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Route 512L - The Earlscourt Streetcar

Nordheimer Ravine

Jerry Appleman took this shot of ex-Kansas City PCC 4760 in service on the Earlscourt route, near the Northheimer Ravine.

Text by James Bow.

The Route at the Time of Dissolution

The Earlscourt streetcar ran as a separate route into the very early eighties. At the time of its dissolution, it operated during rush hours only, between St. Clair West Station and Earlscourt Loop (at Lansdowne and St. Clair) via St. Clair. It provided additional rush-hour service between these two points along St. Clair Avenue.

The 512L designation for this route comes from the time when route numbers replaced route names on streetcar rollsigns. On the PCCs’ side rollsigns only, there was placed the designation 512L. This was the only case when streetcars ever displayed a lettered branch of a streetcar route. After Earlscourt disappeared from TTC transfers, this designation was used by all St. Clair rush-hour PCC streetcars short-turning at Lansdowne and it probably fell into disuse before PCC streetcars disappeared from regular service on St. Clair Avenue.

A History of St Clair’s Second Streetcars

The Earlscourt streetcar came into being on March 30, 1954, the same day as the Yonge Subway opened. The timing wasn’t a coincidence, as this was the same day that Bay streetcars disappeared from the system. Although Earlscourt dates back only to 1954, it has ancestors stretching back to Monday, December 26, 1921, when Avenue Road streetcars, which had previously turned back at St. Clair, were extended west along St. Clair Avenue to the end of the line. At that time, St. Clair streetcars were cut back temporarily between crossovers at Avenue Road and Yonge Street until two years later, when St. Clair cars were operating along the full route from Yonge to Keele. Even after St. Clair’s reinstatement, Avenue Road cars (soon to be renamed Bay) continued to operate along St. Clair Avenue, duplicating service west of Avenue Road.

In 1954, when streetcars were removed from Avenue Road, traffic patterns must still have required additional service east of Earlscourt (Lansdowne) loop. Moreover, passengers were used to more than one streetcar route along St. Clair, using St. Clair cars to travel all the way to Keele, and understanding that Bay or some other car usually operated only as far as Lansdowne. So, the TTC maintained additional service east of Earlscourt Loop and, to identify this special service, the TTC labeled the new route Earlscourt.

Earlscourt and St. Clair shared service along St. Clair Avenue for nearly three decades after that. Sometimes, St. Clair operated only between Yonge Street and Keele, with Earlscourt operating between the Eglinton/Mount Pleasant intersection and Lansdowne. Other times, Earlscourt operated west of Yonge, while St. Clair handled the whole route, including the Mount Pleasant portion until March 30, 1975, when a new Mount Pleasant streetcar route was created and St. Clair and Earlscourt cars terminated at St. Clair station on the Yonge subway. The Mount Pleasant route was converted to bus effective July 25, 1976. Earlscourt cars never operated west of the loop for which they were named.

The Reasons for Dissolution

At first, Earlscourt operated full service (St. Clair was solely responsible for night service along the route), but gradually service was cut back. Travel patterns changed over time, such that demand west of Lansdowne Avenue began to catch up to traffic demands east of Lansdowne Avenue. When the Spadina Subway opened in 1978, Earlscourt was a shadow of its former self, operating during rush-hours only from St. Clair West Station to Lansdowne.

At that time, the TTC was probably already considering simplifying the route structure along St. Clair Avenue, so that people didn’t have to choose between two route names. When the new rollsigns on the CLRV cars spurred the replacement of route names by route numbers, Earlscourt was not deemed important enough to merit its own number. Except for the 512L designation on certain PCC streetcars, the Earlscourt streetcar disappeared as an independent route.

Today, the remnants of Earlscourt operate as a morning rush-hour only supplementary service of St. Clair streetcars short-turning at Lansdowne Avenue.


512L Earlscourt Image Archive


Special Thanks to Mark Brader and Ray Corley for his assistance in the construction of this page. Thanks to New York City Subway Resources for the use of their photographs.