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Rail Attractions North of Toronto

Rail Attractions North of Toronto

Rail Attractions North of Toronto Canada

CN York Subdivision

This line was built between 1959 and 1965 to connect the new MacMillan Yard with existing lines running east of Toronto. The York Subdivision is a busy line, especially west of Doncaster, where traffic for western Canada mixes with Toronto-Montreal tonnage.



Pickering Jct




Beare East












MacMillan Yard

The York Subdivision connects with the CN Newmarket Subdivision at Snider, with the CN Bala Subdivision at Doncaster, and with the CN Uxbridge Subdivision at Hagerman. There are diamonds with connecting wye tracks at each of these locations.

Like the Halton Sub, this line was built in wide-open countryside with wide rights-of-way. The line is now surrounded by urban terrain, with generally impenetrable fencing. There are a number of cuts and open areas which make for good photographs. The line runs just north of Steeles Ave to Yonge Street, then slips northeast to parallel John Street (Bayview to Woodbine), Esna Park Road/Alden Road (Woodbine to Warden) and 14th Avenue (Warden to Markham Road)

DONCASTER - From Bathurst Street east to Yonge, the line runs in a deep cut. There are good overhead bridges at Hilda Avenue (runs north off Steeles) and Yonge Street. There is a steep grade climbing to the west at this point. The eastward approach signals visible from Hilda Ave are notable because they have lighted arrows that show the routing at Doncaster.

Number 451 eastbound at Hilda Street 451 at Hilda Street

Hilda Street downhill to YongeLooking downhill (east) to Yonge Street

East of Yonge the line climbs to run on an embankment.The junction at Doncaster is best accessed off John Street, west from Bayview Ave. There are connecting tracks on three sides of the diamond: west to south (freights to/from downtown Toronto), west to north (transcontinental freights to/from the Bala Subdivision, and the westbound Canadian), and south to east (transcontinental traffic to/from Montreal, bypassing MacMillan Yard). John Street has a new overpass over the Bala Sub north of the junction, there are wide shoulders and it gives a good view for southbounds from the north side. Unfortunately, the junction is otherwise not easy to access. Another option is to try the school property on the northeast quadrants, or the parks on the two south quadrants.

East from Doncaster, the line can be accessed from behind various industries. The main north-south roads cross on overpasses. There are views of the line from the parallel Highway 407 toll highway.

HAGERMAN - One level crossing remains on 14th Ave. This area is under development and the right of way is disappearing behind new industrial properties.

McCOWANS - The York Subdivision crosses the CP Havelock Subdivision north of Steeles Avenue at the 9th Line. There is a nice trestle just west of the ninth line.

BEARE - The York Subdivision crosses over the CP Belleville Sub at Beare. This spot is at the upper end of Meadowvale Road, northeast of the Metro Toronto Zoo. Take Meadowvale north to its end at Plug Hat Road, then go east on Plug Hat Road, then go south on Beare Road to the CP tracks. There is room to park on the side of the road. The bridge is a short walk from the road. This area is not patrolled frequently, but stay back from the tracks in any event.

CN Uxbridge Subdivision - North of Hagerman



Uxbridge(Out of Service)









Once a through line to Lindsay and Bancroft, the Uxbridge Sub now ends officially in Stouffville. Track remains in place to Uxbridge; the Stouffville-Uxbridge section is now owned by the Province of Ontario and is leased to the York Durham Historical Railroad, an operating rail museum.

The Uxbridge Subdivision begins at Scarborough Junction, where it connects with the CN's Kingston Subdivision. It crosses the York Subdivision at Hagerman.

The Uxbridge Sub has GO Trains service at rush hour, Moday to Friday, plus the occasional industrial switching movement.

CN Uxbridge Subdivision - South of Hagerman

CN Bala Subdivision - North of Doncaster



Richmond Hill





The Bala Subdivision starts at Cherry Street just east of Union Station, winds its way northwards up the Don Valley, and reaches the York Sub at Doncaster. It continues northwards, passing east of Lake Simcoe, and then northwest from Washago to Capreol.

The Bala Sub is CN's main transcontinental route, and carries fairly heavy traffic. The Bala Sub also carries traffic bound for North Bay. Trains to eastern Canada now bypass MacMillan Yard, using a new south-to-east leg of the wye at Doncaster.

Both VIA's Canadian and ONR's Northlander use the Bala Sub north of Doncaster.There is weekday rush hour GO service between Union and Richmond Hill.

