways with a gap between them along the waterfront. Ontario's first railway the broad gauge Ontario, Simcoe & Huron (opened May 16, 1853) had Toronto's first station on the southwest corner of Bay and Front Streets. It was demolished in 1858 and Toronto's first union station located on the Esplanade West between York and Simcoe Streets was built by GTR and used by NRC and GWR opening June 21, 1858. It too was demolished (1871) and replaced by a new union station (a stone structure) also west of York Street which opened in 1873. The Grand Trunk Railway entered Toronto from the east from Montreal and stopped at the Don with through pasenger service beginning on October 27, 1856. So too did the narrow gauge Toronto and Nipissing enter Toronto coming from the north east to stop nearby at Berkeley Street in 1871. The Great Western was opened from Hamilton to Toronto December 3, 1855 and later ran to downtown where its new station was opened March 2, 1866 at Yonge Street and the Esplanade East. This was actually considered a branch as the main line ran between Niagara Falls, Hamilton, London and Windsor. The Northern Railway of Canada had its passenger and freight facilities at Brock Street (Spadina Avenue) and Front Street West. It later opened its City Hall station June 10, 1867. The GTR ran west via Parkdale, West Toronto and Weston to Stratford and London in July 1856. Credit Valley also ran west from Toronto through Parkdale, West Toronto and Streetsville Jct. to St.Thomas and Orangeville. The CPR was forced to run above the top of the city across to West Toronto and then change direction to run south through Parkdale to reach Union Station until a line was opened in May 1893 from Leaside down the Don and along the Esplanade to the Union station.

Agreement was reached in 1893 to join the waterfront lines along the esplanade ending the hopes of those who desired a place to walk unassailed by machinery and smoke. Such a wide esplanade has been promised citizens for years in the 19th Century. In the 21st Century they are still struggling to create a pedestrian friendly place along the waterfront!

Old Union Station 1873-1927 Photo Gallery

The second union station (1873-1927) was owned by GTR and used by it and the Toronto, Grey & Bruce and Credit Valley both of which were taken over by the CPR in 1884. The first CVR train used the station on May 17,1880 and it became a union station for GTR and CVR effective September 5, 1881 although the CVR (and later the CPR) shared no ownership. Following amalgamation August 12, 1882 of the GWR with the GTR the GWR station was closed on August 28th although it reopened three days later as a bonded shed until the new freight sheds Front and Simcoe Streets were opened c.1904.

There were repeated expansions of the station including a major one completed January 1, 1896 at which time CPR shared joint operating authority along with GTR. Another official opening May 11, 1896 was still insufficient to handle the increase in traffic of the growing city. A new station was required and the disasterous fire of April 19, 1904 that destroyed 86 buildings along Bay and Front Streets provided an opportunity to build one just to the east although it would be many years before that was finally realized.

Level Crossings

The growing population of Toronto resulted in greatly increased railway traffic. The location of all of the railway lines entering Toronto along the waterfront created conjestion for rail as well as public use. The large number of level crossings presented considerable hazards to pedrestrians and road users. To overcome this the city sought grade separations of the crossings.

Like anything owned by more than one entity as well as the involvement of the city, disputes quickly arose. The GTR wanted the tracks to be elevated over York, Bay and Yonge Streets, while the CPR did not. The squabbling went on between them and the City year after year over the extent of the work to be done and the cost sharing involved. Contracts for the 12 track station were finally let in 1914 but the bickering wasn’t over yet.

Waterfront Viaduct

A viaduct was first proposed by Toronto mayor E.F.Clarke to council March 12,1888 along with a central union station as a means to aleviate the dangers of level crossings. It wasn't to be. At least not for a long time.
Agreement was finally reached in November of 1924 for a $28.5 million project. Changes to the final version of the viaduct from those originally proposed saved $6 million and included a reduction in the number of subway grade separations by closing Scott, George, Frederick and Princess Streets. John Street bridge was also eliminated. A further cost reduction was had by eliminating the planned trestles from the high level into the fruit markets, one of which was in the old Great Western station. This was accomplished by simply allowing tracks to remain along the Esplanade beyond Church Street, west to Yonge Street. It also eliminated a very dangerous way of switching freight cars along with a reduction in ongoing maintenance.

Construction began June 17, 1925 on the Toronto Grade Separation project (a.k.a. Waterfront Viaduct); it wasn’t until January 31, 1930 that it was completed. Known to CPR employees as the "High Level" it required a massive filling of land, not only to a height of 18 feet but extending some distance into Lake Ontario. Some 2.6 million cubic yards of earth fill were required. So massive was the work that a narrow gauge (2 foot) construction railway was built by the contractor. The Viaduct extended between John, York, Bay, Yonge, Jarvis, Parliament, Sherbourne and Cherry Streets a distance of over 2 miles with approaches reaching farther beyond at both ends. The eastern approach, beyond the TTR limit was used by the CNR on its approach from Montreal passing by CNR Riverdale station and above Queen Street East eliminating a very dangerous level crossing and meeting the CPR line at the Don as they both entered Union Station. A CNR freight bypass known as the "High Line" passed to the south of the CPR John St. coach yard and roundhouse extending past John Street down to normal level just before Bathurst Street. This double track High Line is not part of the TTR. It still exists but has been relocated and now runs immediately south of Union Station. The TTR extended over this area and slightly beyond, its limits being at Don (Mile 107.1 CPR Oshawa Sub., presently known as Mile 209.4 Belleville Sub.; and Mile 2.0 CNR Bala Sub.) on the east and on the west near Cabin D on the CNR and at Tecumseh Street Mile 1.3 CPR Galt Sub. In later years extended to its present limit on the west side of Strachan Avenue at Mile 1.45 which came about with installation of CTC on the Galt Sub. which was required for the Milton GO train service and elimination of Tecumseh Street tower and the TTR Cabin D. Note that the CPR employee time table spells Tecumseh Street (and pronouncing it "Ta come see") differently that its street map name which is Tecumseth Street. Switchtenders were also eliminated. As part of this expansion, CPR insisted upon separation of trackage near Spadina Avenue which required a flyunder.

