Canada’s First Subway
It promised comfort and speed, modernity and convenience. Toronto’s Yonge subway was the very first subway line in Canada. Built by the publicly owned TTC (Toronto Transportation Commission, now Toronto Transit Commission) between 1949 and 1954, it was the beginning of postwar Toronto’s effort to accommodate the demands of the city’s prosperity and its future.
It spurred intense new apartment and office construction around major intersections both downtown, and midtown from Bloor Street to Eglinton Avenue. The subway, in effect, shaped modern Toronto.
The photographers of Canada Pictures Limited captured the entire undertaking, from the first pile driven into the ground, to the first subway car driven down the track. Their work shows views of downtown streets and traffic, both before and during construction; street-level and underground construction; heavy equipment; and work done with hand tools.
Finished track and tunnels, stations, and Toronto’s new subway cars were also documented. Formal events were included too, including the groundbreaking ceremony, the official opening of the subway, and tours by dignitaries and other visitors, from the Governor General of Canada, Sir Rupert Alexander, to engineers from all over the world. Here is a selection of the 2400 images in the Yonge Street Subway Construction series, Series 381, along with other TTC-related materials, all available for viewing at the City of Toronto Archives.
- Why a Subway?
- Underground Downtown
- At the Surface
- Finishing Touches
- Open for Business
This project has been made possible by financial assistance from the federal government through the National Archives of Canada, the Canadian Council of Archives, and the Department of Canadian Heritage.
For more information about the history of the TTC, click here