CN Bala Subdivision south of Doncaster

CN Newmarket Subdivision

The Newmarket Sub was the first railway line in Toronto; the first train to Aurora ran on May 16, 1853. The Newmarket Sub eventually ran north through Washago to North Bay, and then on to Capreol. In 1996 CN abandoned the Barrie-Washago and North Bay-Capreol sections of the line. This meant the end of all through service on this route. The Barrie-Bradford section was also removed from service, but is being relaid for future GO expansion.













King City






Snider North



The Newmarket Subdivision begins at Parkdale where it diverges from the CN Weston Subdivision. It runs straight north and crosses the York Subdivision at Snider, just east of Toronto Yard.

The Newmarket Sub still sees GO service on the Toronto-Bradford section of the line.

CN Newmarket Subdivision south of Snider

CN MacMillan Yard

MacMillan Yard is CN's huge hump yard and locomotive maintenance facility for the Toronto area. Opened in 1965, it was first called Toronto Yard.

Mac Yard is located north of Highway 7 between Keele and Jane Streets. The locomotive facility is on the west side of the yard off Jane Street. Until recently it was a fairly hospitable facility, but this has changed. It may be wise to stay in your car in the parking lot.

Old Highway 7 crosses over the south end of the yard, with good wide shoulders. This overpass gives a good view of the yard, but is noisy and not that pleasant for long periods.

The approach to "Mac Yard" is a large, open wye south of Highway 7 and north of Steeles Avenue, featuring over-and-under routes for incoming/outgoing trains. It can be seen well from the new Highway 407 (but keep your eyes on the road anyways!). For a closer look, head behind the industrial buildings on Snidercroft Road, which runs west off Keele Street between Steeles and Old Highway 7. An overpass on Keele street gives a decent view of the east end of the wye, and a nice eastward view of the York Sub and the Snider diamond. This bridge has narrow shoulders....and bounces with the passing traffic, but it's bearable for short periods.

Many through trains bypass the yard on a connecting track to the south. Crews normally change off at Jane Street, just north of Steeles Avenue.

CN Halton Subdivision - Toronto Yard to Halwest

The Halton Subdivision is CN's main route from MacMillan Yard west to Sarnia, Detroit, and Niagara.



Jct with York Sub


Jane Street






Brampton Intermodal (BIT)







The section between Toronto Yard and Halwest was built between 1959 and 1965, to connect the new MacMillan Yard with CN's western routes. From Halwest, it continues west through Halton and Peel Regions to Silver (Georgetown), then southwest to Burlington. The Halwest-Silver portion was part of the original Grand Trunk line dating from the 1850's. In CN days it was part of the Brampton Subdivision. The Silver-Burlington leg was originally part of the Beeton Subdivision, a secondary line which once ran from Hamilton to Barrie.

The Halton-York Subdivisions originally provided a freight bypass around the Toronto area. In recent years urban sprawl has caught up with this foresighted plan, and now the Halton is surrounded by suburban and industrial areas. The new Highway 407 recently opened in the same corridor; the 407 gives a good view of the line around Humber.

This is a very heavy line which is seldom quiet for long. It handles most of CN's east-west freight traffic (some Montreal-Oakville-Hamilton trains bypass Mac Yard via the Oakville Sub). There are GO Trains west of Halwest on weekdays. There are many wide line allotments, several high trestles, many embankments and deep cuts. North of the city it is being surrounded by industrial developments.

JANE STREET - The Halton Subdivision begins at the Toronto Yard throat, north of Steeles Avenue between Keele and Jane Streets. The southern leg of the wye is a used by run-through trains; crews change off at Jane Street. The line parallels Steeles Avenue from Jane Street west to Highway 427. Most of this area is a-building with new industrial and commercial developments; it's possible to park behind some of these to access the tracks.

Jane-Steeles to Highway 27-Steeles is one of the few parts of the city where the author does not recommend lingering after dark, particularly if you are alone.

HUMBER - Good photo points can be found in the Islington-Martin Grove Road area, with good sweeping curve shots. A telephoto lens is helpful. The Halton Sub crosses the CP Mactier Sub at Humber (Islington Avenue). West of Highway 27, the line cuts through the Claireville Conservation Area, a large park with reservoir, beach, water slides, picnic and play areas. It's a good place to amuse the family while keeping an eye on the tracks.

An excellent vantage point can be found on the old Indian Line roadway, which runs south off Albion Ave just south of the Albion-Steeles intersection. Ignore the 'do not enter' sign and drive through the gap in the can park right on top of the bridge over the tracks. A little further down the roadway, there is a footpath leading to the shoreline, great for shooting trains as they cross the reservoir.

