Toronto Feature: Canada's First Subway

This text is from the free Toronto in Time app, which was created by The Canadian Encyclopedia. The app is available from the App Store and the Google Play store. Visit its companion website, which is linked below, to explore all the features of the app online.

Subway Ride
Riding the new subway system, circa 1960s (public domain).
Bloor Subway Station
The Bloor subway station, circa 1960s (courtesy City of Toronto Archives).
Subway Construction
Yonge Street subway construction, circa 1950s (courtesy City of Toronto Archives/Fonds 1128, Series 381, File 15, Item 6207-2).

Toronto Feature: Canada's First Subway

"Canada's first Subway"

This text is from the free Toronto in Time app, which was created by The Canadian Encyclopedia. The app is available from the App Store and the Google Play store. Visit its companion website, which is linked below, to explore all the features of the app online.

The end of the Second World War in 1945 meant that the growth of the City of Toronto, suppressed after 15 years of depression and war, would suddenly explode. This prospect persuaded the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) that bold action had to be taken to prevent the city from choking on its own traffic. On 8 September 1949, Ontario's Lieutenant-Governor Ray Lawson pushed a switch to drive the first steel pile into place at Yonge and Queen streets, on Canada's first underground transit line, the Yonge Street Subway.

Most of the subway was built using the "cut-and-cover" technique because it was far less expensive than boring a tunnel. As crowds gathered to watch, a large trench was dug into Yonge Street, utilities relocated, and steel cross members welded into place to support a deck that allowed traffic to return to the street while work proceeded beneath. It was a major disruption to Toronto's busy main street.

Ontario Premier Leslie Frost and Toronto Mayor Allan Lamport officially opened the Yonge Subway on 30 March 1954, at Davisville Station. It was a shining beacon of the optimism and growth of the post-war age. Still, TTC Chairman McBrien noted in his speech that the Yonge Subway was "not the final solution of Toronto's traffic problems. It is only the start of combating this monster." The comment is even truer 60 years later.


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