Toronto Belt Line
This illustrated booklet promoted The Toronto Belt Land Corporation in their endeavour to sell land for housing.
Yonge Street scene shows Belt Line train passing over Yonge Street
(looking north) with Metropolitan Railway radial car.
The Toronto Belt Line Railway was one of the more obscure railways, short-lived and ill-conceived it was ahead of its time and doomed to failure.
Incorporated 1889 under Ontario legislation to build from a point on the Grand Trunk Railway in the eastern part of Toronto, or in Township of York, passing to the north of the City and connecting with the GTR to the northwest. A branch up the Don Valley was included.
Passenger trains would operate in both directions in a loop operating over the GTR from downtown Toronto through Parkdale and via the former Ontario, Simcoe and Huron through Davenport to Eglinton Avenue near Caledonia Road where the Belt line connected and ran east through Fairbank to Moore Park and then south down the Don Valley back to Union Station.
Intended as a line to serve nearby villages and areas
far beyond the meagre public transportation available at the time which
consisted largey of horse drawn streetcars it was a 19th century version
of GO Transit. The sparse population in some of these areas and the
somewhat high fares worked against the new railway. Fares were said
to be 5 cents per station which added up if you travelled a long distance.
Even the maximum fare of 25 cents was a significant amount. Newspapers
were 1 cent at the time. Six trains per day operated in both directions
on each loop daily. This was reduced to three each by July 1894. All
passenger service ended November 17, 1894.
Fairbank Station on the TBL was just east of Fairbank Junction on the
This 1890 map shows a proposed connecting track between the two loops. It was never built.
A second belt line was built from the GTR at West Toronto west to Lambton and south on the east side of the Humber River connecting to the GTR mainline at Swansea. This line was even more obscure with only its end portions being retained for freight service to a few local industries. In later years much of the northwest portion would be utilized by the CNER to reroute its Toronto Suburban railway radial line to Guelph away from street running to the Junction following takeover by the Toronto Transportation Commission and conversion to its streetcar system.
A station at Bloor Street just east of Jane Street. On the GTR mainline
were Swansea Station and Howard Station.
Goad's Atlas 1910 Humber Bay
The Toronto Belt Line ran into financial difficulties early on and was unable to complete the line and lease it to the Grand Trunk for 40 years from the time of its completion as had already been agreed upon. Instead, the GTR agreed on June 1, 1892 to take over the work, complete construction and lease the line for 40 years from that date. It was an optimistic arrangement to say the least. Completed in 1892 trains only ran until 1894!
Old Time Trains Archives
This was in fact primarily a real estate venture by Toronto Belt Land Corporation with land holdings in the Fairbanks area around Eglinton and Dufferin Streets. These were to house the commuters who would use the line to and from work as well as for shopping in downtown Toronto since the trains would run all day long. In fact the largest volume of passengers was Sunday excursionists! At the time there was little to do on Sundays after church.
Eventually the Toronto Belt Line was sold December 31, 1943 to Canadian National Railways which continued to operate portions of the track for local industrial freight.
Freight service to local industries retains portions of track.
The right-of-way from Mount Pleasant west over Yonge Street on the railway steel bridge and swinging northwest across Eglinton Avenue West near Chaplin Crescent was changed into a trail after the city acquired it in 1972.
CNR 7446 0-6-0 eastbound over Yonge Street with a cut
of empty flat cars out of TTC Davisville.
CNR 7471 running Extra with new subway cars switching
at Yonge Street. Hand signals worked fine in those days!
CNR 3705 RS-18 switching at lumber yard. Van barely
visible behind engine. Coal silos in distance.
Dominion Coal and Wood silos with plenty of advertising
of what they are selling.
TTC 4504 (note water bumper) St.Clair route destined Eglinton Avenue
northbound on Mount Pleasant at Merton Street.
CNR yard diesel has left the TTC Davisville yard and
shop after having setoff one brand new subway car.
Old Belt Line at Bathurst Street between Shallmar Boulevard
and Roselawn Avenue.
A few small industries remained on the portion west to Caledonia Road including a large lumber company at Dufferin Street right in heart of the Toronto Belt Land properties. This was the last part of the Old Belt Line as it was commonly called to remain in use. It was abandoned circa 1988 when the land was sold off to the city for another trail.
Going west the line served a few small industries into
the 1950's west of Rockcliffe Boulevard (just one long block north of
CPR's Lambton roundhouse). These included Johnson Bonham a small local
retail coal dealer that added furnace oil as times changed. I recall
their small blue tank truck. CIL had a plant a little east of Jane Street
that served some sort of wartime role. The track was cut to the west
where a sand and gravel outfit operated only to be restored during World
War Two. It was again pulled up afterwards. The last segment then known
as Lambton Spur was finally removed by CNR effective February 26, 1980
by which time it ran only to Mileage 0.75 at Symes Road.
Moore Park station in use as a residence after abandonment. This was
the most impressive station on the line.
Heath Street bridge out of service! Just south of Mount Pleasant Cemetery
decades before it officially became a trail.
New bridge for Heath Street looking south with trail in foreground. November 1, 2014 Robert J. Sandusky
Old Mill (long abandoned) Humber
river just north of Bloor Street. Weed covered track indicates likely
Belt Line looking south from Bloor Street. Note old
style signal. c.1893
Former Belt Line station on north side of St.Clair Avenue West at Florence
Crescent one block west of Jane Street.
This angle shows what appears to be an addition at right possibly done
after railway ended use.
Another angle from rear looking east. Florence Crescent in background.
Note: Florence Crescent was curved to the right-of-way north to east
to Jane Street.
West end of west belt north of Corbett Avenue and Jane Street.
Looking east of Jane Street in hollow between Corbett Avenue (north
Of St.Clair Avenue west) and Lambton Avenue.
This view from same location as previous photo. Looking north toward
TIR 44 4-4-2T acq. 12/1927 ex CNR 44 ex GTR 1533 ex TBL. GTR #1251
3/1892. Scrapped 1931.
One of five tank engines built in the GTR Point St. Charles Shops for
the Toronto Belt Line Ry.
NOTE: There are no known photographs of Toronto Belt Line Railway trains or locomotive
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