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Toronto Belt Line

R.L.Kennedy

This illustrated booklet promoted The Toronto Belt Land Corporation in their endeavour to sell land for housing.

Yonge Street scene shows Belt Line train passing over Yonge Street (looking north) with Metropolitan Railway radial car.
Prominent smokey stack belongs to Metrolpolitan's coal fired steam electric generating station.


The Toronto Belt Line Railway was one of the more obscure railways, short-lived and ill-conceived it was ahead of its time and doomed to failure.

Incorporated 1889 under Ontario legislation to build from a point on the Grand Trunk Railway in the eastern part of Toronto, or in Township of York, passing to the north of the City and connecting with the GTR to the northwest. A branch up the Don Valley was included.

Passenger trains would operate in both directions in a loop operating over the GTR from downtown Toronto through Parkdale and via the former Ontario, Simcoe and Huron through Davenport to Eglinton Avenue near Caledonia Road where the Belt line connected and ran east through Fairbank to Moore Park and then south down the Don Valley back to Union Station.

Intended as a line to serve nearby villages and areas far beyond the meagre public transportation available at the time which consisted largey of horse drawn streetcars it was a 19th century version of GO Transit. The sparse population in some of these areas and the somewhat high fares worked against the new railway. Fares were said to be 5 cents per station which added up if you travelled a long distance. Even the maximum fare of 25 cents was a significant amount. Newspapers were 1 cent at the time. Six trains per day operated in both directions on each loop daily. This was reduced to three each by July 1894. All passenger service ended November 17, 1894.

ENLARGE MAP

Fairbank Station on the TBL was just east of Fairbank Junction on the GTR.
It was here that most of the land was being sold for new development.
Farther east were Forest Hill station, Upper Canada College station,
Eglinton Avenue station, Moore Park station and another unnamed.

This 1890 map shows a proposed connecting track between the two loops. It was never built.


A second belt line was built from the GTR at West Toronto west to Lambton and south on the east side of the Humber River connecting to the GTR mainline at Swansea. This line was even more obscure with only its end portions being retained for freight service to a few local industries. In later years much of the northwest portion would be utilized by the CNER to reroute its Toronto Suburban railway radial line to Guelph away from street running to the Junction following takeover by the Toronto Transportation Commission and conversion to its streetcar system.

A station at Bloor Street just east of Jane Street. On the GTR mainline was Swansea Station and Howard Station.
The Bolt Works and Rolling Mill were a major industry that existed into the late 20th century as part of Stelco.


The Toronto Belt Line ran into financial difficulties early on and was unable to complete the line and lease it to the Grand Trunk for 40 years from the time of its completion as had already been agreed upon. Instead, the GTR agreed on June 1, 1892 to take over the work, complete construction and lease the line for 40 years from that date. It was an optimistic arrangement to say the least. Completed in 1892 trains only ran until 1894!

Old Time Trains Archives

This was in fact primarily a real estate venture by Toronto Belt Land Corporation with land holdings in the Fairbanks area around Eglinton and Dufferin Streets. These were to house the commuters who would use the line to and from work as well as for shopping in downtown Toronto since the trains would run all day long. In fact the largest volume of passengers was Sunday excursionists! At the time there was little to do on Sundays after church.

Eventually the Toronto Belt Line was sold December 31, 1943 to Canadian National Railways which continued to operate portions of the track for local industrial freight.


Freight service to local industries retains portions of track.


At the east end the line was abandoned through Mount Pleasant cemetery to connect with the CNR mainline in the Don Valley. The farthest east industry was Dominion Coal & Wood with its landmark row of nine 80 foot high silos built in 1930 located right at Mount Pleasant Road and Merton Street near the famed George's Trains hobby shop. It was deprived of freight service when in March 1976 Metro Toronto removed the aging bridge on Mount Pleasant under which a switch engine operated to pull and place cars from the east switch into the dealer. A new switch at the west end of the siding was not possible. Farther west the TTC's Davisville subway yard and shops were served for coal deliveries, track material and even new subway cars. It ended with the opening of the Spadina subway line and Expressway that cut off access to the east.

The right-of-way from Mount Pleasant west over Yonge Street on the railway steel bridge and swinging northwest across Eglinton Avenue West near Chaplin Crescent was changed into a trail after the city acquired it in 1972.

CNR 7446 0-6-0 eastbound over Yonge Street with a cut of empty flat cars out of TTC Davisville.
. Note the stone work between TTC rails. Easier to pull up for repairs than digging up asphalt.
Also, discourages drivers account rough ride. The Chevy driver doesn't care! Maybe it isn't the driver's car.
GMC pickup at left and TTC 2930 Peter Witt "train" approaching from the south. Merton Street at left.
TTC new subway cars at right opening of the Yonge Subway is just weeks away. (March 30, 1954)
February 8/1954 Robert J. Sandusky

CNR 7471 running Extra with new subway cars switching at Yonge Street. Hand signals worked fine in those days!
March 5, 1954 Robert J. Sandusky

CNR 3705 RS-18 switching at lumber yard. Van barely visible behind engine. Coal silos in distance.
May 28, 1961 Robert J. Sandusky

Dominion Coal and Wood silos with plenty of advertising of what they are selling.
Taken atop the bridge over the Old Belt Line with northbound PCC near 48 cent gas!
Only one automobile, one streetcar and no pedestrians! Must be a Sunday.

