Harbourfront LRT

The Harbourfront line, approved by the TTC in 1985, was the first new streetcar line built in Toronto in over 60 years, and one of three to be opened over the space of ten years. The 2.1 km line included a tunnel and underground stops at Union Station and Queens Quay ferry docks, and then surface track in a dedicated right of way on Queens Quay, terminating at a new loop at Lower Spadina Avenue. Passengers travelled in rehabilitated PCCs along this dedicated right-of-way route, supporting development along the waterfront. Known during planning and construction as the Harbourfront Light Rail Transit line, construction began in the fall of 1988 and the service opened on June 22, 1990.


Heavy machinery in roadway. Background show office buildings.
View from the former Post Office building (now Scotiabank Arena), looking across Bay Street, showing placement of supporting beams for the HLRT Union Station loop. Building in centre is the Dominion Public Building.
March 31, 1988
Fonds 16, Series 879, File 59, Item 22.


Installation of beams above excavated area. Foreground shows people on pedestrian passageway. Background shows office towers.
Installation of decking on Bay Street for streetcar tunnel construction, view looking north
[December 1988 or January 1989]
Fonds 16, Series 879, File 67, Item 216.
Four men laying down foam panels in the excavated middle lanes of the road. Background shows office towers and condominiums.
Installation of styrofoam slabs in trackbed area to form a sound-deadening base for HLRT, looking east on Queens Quay
December 2, 1987
Fonds 16, Series 1253, File 932, Item 9.
Four men laying concrete into prepared middle area of the road. Background shows office towers and condominiums.
Pouring concrete on styrofoam slabs in trackbed area for HLRT, looking east on Queens Quay
December 2, 1987
Fonds 16, Series 1253, File 933, Item 10.
Three men installing streetcar rail in newly formed trackbed. Background contains office building, parking garages, and condominiums.
Installation of HLRT track, looking east on Queens Quay
[December 1988 or January 1989]
Fonds 16, Series 879, File 67, Item 73.
Two sets of newly installed streetcar tracks and sign advertising HLRT. Office towers and condominiums are in the background.
Looking east along Queens Quay from Rees Road showing completed trackbed. Traditional granite sett paving was used for this short section, instead of a smooth concrete surface.
February 1989
Fonds 16, Series 879, File 69, Item 384.


PCC streetcar emerging from tunnel with four construction men alongside checking its clearance.
Test of the Presidents’ Conference Committee streetcar on the new line, showing a streetcar emerging from the Bay Street tunnel. These tests were carried out just weeks before the line opened.
June 1990
Fonds 16, Series 879, File 69, Item 708.


Spadina LRT

A second, larger project was closely related to the Harbourfront line. The Spadina Light Rail Transit project, proposed in 1983, was approved in June 1992. Streetcars had not operated on the length of Spadina Avenue since 1948, when buses took over. The new Spadina streetcar route would operate along a dedicated right-of-way between Spadina Station and Queens Quay, and then along the Harbourfront line tracks to Union Station. The project was built to accommodate the development of the railway lands south of Front Street, and the projected increase in ridership to that area. Construction began in December 1992 and the new 510 Spadina streetcar route opened on July 27, 1997.


Laying new track and special trackwork along intersection. Background shows storefronts.
Track construction north of Queen Street looking south towards to the intersection of Queen Street and Spadina Avenue. This is one of three “Grand Union” track intersections in Toronto, where streetcars can move in every direction through the four-legged intersection.
July 29, 1995
Fonds 16, Series 1604, File 10801, Item 950765-6.
Newly installed streetcar tracks on right of way. Background shows the building at 1 Spadina Crescent.
Streetcar track being installed near Spadina Crescent. Track construction along Spadina spanned three construction seasons, from 1994 to 1996, in advance of the Spadina streetcar line opening in 1997. The newest track construction techniques were used, producing long-lived track that has stood up well to the very frequent service operated over it.
September 26, 1994
Fonds 16, Series 1604, File 10813, Item 940977-17.
Newly installed trackwork heading down ramp,
Laying track at Sussex Street portal. The portal and ramp are not symmetrical, because the southbound track, at left, has an easier grade for streetcars climbing the ramp to return to street level.
May 8, 1996
Fonds 16, Series 1604, File 10848, Item 960513-2.

Queens Quay LRT

While the Spadina LRT was under construction, a third short but key streetcar link was being quietly planned. On November 24, 1998, construction began on an 800-metre stretch of track along Queens Quay, from Spadina Avenue to Bathurst Street. This new link permitted the operation of a direct streetcar service from Union Station to Exhibition Place, and could also eventually serve as part of longer extensions to the west and to the east. The extension opened on July 21, 2000 with service on the new 509 Harbourfront streetcar route.


Looking along installed track on right of way with road traffic. Sign advertising Queens Quay LRT.
Looking westbound at Queens Quay West at Lower Spadina. This was the extension of tracks from Spadina to Bathurst, for the 509 Harbourfront route. The new west leg of the intersection has been installed. This location would later be rebuilt in the 2010s with the east-west tracks fully on the south side of the Queens Quay right of way.
October 19, 1999
Fonds 16, Series 1604, File 11057, Item 991045-1.
Newly installed track in unfinished right or way with motor vehicle traffic on roadway. Background shows condominiums.
Track installation on Queens Quay West
September 28, 1999
Fonds 16, Series 1604, File 11085, Item 990969-8.


Installation of streetcar track in right of way. Heavy machinery and supplies on side of roadway.
Aerial view looking west, showing track installation at Lower Spadina and Queens Quay West. The extension from Spadina to Bathurst entered service the next summer.
October 12, 1999
Fonds 16, Series 1604, File 11087, Item 991026-11.