Toronto Railway Company

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Toronto Railway Company
Dates of operation1891–1921
PredecessorToronto Street Railways
SuccessorToronto Transportation Commission
Track gauge4 ft 10 78 in (1,495 mm) Toronto gauge
Maintenance car, with crane, replacing track on Queen and Bond Streets (April 29, 1917)

The Toronto Railway Company (TRC) was the operator of the streetcar system in Toronto between 1891 and 1921. It electrified the horsecar system it inherited from the previous operator.

On August 15, 1892, the TRC became the second operator of horseless streetcars in the Toronto area, the first being the Metropolitan Street Railway which electrified its horsecar line along Yonge Street within the Town of North Toronto on September 1, 1890. (In 1912, the City of Toronto would annex North Toronto.)[1]


Formed by a partnership between James Ross and William Mackenzie, a 30-year franchise was granted in 1891 to modernize transit operations after a previous 30 year franchise that saw horse car service from the Toronto Street Railways (TSR). At the end of the TSR franchise, the city ran the railway for eight months, but ended up granting another 30-year franchise to a private operator, the TRC. The first electric car ran on August 15, 1892, and the last horse car ran on August 31, 1894, to meet franchise requirements.

On May 23, 1897, Sunday streetcar service started after city voters gave approval in a referendum earlier that month. This was controversial at the time; churches feared Sunday streetcar service would lead to other activities inappropriate for a Sunday such as sporting events and the sale of alcoholic beverages. The referendum, which had been preceded by two prior unsuccessful attempts, was won by a narrow margin of 0.7 per cent out of 32,000 votes cast.[2]

There came to be problems with interpretation of the franchise terms, for the city. A series of annexations, especially in 1908–12, significantly extended the city limits to include such areas as Dovercourt, Earlscourt, East Toronto, Midway (formerly between Toronto and East Toronto), North Toronto, and West Toronto. After many attempts to force the TRC to serve these areas, the city created its own street railway operation, the Toronto Civic Railways to do so, and built several routes. Repeated court battles did force the TRC to build new cars, but they were of old design. When the TRC franchise ended in 1921, the Toronto Transportation Commission was created, combining with the city-operated Toronto Civic Railways lines.


TRC Subway
Queen Line
Bloor–Danforth Line
to Lake Shore Boulevard
and Roncesvalles Avenue
to Bloor Street West
and Dundas Street
Roncesvalles Av.
Dundas St.
Lansdowne Av.
Dufferin St.
Dovercourt Rd.
Dundas St.
(now Ossington Av.)
Bathurst St.
Bathurst St.
Yonge Line
Yonge St.
Yonge St.
Sherbourne Av.
Sherbourne Av.
Broadview Av.
Broadview Av.
Pape Av.
to Danforth Avenue
and Broadview Avenue
Coxwell Av.
to Queen Street East
and Kingston Road
Yonge Line
to Yonge Street
and St. Clair Avenue
St. Clair Av.
south of St. Clair Av.
north of Davenport Rd.
south of Davenport Rd.
Bloor–Danforth Line
Bloor St.
Dundas St.
Queen Line
City Hall
Front St.

The TRC had a proposal for a subway-like line under Queen Street using streetcars, but the idea died after a city vote rejected the proposal in 1910.

The proposed system consisted of three underground routes: streetcar tunnels under Queen and Bloor Streets, and a rapid transit subway along Yonge Street. These routes would have connected with surface streetcar routes and radial railways.


Map of Toronto streetcar routes in 1912


TRC streetcars on King Street in 1900.

The TRC streetcars were made of wood and after 1906 the basic design of their cars did not change. All but ten of the TRC cars were built in-house at their car works at Front and Frederick Streets.

Because of a narrow devilstrip (distance between tracks), later cars were built with a taper to the roof on the passing side, and car bodies were offset to the right by four inches. The idea was to build a wider car and still safely pass another car traveling in the opposite direction.

