Canadian Pacific Railway
Looking to the West from the coal tower, summer 1960.
Lambton Yard which got its name from the little village of Lambton Mills, was the main freight marshalling yard and included West Toronto Yard located in the "Junction", which in turn got its name from the railway junction of several lines. It stretched from the Diamond past Old Weston Road (overpass bridge), Keele Street, Runnymede Road, Jane Street and Scarlett Road, all subway underpasses, almost as far as the Humber River.
Street subway looking north at Dundas Street West. September 6,1954
The CPR Lambton Yard has been a part of the community since before World War I along with its neighbouring West Toronto Yard which dates back more than a century. Together they were the main freight marshalling yards serving Toronto from their inception in 1884 until April 1964 when a new modern Hump Yard was opened in Agincourt, following which Lambton continued in use for local trains and certain other freight.
To understand the history of Lambton yard it is necessary to go back many years before it was actually built, back to the time when the Credit Valley Railway was being built in 1874. The yards and shops were in Parkdale. The CVR ran through (West Toronto) Junction, Lambton, Streetsville, Galt and Woodstock to St.Thomas which was a major centre for US railroads running between Niagara Falls and Detroit and beyond. Later the mainline was extended from Woodstock to London (1887) and Windsor (1890) becoming the mainline to the USA.
The Ontario & Quebec Railway built their mainline from Perth where it connected with another line from Montreal, through Tweed, Havelock, Peterborough, Agincourt, Leaside, North Toronto to Toronto Junction (West Toronto) completing it in 1884. The line down the Don was not built until 1892 providing a direct line down to Union Station; prior to this time they had to back their trains to and from the Junction.
By this time much was happening as the CVR was taken over by the O&Q. in November 1883 following which the O&Q was taken over by the CPR in 1884. The narrow gauge Toronto, Grey and Bruce Rly. was taken over by O&Q in August 1883 after having been standard gauged in December 1881. The TG&B ran from the Queen's Wharf through Parkdale, West Toronto, to Weston, Woodbridge, Bolton, Caledon, and Orangeville (1871) and beyond to Teeswater (1874), also Owen Sound (1873). Which meant the CPR was faced with the need to handle the traffic of these lines as well. It was this expansion that caused the CPR to relocate its main facilities from Parkdale to West Toronto.
Growing traffic meant that Parkdale Yard was expanded east to Strachan Avenue to serve local industries and freight sheds. A small yard between Parkdale and West Toronto known as Hill Yard (located southeast of Bloor and Dundas Streets) also served local traffic. Leaside and North Toronto also had small yards. At one time major yards and shops were planned for Leaside (over 1000 acres) on the south side of the mainline opposite the Canadian Northern Railway's similar facilities but only a small yard on the same side as the CNR ever resulted.
Increased traffic and conjestion continued in the Terminal. This was particularly serious during World War II when trains were held out of the yard for many hours waiting room. It was exacerbated by the 1937 abandonment of the line between Lindsay and Orillia forcing all eastbound grain movements from Port Mc.Nicoll to be routed through Lambton. Road engines were left on the train along with their crews waiting to get in the yard. Trains were held waiting power and could not get out of the yard. A classic Catch-22 situation. Crews would sometimes take turns sleeping on the engine or in the van, often waiting many hours for the light to get into the yard. Once they were yarded it was quite likely they would soon be called right back out again, and "booking rest" was frowned upon as there was war going on. At least they were being paid!
Over the years many proposals for adding to the freight yards or relocating them were considered. A major yard to replace Lambton was to be built at Obico (west side of Kipling south of Dundas) next to the cut-off running down from the mainline to the CNR mainline at Canpa which the CPR used to get to Hamilton and Buffalo. It was also next to the mainline (former CVR) running to Galt, London and Windsor. The Great Depression of the 1930's stopped its construction and its absence during the heavy traffic flows of World War II seriously affected operations at the greatly over-taxed Lambton-West Toronto yards. Only a small storage yard was built at Obico but in later years a new facility for handling piggyback (intermodal) traffic was built there and still operates.
About 1949 blueprints were again drawn up for improving things when it was proposed to convert West Toronto into a hump yard. Again, this was cancelled and Lambton struggled on. Again and again new yards were talked about at such places as the Signet area north of Weston, and near Bolton etc. Finally by about 1960 the decision was made to go ahead with a major new yard to replace Lambton and West Toronto. This time it did proceed and in April of 1964 a modern Hump retarder yard and new shops were opened on 432 acres in North East Scarborough. Officially Toronto Yard it is often erroneously referred to as Agincourt Yard for its location. It did not eliminate Lambton, only downgrading it and other smaller yards, finally closing Parkdale. At its peak West Toronto and Lambton yards and shops employed thousands of men all of whom lived very close to their work. In fact, it was a requirement that train crews live within a one mile radius so they could be called for their trains by a call boy. Others lived close by simply for the convenience of getting to work quickly, often by walking. In addition, there was a very good business area in the Junction to serve their needs.