Consolidation: The TTC in the Twenties – Divisional Carhouses and Hillcrest Yard
The divisional carhouses used by the Toronto Railway Company and taken over by the TTC were hopelessly antiquated, and insufficiently equipped to house and repair streetcars. With safety for workers paramount, the TTC immediately began to tackle the job of constructing new facilities. The oldest of the carhouses was the Yorkville barn, constructed in 1861 for the use of horse-cars. As it could not accommodate the new Peter Witt streetcars, it was closed in 1922. A site was chosen for the new facility, at the south-west corner of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue, an area where empty fields stretched in every direction and a stream flowed through the property.
The other carhouses included the following: Roncesvalles (opened in 1895), Dundas (1897), Lansdowne (1911), St. Clair (1914), Danforth (1915), and Russell (1916). These were rehabilitated by the TTC in order to provide service for many more years. The Roncesvalles and Russell facilities are still in operation, while the St. Clair Carhouse has been reimagined as the Artscape Wychwood Barns.
The divisional carhouses provided local facilities for maintenance and storage, but a new car shop facility for heavy maintenance of streetcars was also required. In 1922, the TTC purchased a 22-acre site at the south-west corner of Bathurst Street and Davenport Road that had formerly been the Hillcrest Racetrack. The racetrack had been built by local sports entrepreneur Abram Orpen, and operated during the 1912 to 1916 seasons. To the north of the track, on the south side of Davenport Road were a small farm and market gardens.
Work on building Hillcrest commenced in January of 1923 and the facility was ready for occupation by March of 1924. All of the buildings, including general car shops, warehouses, and several small buildings for special purposes, were of the most modern construction, particularly with regard to fire suppression. The General Shops Building covered 5.04 acres and was designed so that the complete overhaul of a streetcar (required every 70,000 miles) could be completed in only six days. The 10 large buildings were all heated from a central coal-fired plant. An underground tunnel connected the powerhouse with all of the buildings. The seven-foot high tunnel conducted the heating pipes, gas and water pipes, compressed air pipes and electric cables. Hillcrest would later be expanded to include bus facilities.