Very early on, in 1894 the TRC decided on single-end operation. Many of the early streetcars were 'open' cars, where one entered from either side of the car, but with single-ended operation, only the curb 'near' side of the car was left open. In other Canadian cities (e.g., London, Montreal), this form of open car became common. Open cars carried huge loads of people, because there were no aisles.

In warm weather, people loved open cars. When it rained, there were side curtains that one could unroll from the roof to keep one dry. When it was cold, open cars were not so attractive, so the TSR developed a 'convertible car' in which the nearside of the car could be removed in the spring, and re-connected in the fall, thus changing from an open car to a closed car.

The TRC also had a subsidiary company, the Convertible Car Company of Toronto, that built cars for systems in Mexico, South America, and Western Canada. Several large interurban cars were turned out for the Toronto and York Radial Railway.

The TRC never had a steel car, but by 1921, the city-operated Toronto Civic Railways had both single and double truck steel cars, including the standardized Birney Car.

Some used TRC cars were sold to Winnipeg Electric Street Railway Company and Winnipeg Electric Railway Company.

Product list and details
 Builder   Description   Fleet size   Year acquired   Year retired   Notes 
TRC SE-ST-T - single end single truck 1893-1894 rebuilt 363-409 (G2) sold to Monterrey, Mexico after 1908 [3]
James Crossen-Cobourg Car Works (Cobourg ON) SE-ST-M - single end, single truck 10 c. 1911 1921?
TRC DE-DT-T - double end, double truck 1896
TRC SE-DT-M - single end double truck 1904? 1951 Car 1326 of this group is at the Halton County Radial Railway.


Facility details
 Yard   Location   Year Open   Notes 
Dundas Carhouse Dundas Street West and Howard Park Avenue 1907-1921 transfer to Toronto Transportation Commission 1921-1954; demolished in the 1930s.
Roncesvalles Carhouse Roncesvalles Avenue and Queen Street West 1895-1921 transfer to Toronto Transportation Commission 1921-1954 and rebuilt; still used by the Toronto Transit Commission
Russell (Connaught) Carhouse Connaught Avenue and Queen Street East 1913-1921 transfer to Toronto Transportation Commission 1921-1954 and rebuilt; still used by the Toronto Transit Commission
King Carhouse King Street East and River Street 1887-1921 Transfer to Toronto Transportation Commission and demolished upon completion of rebuilt Russell Carhouse. Suffered from fire twice (first in March 1912 and again on December 28, 1916) during operation.[4] Now a courtyard for condo complex at 45 St. Lawrence Street.
Yorkville Stables Yorkville Avenue near Yonge Street north of Bloor Street 1860s-? Original Toronto Street Railway horsecar barn built next to Yorkville Town Hall and transfer to TRC which the facility; demolished 2007 and now a condo.

Other Facilities[edit]

  • 165 Front Street East - acquired in 1891 for Toronto Street Railway, which had used it as horse stables 1887 to 1891; became electrical generating plant 1891-1906, then as storage space by TRC (1906-1921) and TTC (1921-1970s); deemed surplus and turned over to the City who lease it to the Young People's Theatre 1977


After losing routes to the TTC in 1921, TRC ceased to exist when it was legally dissolved in 1930.


  • "A Very, Very Brief History of Transit in Toronto". Transit Toronto. 2006-11-10. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
  1. ^ Robert M. Stamp (1989). Riding the Radials, Toronto's Suburban Electric Streetcar Lines. The Boston Mills Press. ISBN 1-55046-008-0. Retrieved 2016-04-16. Chapter 1 - The Spinal Cord of Yonge Street
  2. ^ Moore, Oliver (May 23, 2018). "Moment in time: Streetcars begin running on Sunday in Toronto". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved May 23, 2018.
  3. ^
  4. ^

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Toronto Street Railways
Public Transit in Toronto
Succeeded by
Toronto Civic Railways 1915-1921 and Toronto Transportation Commission