Consolidation: The TTC in the Twenties – New Vehicles and New Tracks
On August 31, 1921, the franchise of the Toronto Railway Company (TRC) expired, and on September 1, the Toronto Transportation Commission, which had been planning for this moment since the preceding summer, immediately began operations and put into place plans to unify, rehabilitate, and extend the city’s transportation services.
The assets of the TRC and other predecessor companies had been acquired for $11,483,500, but it was a mixed blessing for the new Commission. Much of the rolling stock, in the form of old wooden streetcars, was obsolete and did not meet safety standards for passengers and operators. The TTC quickly purchased several hundred new steel-bodied Peter Witt streetcars of the latest type.
The newly formed Toronto Transportation Commission acquired the assets of various predecessor companies, including the Toronto Railway Company and the Toronto Civic Railway. Unfortunately, most of the assets were not fit for continued use, and the TTC planned to sell the oldest and most decrepit rolling stock for scrap. In a strange twist of fate, a number of the old streetcars found a new life in northern Ontario.
On October 4, 1922, the town of Haileybury, located on the shores of Lake Timiskaming, became engulfed in flames. The town, comprised of some 3,000 people, was forced to evacuate, and soon almost all of its buildings were burned to the ground. Eventually the fire covered 650 square miles and affected 18 townships, killing 43 people. It finally came to an end on October 5 when the winds died and snow began to fall. With thousands of people now homeless, the TTC decided to offer 87 of its old horse-cars to be used as temporary housing. On October 11, the cars were shipped via Canadian Pacific flatcars to the scene of the disaster. Sixty of the cars remained in Haileybury, while others went to North Cobalt, Charlton, Thornloe, and Heaslip. With their weatherproof doors and windows, and built-in coal stoves, the cars provided very serviceable temporary homes for the hard-hit families.
Back in Toronto, existing tracks were badly worn, especially at intersections, and overhead equipment needed a complete overhaul. The TTC’s goal was to use the most modern methods and materials to ensure satisfactory service and a long life for the system. Apart from the intricate feats of engineering required to design, construct, and install the track arrangements at intersections, the TTC also built streetcar-turning loops at the ends of lines. These loops replaced the old wyes, which required streetcars to make a three-point turn, and had been a source of annoying and time-consuming delays.
A huge task for the TTC was to rehabilitate the worn and dangerous streetcar tracks it inherited. Miles of track, roadbed, and overhead wiring needed to be replaced, and the Commission promised to get the job done by 1923. More than 3,000 men, with hundreds of trucks, steam shovels and cement mixers, worked day and night to construct 115 miles of track and lay 120 intersections.
At the end of a route, a streetcar must somehow get itself turned around. In the pre-TTC era, the usual terminal turn-around was a “wye.” The TTC decided to replace most wye’s with loops, allowing the driver to change direction with a gentle curve and no dangerous backing-up required.
Another streetcar loop was built at the north-east corner of Mount Pleasant Road and St. Clair Avenue in 1924. This loop was abandoned in 1976, and in 1984 was converted into the Loring-Wyle Parkette, featuring the sculpture of two Toronto artists who lived nearby.