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Old Time Trains

The Junction and Its Railways

Raymond L. Kennedy

This is the real Junction for which the community was named. The junction of various railway lines at West Toronto Diamond.
Old Weston Road bridge, looking southeast, CPR freight crossing GTR tracks, entering West Toronto Yard. CPR Depot in upper right. Taken from the roof of Campbell Milling Company, July 28, 1920. Arthur S. Goss/City of Toronto Archives


The Junction has a long history, one closely connected to the railways and street railways that have served it for more than a century and a half. The most prominent was the Canadian Pacific Railway which had undertaken what the federal government could not do; build a railway to the Pacific. It also built and acquired lines in the east to form a link between England and the Orient as well as connecting to railways in the United States; all of which was reached through West Toronto.

The CPR was not the first railway to pass through West Toronto. This distinction went to the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, a predecessor of the Canadian National; however, pass through it did since there was no station in what was to become West Toronto. The Grand Trunk was busy building its own empire in Ontario from Montreal through Toronto and the Junction to Stratford, the US border and beyond. Using the charter of the un-built Toronto and Guelph Railway the GTR went through in 1856; opening from Queen's Wharf to Berlin (Kitchener) July 1, 1856 and Stratford on November 17, 1856. The GTR commenced through passenger service between Montreal and Toronto on October 27, 1856 with great celebrations being held in Kingston to celebrate this accomplishment. And quite an accomplishment it was to be able to make the trip in "only" 14 hours! Prior to that travel was an arduous journey by steamboats and stagecoaches taking three full days with overnight stays along the way. The St. Lawrence River offered more comfortable travel by ship except when it was frozen. During that part of the year there was no other choice than stages except to stay home! The Ontario lines from the east to the west were connected through downtown Toronto in 1857.

However, the first railway through the area was the very first railway in Ontario; the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Rail Road which passed a little to the east through Davenport on its way from downtown Toronto to Machell's Corners (Aurora) before building on to the port of Collingwood. The "Oats, Straw & Hay" as the OS&H was colloquially known as began operating with its first passenger train leaving Toronto on May 16, 1853. It later became the Northern Railway of Canada and then was absorbed into the GTR, eventually being taken over by Canadian National Railways along with many other financially troubled railways the federal government was compelled to rescue.

The Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway passed through in 1871 from Parkdale stopping at nearby Carlton as it made its way north to Weston, Woodbridge, Bolton, Orangeville and eventually Owen Sound.

Then came the Credit Valley Railway opening in 1879 from Parkdale through West Toronto and Lambton (Nov.5th.) to Streetsville where a branch went north to Orangeville and Elora while the main line continued westward through Woodstock to St. Thomas where in 1881 it connected with US railways to reach Chicago.


Track gauge

There were three gauges of track used by Toronto railways, four if you count the street railways. The first was the Provincial (broad) gauge of 5 feet, 6 inches used by the OS&H, GWR and GTR. Second was the narrow Colonial gauge of 3 feet, 6 inches used by the TG&B. Third was the standard (Stephenson) gauge of 4 feet, 8 and one half inches, the gauge used today throughout North America. The street railways were built to the horse car gauge of 4 feet 10 and 3/4 inches. (The TTC changed this to 4 10 7/8 and is still in use today even on the subway.) This was chosen to allow horse drawn wagons to ride on the track to avoid rutting dirt roads in the city.

Uniformity of gauge was essential to efficient interchange of freight cars between railways. The savings of lower construction costs of narrow gauge were outweighed by the inconvenience of transhipping freight just as was the case with the broad gauge lines. The TG&B was standard gauged in December 1881. The GTR in October 1873. The Northern in 1875.


The Junction is Born

It all began when the Canadian Pacific Railway expanding its vast system in 1882 purchased 46 acres of land on which to build its West Toronto freight yard and shops needed to replace inadequate facilities of the Credit Valley Railway in Parkdale which it had already acquired control of. When the move was finally made in 1890 following settlement of an agreement with the village, it brought with it 275 jobs but, this soon increased to 1,000. The railway to the Pacific had only been completed on November 7, 1885, yet, expansion in the east came through acquisition of other railways or new charters granted under other names but, built in the interests of the CPR. The Ontario & Quebec Railway was the biggest, running from Perth, where it connected to other CPR lines from Montreal and beyond, to Toronto where it connected in 1884 with the Credit Valley at Toronto Junction, later renamed West Toronto. Here, the lines all met or crossed each other thus, a junction, located at (Old) Weston Road just east of Keele Street.

The town began when D. W. Clendenan and D.J.Laws, seized the opportunity created by the coming of the Canadian Pacific Railway to purchase an estate of 240 acres bounded by Keele and Dundas, Lake View Road (Evelyn Avenue) to the west and Bloor Street to the south. Here they contracted for the grading of over five miles of streets, planted over 1, 500 shade trees (how many developers do that today?) and then sold 400 lots to 170 people. Not only would railroaders need homes but, industry would follow the railway and their workers too would need housing.