TTC 4504 (note water bumper) St.Clair route destined Eglinton Avenue northbound on Mount Pleasant at Merton Street.
Dominion Coal and Wood silos on Belt Line. Built 1930 ($100,000) and 80 feet tall. Demolished 2001.
Streetcars on Mount Pleasant ended July 24, 1976 due to construction of new bridge over Old Belt Line in background
Note gasoline prices! Texaco 79 cents and 75 at independent across the street.
November 29, 1975. Robert J. Sandusky

CNR yard diesel has left the TTC Davisville yard and shop after having setoff one brand new subway car.
Montreal Locomotive Works built 36 of these 75 foot subway cars 5300-5335.
Note the yellow work service cars behind building. April 4, 1962 Robert J. Sandusky

Old Belt Line at Bathurst Street between Shallmar Boulevard and Roselawn Avenue.
Looking east. The line is curving southeast alongside Chaplin Crescent. October 4, 1954
Note the siding into S.Mc.Cord a large sand, gravel and cement company with many locations.
James V.Salmon Collection/Toronto Public Library

A few small industries remained on the portion west to Caledonia Road including a large lumber company at Dufferin Street right in heart of the Toronto Belt Land properties. This was the last part of the Old Belt Line as it was commonly called to remain in use. It was abandoned circa 1988 when the land was sold off to the city for another trail.

Going west the line served a few small industries into the 1950's west of Rockcliffe Boulevard (just one long block north of CPR's Lambton roundhouse). These included Johnson Bonham a small local retail coal dealer that added furnace oil as times changed. I recall their small blue tank truck. CIL had a plant a little east of Jane Street that served some sort of wartime role. The track was cut to the west where a sand and gravel outfit operated only to be restored during World War Two. It was again pulled up afterwards. The last segment then known as Lambton Spur was finally removed by CNR effective February 26, 1980 by which time it ran only to Mileage 0.75 at Symes Road.

It was closed through its main portion that ran south from the CPR's mainline serving nothing until almost at the south end where a few small customers were located including a brick works sand pit. The TTC's streetcar tracks were crossed at grade just to the north of the GTR/CNR mainline at Swansea Bolt Works. This was one of last two such places where streetcars and freight railway crossed each other including a factory siding on the east side of Bathurst Street just north of Front Street West.


Moore Park station in use as a residence after abandonment. This was the most impressive station on the line.
Toronto Public Library/Virtual Reference Library

Heath Street bridge out of service! Just south of Mount Pleasant Cemetery decades before it officially became a trail.
September 12, 1953 Robert J. Sandusky

New bridge for Heath Street looking south with trail in foreground. November 1, 2014 Robert J. Sandusky

 




Belt Line looking south from Bloor Street. 1893 Toronto Public Library/Virtual Reference Library

Former Belt Line station on north side of St.Clair Avenue West at Florence Crescent one block west of Jane Street.
Station was at 90 degree angle north/south to St.Clair Avenue. CPR Lambton Yard directly opposite on south side.
In use as a residence 1954 more than half of a century after closing. Old Time Trains Archives

Note: Florence Crescent was curved to the right-of-way north to east to Jane Street.
In 1979 the long-abandoned right-of-way was turned into a narrow street (Espositio Crescent)
with housing on one side only. Two tiny streets, Raquel Court and Valport Court were part of this development.


TIR 44 4-4-2T acq. 12/1927 ex CNR 44 ex GTR 1533 ex TBL. GTR #1251 3/1892. Scrapped 1931.
Cyl. 17" X 22" Drv. 63" Press. 150 lbs. t.e. 13%

One of five tank engines built in the GTR Point St. Charles Shops for the Toronto Belt Line Ry.
Later used in Montreal Suburban service.

NOTE: There are no known photographs of Toronto Belt Line Railway trains or locomotives.


Toronto Suburban Railway Extention
Used a portion of the Belt Line between Jane Street and near Weston Road.
Following abandonment of TSR this part of the line was used by CNR for local freight.


West end of west belt north of Corbett Avenue and Jane Street.

Looking east of Jane Street in hollow between Corbett Avenue (north Of St.Clair Avenue west) and Lambton Avenue.
Track was relaid into C. Smythe Ltd. sand and gravel pit during World War II. Now mainly Smythe Park.
Conn Smythe was famous as majority owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team and
Maple Leaf Gardens arena as well as a race horse owner.
This property is about to be developed with housing and Jane Park Plaza.

This view from same location as previous photo. Looking north toward Lambton Avenue.
Two photographs: February 15, 1958 Salmon Collection/Toronto Reference Library

 



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