Toronto & York Radial Railway

Sunday Sept. 4, 2016

The Metropolitan Street Railway Company of Toronto was incorporated on March 2, 1877 and began service with animals pulling railcars up Yonge Street in 1885.  On Sep. 1, 1890 electrical power was used for the first time, however, this didn’t last.  Animal power was re-instituted within a few weeks and left in use until May 1891 when the electric service was resumed.  In 1893 the name was simplified to Metropolitan Street Railway Company and then in 1897 to simply Metropolitan Railway Company.  On October 26, 1896 the contract to build the 16 kilometer line from Hoggs Hollow to Richmond Hill was given to a Pittsburgh company who had only 24 days to complete the task.  Three hundred men worked in 3 crews and finished with three hours to spare.  The first train rolled into Richmond Hill on November 19th with the official opening coming on January 27, 1897.  Service was extended to Aurora and Newmarket by 1899 and the Metropolitan continued until Nov. 1, 1904.

On Nov. 1, 1904 the Toronto Railway Company acquired the line and it became the Toronto & York Radial Railway.  The City of Toronto bought the line in August 1922 and between January 1927 and March 16, 1930 it was operated by the TTC.  When service was suspended the municipalities got involved and contracted the TTC to run it for them.  On October 9, 1948 they were finally forced to admit that the service had been made obsolete by the personal automobile.

To accommodate passengers and freight the railway created a series of stops and constructed a variety of waiting rooms and stations.  The picture below shows one of the simple waiting rooms, this one originally on the west side of Yonge Street at Royal Orchard Boulevard in Thornhill.  It has been restored and moved just south to Cricklewood Park.  Other, more substantial stations survive, having been converted to other uses.  Queensville and Willow Beach Stations are now private residences.  Keswick is a law office while Sutton has been converted to use as a real estate office.

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The railway expanded north from Richmond hill and in 1899 it built a generating station at Bond Lake.  The stonework for the boilers and furnaces remains on site but they are getting overgrown and there are well established trees in the rows between the furnaces.  The substation was built from brick but by the mid 1950’s it had been covered over with aluminum siding and was in use as a private residence.  It has since been abandoned and has two large holes in the roof.  Unlike other artifacts from the rail line there appears to be no interest in preserving this one.  There are many more pictures of this site that were presented in a pictorial called Electric Railway Generating Plant.

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A former bridge abutment in Aurora marks the original route of the railway into town.  It is located just east of Yonge Street off of Industrial Parkway.  It was built in 1899 to support a trestle across the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR).  The 9 foot column of limestone blocks was abandoned in 1922 when the trestle was removed.  The radial line was relocated next to the Yonge Street underpass for the GTR.

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Newmarket was becoming the economic centre for a large area and in 1883 they decided to build a new town hall.  The Italianate Style building housed a successful farmer’s market on the first floor and  the town offices on the upper one.  The train entered Newmarket along the side of the town hall and had it’s station and freight sheds where the parking lot is across the street.

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The railway made it’s way north toward Queen Street via Raglan but it’s not possible to walk through there anymore.  You can go to Church Street where you will see the house pictured below.  The Newmarket Historical Society has done a great job of identifying homes in the old town core and placing a plaque showing the original owner, their occupation and the date of the home.  This Late Victorian home was built in 1894 for a painter named Ernest E. Groome.

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The tracks followed Queen Street across Main Street to the GTR tracks where it departed from the street on it’s own trestle.  The abutment still remains on the side of the tracks along with a smaller one that can be seen through the arch.

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In 1909 the railway built the parabolic arch bridge that still spans the Holland River.  It was one of the first concrete arches built in Canada and supported the trestle that crossed the river here and the GTR tracks above.  It spans the river at 15 meters wide and rises 7 meters above it.  Newmarket also has the very unique remains of an abandoned canal that proposed to connect the city with Lake Simcoe using the Holland River.  When this portion of the railway was abandoned in 1930 the trestle was demolished.  The arch has been recognized for it’s historic value and is being preserved by the city and the South Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority giving the city a second unique piece of transportation history.  The arch is also featured in the cover photo.

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By 1850 there were over 9,000 miles of railway track in the United States and only 60 in Canada.  On October 15, 1851 a sod turning ceremony was held in Toronto to mark the start of the city’s railway era.  The Ontario, Simcoe and Lake Huron Union Company made it’s first business run on May 16, 1853 going as far as Machell’s Corners (Aurora), 30 miles north of the city.  Construction continued north in 1853 reaching Allendale later that year.  After a series of mergers the GTR acquired this line in 1888.  By 1900 passenger and freight traffic was still increasing and so a new station was built.  It is a simple one story wood frame structure with wood cladding.  The style is Queen Anne Revival that was popular between 1880 and 1910.

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The North York Registry Office was built in 1884 to replace an 1863 building that sat on the lot to the immediate south.  The building was designed to house the records of land titles, births, deaths and marriages in the County of York, except for the Toronto jurisdiction.  It was intended to hold the county records for a period of 50 years.  In the end it served until 1980, just shy of a century.  It was built in a style that was mandated by the Ontario Department of Public Works in 1868.  Today it houses a museum.

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Feb. 14, 2017

A fire at Yonge and St. Clair destroyed the Badminton and Racquet Club building in one of the biggest fires in recent history.  Until 1920 this had been the site of the car barns for the railway.  The TTC was consolidating assets and the building was found to be redundant. There were seven courts laid out in the old car barns and it is said that tracks could still be seen buried in the floor of the racquet club.

Here is the link again for the Bond Lake Generating Station.

Google Maps link: Newmarket Radial Arch near Queen Street and Wellington.

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5 thoughts on “Toronto & York Radial Railway

  1. Pingback: Bond Lake | Hiking the GTA

  2. Andy

    In Newmarket, wasn’t the building that later housed Bell’s Billiards the train station? A misspent youth in a beautiful pool hall….

    Reply

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