Map West Toronto 1910

The Village of West Toronto Junction was incorporated in June 1887 at which time the population of this portion of York Township was 879. To this was added the Village of Carlton and the Village of Davenport to the northwest on January 1, 1888 doubling the size to 480 acres. Later, on April 22, 1889 it became the Town of West Toronto; however, the name was changed in 1892 to Town of Toronto Junction with the approval of the CPR. It became in 1908, the City of West Toronto and, eventually, in 1909 the expanded City of West Toronto was amalgamated into the City of Toronto.

Travel between outlaying communities such as the Junction, Weston, Mimico etc. to downtown Toronto was for many years provided by regular steam powered railways as the distances were great for slow moving streetcars first pulled by horses while the automobile was only for the well to do. There were frequent regular CPR trains between the Junction, Parkdale and Union Station as they travelled between cities as far away as London and Owen Sound.

GTR Suburban Time Table 1891
Collection of Derek Boles


Street Railways

Guelph Radial


Industry and Business

Heintzman's picnic train hauled by Grand Trunk 334 going to unknown destination.
West Toronto Junction Historical Society archives.


Industry attracted by the railways came to the Junction and nearby communities early and brought with it jobs and taxation. The first factory was the Canada Wire Mattress Company which moved from Toronto in 1887 to (Old) Weston Road beside where it built a three-storey 50 by 160 foot factory beside the CPR tracks. The biggest were also some of the earliest including the Heintzman and Company piano factory in 1888 which relocated from Toronto; and Campbell Flour Mills Company Ltd. in 1892 whose owner Archibald Campbell relocated there from Chatham. His banker, the Bank of Commerce followed him, setting up the second bank in the Junction after Molson's Bank. Many more banks would follow in the years to come including The Dominion Bank, The Home Bank of Canada, Sterling Bank of Canada and Bank of Toronto.

Map Junction June 1889

Dodge Manufacturing Company of Toronto Limited; manufacturers of the Dodge Wood Split Pulley and other factory equipment including grain elevator machinery moved to Pelham Avenue in 1888 from Toronto. Map 1889. It expanded in 1901 spending $40,000 building additional factories and office buildings and going from 200 workers to 500. The Pugsley Dingman Company's Comfort Soap works produced a product used by households all across Canada. Gurney Foundry a stove maker also moved in 1887 to the Junction from Toronto. The Wilkinson Plough Company was another early industry that relocated from Aurora in 1889 having been established there since 1868.

CCM were the second most famous in the area after those of the CPR. Canadian Cycle and Motor Company made bicycles in enormous quantity at a time when bicycle riding was a popular craze. CCM was created in 1901 from the
H.A. Lozier and Company makers of the Cleveland Cycle on Weston Road north of St.Clair. Bicycles weren't the only form of transportation CCM made. The coming of the "horseless carriage" as motors cars were first referred to, saw it expand into that business soon creating the Russell Motor Car Company. This Canadian car company was bought out in late 1915 by Willys-Overland Motor Company makers of Willys-Knight , Overland and Whippet automobiles at which time production of the Russell ended. Following bankruptcy in 1934 the auto plant was acquired by another CCM subsidiary, Canadian Acme Screw and Gear Ltd. a business which lasted until 1967.

 

Other early industries included Watt Milling and Feed and Toronto Auto Top and Body where the nearby Chevrolet plant got components.

Brick manufacturing was another industry in the area, one that produce many millions of bricks annually at numerous brickyards in Carlton West and West Toronto to handle the construction boom. There was even a gravel pit operated by Alexander Heydon on the north side Davenport Road between Laughton Avenue and Queen Street (Osler Street) that operated between 1905 and 1913.

 

Prominent in the area's history from an early date were the Stock Yards and Packing Houses


CGE Davenport, Lansdowne and Canada Foundry.

Map 1910


A major industry with a long history that included building steam locomotives was located a little farther away from the Junction on the east side of the old Northern Railway of Canada where it crossed the CPR's Ontario & Quebec line. It stretched from Davenport Road south to the CPR on both sides of Lansdowne Avenue and later south of the CPR on the west side only.

It all closed down in the 1980's and some years later the buildings on the east side of Lansdowne north of the CPR were demolished and housing built there.


The decline of the Junction.

Just as it was the coming of the CPR and the industry it attracted that built the Junction so too was it the departure of the CPR and that industry that brought about its decline. It began in 1964 with the closing of the CPR shops on West Toronto Street at the same time as the main freight train marshalling was relocated to Agincourt where a new modern hump yard many times the size of Lambton and West Toronto Yards replaced a facility cramped for decades with no room to expand. With it went thousands of well paid union jobs with only a very small number remaining for local requirements.

Further decline followed with the closing of the large Canada Packers meat plant with hundreds more good jobs and then the Ontario Stock Yards. Most manufacturing industry also disappeared before and afterwards; leaving little in the way of employment. What little remains is being squeezed out by residential redevelopment that is not compatible. Even the loss of retail chain stores and other long established businesses along Dundas Street brought about further decline to a once vital area.

Redevelopment in the area has consisted mostly of big box stores and fast food places (few if any of which are known to provide good paying jobs) on the old stock yards and part of the CPR yard drawing people away from the Junction. Housing was built on the old Canada Packers site and the small CNR yard on the northeast corner of Keele and St.Clair. High rise condos are being sold on what was once the Henitzman piano factory site. The Junction itself struggles to survive in the 21st century with little in sight to offer any promise of revival to anywhere near its former glory.



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