Claireville Reservoir

The Indian Line Campground, on Finch Ave north of Derry Road, is a popular campground in the area, and abuts the tracks.

GOREWAY - The level crossing on Goreway Road is a good place to set up and wait for trains. There is a laneway on the southwest side of the crossing. Throught freights sometimes change crews at Goreway.

BIT TERMINAL - Just west of the 427, the BIT terminal wye runs north, passing under Highway 7.

AIRPORT ROAD - The overpass over the tracks gives a good vantage point, although it's exposed and a bit close to traffic. The wye to the BIT terminal is immediately to the east. Malport Yard is immediately to the west. Westbounds sometimes are held just east of the bridge while trains enter or leave BIT,which makes for a nice passing shot. Torbram Road is another good level crossing just west of BIT.

HALWEST - The Weston Subdivision, which originates at Bathurst Street, west of Union Station, joins the Halton at Halwest.

CN Halton Subdivision west of Halwest

CN Brampton Intermodal Terminal

The Brampton Intermodal Terminal (referred to as "BIT") is CN's main intermodal terminal in the Toronto region. It's located north of the Halton Sub, east of Airport Road. The BIT terminal is the terminus for the hot '100' series intermodal freights. Power for these trains often runs light to and from Mac Yard.

The BIT terminal can be observed from the bridge on Highway 7. Security is tight. The east and west leads can be observed easily from Torbram Road and Goreway Road.

CN Malport Yard

Malport Yard is a local industrial yard between Airport Road and Goreway Road. Numerous local switchers and transfers use this yard. CN's Roadrailers use this terminal.

CP Mactier Subdivision - North of Sheppard







Vaughan Intermodal









The Mactier Subdivision is CP's mainline to Western Canada.

Continuing north from Sheppard, the line crosses under the CN Halton Sub at Humber (Islington Avenue north of Steeles) and runs through open countryside (with suburbs a-building, unfortunately) north to Bolton and beyond. There are a number of scenic bridges and curves in this area.

ELDER - The south siding switch of the old Elder siding, now the south entry point to Vaughan Terminal, is at Rutherford Road.

KLEINBURG - Decent level crossing on Nashville Road. The Conservation area at Albion Hills (Highway 50 north of Bolton) is a good picnic area in summer and features cross-county skiing in winter, all adjacent to trackside.

TOTTENHAM - The South Simcoe Railroad, an operating steam museum railroad, is located here. The CP line crosses over the SSR; if you are very lucky you can get the SSR train and the CP in the same photo here.

The Mactier Subdivision sees moderate traffic. North of Vaughan, trains are long, heavy, and heavily powered. The hottest westbounds are ordered out of Vaughan before dawn, but may not hit the road until sunrise. Count on one-two westbounds between dawn and noon, and another late in the day. A couple of eastbounds come down late in the day. Local trains - the "Spence turn" and the occasional "extra Honda" - rush auto racks to and from the Honda plant in Alliston

CP broadcasts a lineup for the Mactier Subdivision on the MOW channel - 161.175 - shortly after 7AM Monday-Friday, and often on Saturday/Sunday also.

Map of the CP Spence Facility - by Tony Borek
CP Mactier Subdivision - South of Sheppard

CP Vaughan Intermodal Terminal

CP's newer intermodal terminal, servicing mostly Canadian transcontinental traffic (Obico yard handles the Chicago/US traffic) is found on the Mactier Sub in the City of Vaughan. Road access is Highway 50 south of Bolton. This is a lift/setoff yard for many Mactier Sub trains. Light-engine moves between Vaughan and Toronto Yard in Agincourt are common. Transfers run in and out of Toronto regularly. The yard is switched by a contractor using a variety of non-CP locomotives.

The yard can be observed quite well from Highway 50; like most intermodal yards visitors are NOT welcome. There really isn't anything worth venturing inside to see. The yard is connected to the Mactier Sub by a long wye, which is easily accessed from the back roads running east off Highway 50.

The Credit Valley Connection

At one time, before the line south to Streetsville was constructed, CP's Owen Sound line reached Toronto via a route that ran east from Melville (just south of Orangeville) to Bolton. In 1907 a disastrous derailment ocurred at Horseshoe Curve, southeast of Caledon. The right of way is still visible in many places, particularly around the crossroads of Caledon and Mono Station.

CP Owen Sound Subdivision

East Toronto Lines
West Toronto Lines
Central Toronto Lines
Halton Peel Lines

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Revised - May 3, 2005