Map Don Sorting Yard and Cherry Street Area 1924
Shows proposed track changes (in red) for Viaduct in Don area including Esplanade industrial tracks.
Derek Boles Collection

New Union Station

Royal Train with new 4-8-4 6120 carrying the Prince of Wales approaches Union Station from the east
along the Esplanade for the official opening ceremony August 6, 1927. It was very brief, about ten minutes!
Public Archives of Canada

Union Station was finally opened to the public on August 11, 1927 after having lain nearly finished since 1919!
Trains still used low level tracks while the viaduct was built. It wasn't until January 21,1930 that the first train arrived on a high level platform. It was CPR Number 601 from Peterboro with 4-8-4 3100. There were only two tracks in service at this time and just 4 trains using them. Over the next several days four more tracks came into use. Months after it opened, work continued with tracks 7-12 completed December 15,1930 and it wasn’t entirely completed until September 1, 1931! (The offices and post office annex were occupied by October 1920. Prior to this TTR's offices were located at 36-38 King Street East.) CP Express opened its adjacent building on Bay Street at the north east end of the depot on January 18, 1930 while CN Express opened theirs at the opposite end. (These buildings were later sold by TTR to their respective companies September 12, 1957.) (Demolition of the existing Union Station took place in late 1927 although the office building remained until 1931.)
The land was leased from the City of Toronto to the Grand Trunk Railway in 1905.

Note: Union Station had been planned with a much different layout were the viaduct not built. Tracks 1 to 6 were to be pairs of stub tracks on both sides of a center structure. Tracks 7 to 10 were to be through tracks.

Mechanical and Electrical Equipment
Article February 1921

New Union Station Photo Gallery

Historically, the TTR owned Union Station and the tracks leading in and out of it, along with John Street,
Scott Street and Cherry Street towers, (plus Cabin D eliminated in 1983.) All towermen were TTR employees as are all track and signal maintenance. Gatemen, baggage handlers and Red caps were also TTR. No yard tracks were included as all coach yard and engine terminal facilities were owned by either CNR or CPR. All ticket office staff, and railway police belonged to the railways except that in recent years a security staff was created for Union Station replacing railway police. Actual management was rotated every five years between CNR and CPR who appointed a Superintendent for the duration.

CPR offices took up several floors above the public area of Union Station while CNR offices had a separate entrance at the west end. CPR train dispatchers were also located here. A TTR restaurant was located at the west end of the great hall while Liggetts operated a cafeteria at the south end of the lower concourse that was the favourite place of railway employees. These two places and two news stands were contracted August 31, 1956 to Canadian Railway News which also provided News Agents a.k.a. "newsie" on certain trains. The Terminal Credit Union was located near here as well.

Looking east from Spadina bridge.

CNR shed at left. John Street Tower in middle (and Royal York). Union Station in far distance.
Two curved tracks second from far right are CPR leads to coach yard past deadend tracks.
These leads were later removed. See 1929 track plan.

Display train of Super Continental equipment in new paint scheme at west end of Union Station.
Description of details in this scene.

CP 2856 has just arrived at Union Station from TH&B Hamilton with train originating in Buffalo.
November 10/1956 Joseph Testagrose Collection

These trains included through sleepers from Grand Central Terminal in New York City
as well as Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburg and Cleveland.

Central Heating Plant also owned by the TTR was located at Bay and Fleet Streets (now Lakeshore Blvd.). It opened in 1929 replacing Toronto Hydro's Scott Street plant. It was the biggest such facility in Canada with 7 large boilers that supplied up to 330,000 pounds per hour of steam heat to the Union Station, the Royal York Hotel, and all buildings on the south side of Front Street between Yonge and Simcoe Streets; Canada Customs, CP Express, CN Express, CN/CP Telecommunications; and the main Postal Terminal building on Bay Street at Lakeshore Blvd. as well as the CPR coach yard and roundhouse. Oddly enough it did not supply the CNR Spadina roundhouse and coach yard until late years. It was converted from coal to natural gas, although two boilers were capable of also burning oil should gas supply have low pressure in winter. The plant was closed down and demolished following the closing of John Street roundhouse in 1986 by which time the demand for steam had dropped significantly. The TTR then bought their steam supply from Toronto District Heating Corp. plant on Pearl Street, which later became Enwave.

Map of Viaduct 1913

The Railway Viaduct Along the Toronto Waterfront Canadian Railway & Marine World Dec.1913

Toronto Grade Separations, Viaduct and Parkdale. pdf Railway Age Gazette June 1913

Panoramic View before the Viaduct 1924

Panoramic View after the Viaduct 1934

Viaduct Gallery Photos of before and after conditions along this extensive area.

50th Anniversary folder issued by the TTR.

Map TTR, CNR Spadina. CPR John Street also Esplanade. 1945

Map TTR also CNR Spadina, CPR John Street, King Street sheds etc. Circa 1976 (CN Tower)


TTR Facts

Arrivals and Departures Track allotments for trains. Sheet 1967 Folder 1973 Folder 1982

Transit Toronto (Link) web site article

Toronto Terminals Railway (Link) Official web site

Other stations beyond the TTR within the CPR Toronto Terminals including Sunnyside.

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