Radial Railway History
The electric streetcar is one of the most popular transportation methods in New Toronto, even today. They were called the radial railways because of the way the lines “radiated” in many directions out of the city. On November 14, 1890, the Toronto & Mimico Electric Railway & Light Company was incorporated, to not only build a railway to connect the residents to the city, but also to sell electric power as a source of additional revenue. The Transit Toronto website tells us that:
“York County approved construction on December 23 and granted the company a 21 year franchise. Etobicoke Township and the provincial legislature passed similar enabling bylaws and acts soon afterward.
The Toronto and Mimico was to build to a gauge of 4 feet and 10-7/8 inches — the same as was used by the Toronto Railway Company of the time. The provincial legislation granted the company the right to expropriate land for stations and right-of-way and also allowed for an extension east to Dufferin Street (likely along the waterfront). Construction began in August 1891 from the corner of Queen and Roncesvalles and headed slowly west. On July 16, 1892, almost a year later, the line made it to the Humber River. This stub proved popular with visitors to the beaches along Humber Bay, but with the line of no use to Mimico and New Toronto residents, revenues dried up in the fall and winter months. The railroad needed help.
Toronto’s railroad mogul William MacKenzie bailed out the Toronto and Mimico railway, purchasing the line on July 1, 1893. The line was extended to Mimico Creek on July 10, 1893, and then opened for service as far west as Kipling Avenue on September 29, 1893. Ridership increased as the line pushed further west into Long Branch, with service to Etobicoke Creek beginning July 1, 1895. Although primarily a single-track line along the north side of Lake Shore Road offering 20-minute frequencies during the day, the line began turning modest profits, while the villages along the route benefited from the increased pace of development the line allowed. The first five years were something of a honeymoon.”
The early cars were produced by the Toronto Railway Company, Car Shops located at Frederick and Front Streets. In 1896, the shops produced four large double truck open cars for the Toronto & Mimico Electric Railway. Toronto Railway Company. Continuing from the Transit Toronto website:
“In 1903, the Toronto and Mimico railroad received permission to extend its operation further west, to Hamilton, and to connect with other railways. This required the line to regauge itself from the TTC gauge to the standard railway gauge of 4 feet 8-1/2 inches. The railroad entered into an agreement with the Hamilton Radial Electric Railway to bridge the gap between Toronto and Hamilton, with the former building west, the latter building east, and the two meeting in Oakville. This optimistic extension would prove to hurt the line. Although the Hamilton Radial Electric Railway would make it to Oakville, the Toronto and Mimico would have difficulty making it to Port Credit. A landowner on the west side of Etobicoke Creek refused to allow the line to cross his land, and only backed down after considerable negotiations. The railroad reached Hurontario Street on December 24, 1905, and would reach the Credit River on November 19, 1906 before money ran out. The gap between Port Credit and Oakville, although surveyed, would never see interurban operation.”
From 1903 to 1904 the T&MERLC became the Toronto & Mimico Railway Company (T&MRyCo) and on November 1, 1904 was merged into the Toronto Railway Company (TRC). In 1904, the line became the Toronto & York Radial Railway Company (T&YRR), Mimico Division. In 1922, the system was acquired by the City of Toronto, and by 1928 had converted its tracks to match those of the Toronto streetcar system. Please read the account on the Transit Toronto website for continuing details. The site even has a historical photograph of a streetcar turn around at the Kipling loop.
The Toronto Transit Commission – History website has some interesting details posted on their history pages. Even more specific to the New Toronto area, the University of Manitoba website has posted a good historical website on transit history. The Halton County Radial Railway Museum has an exhibit of Car 2786 that was used for the New Toronto/Long Branch run in 1923. The HCRR is currently restoring Car 416 which was in use on the New Toronto line for a short time in the 1920’s.
An excellent book that describes the radial history in depth is Riding The Radials by Robert M. Stamp (Boston Mills Press, 1989). To the left is one page from the book showing the line along Lakeshore Road in 1927.