Trusty Townsley Loop

PCC 4549 in Loop in 1999, by James Bow

Article by James Bow.

Townsley Loop sits at the northwest corner of Old Weston Road and Townsley Street, one block north of St. Clair. It is one of the oldest loops on the St. Clair carline, but it does not see regular streetcar service. Located barely two blocks east of Gunns Loop (St. Clair’s western terminus) and accessed only via a congested intersection, it serves little purpose as a short turn loop, and yet it remains. Although not a pretty loop like High Park, it is likely that the only streetcars which have visited it in the past two years have been charters, possibly because organizers sense that Townsley Loop may not be around for much longer (although there are no plans on the TTC’s books to rip up the track).

Although Townsley shares a physical connection with the St. Clair streetcar, historically, there has been little connection between this loop and St. Clair at all. Townsley Loop’s history is tied closer to the history of streetcars on Davenport Road and the Toronto Suburban Railway.

The Toronto Suburban Railway, who built lines serving the Junction and the village of Weston as well as interurban lines to Woodbridge and Guelph, operated a single track streetcar service along St. Clair Avenue, Ford Street and Davenport Road to Bathurst. When the TTC took over the TSR’s operations, the history of Townsley Loop began. The TTC set to work double-tracking and regauging the Toronto Suburban trackage, and the Davenport interurban line was integrated into the rest of the streetcar network. The Davenport route itself shrunk to a shuttle service between Bathurst Street and Dovercourt Road, while the DOVERCOURT streetcar was extended north of Dupont Street and west on Davenport and north on Old Weston Road (the track on Ford Street having been abandoned). On January 20, 1924, Townsley Loop opened, and served cars heading south on Old Weston Road, not east on St. Clair. The St. Clair streetcar, which until a few months beforehand had looped to the east of the site, had already been extended one block west to Keele Street.

The DOVERCOURT streetcar continued to serve Townsley Loop until 1947, when portions of its route were replaced by the Ossington Trolley Bus. When that happened, the TTC rerouted the HARBORD streetcar onto Dovercourt Road and Davenport Road and into Townsley Loop. This arrangement lasted until November 1956, when the TTC cut back HARBORD service to a new loop at St. Clarens and Davenport (one block east of Lansdowne Avenue) to make way for sewer work on Old Weston Road. The Keele bus was extended along Davenport Road to compensate. This section of track featured one of the last grade crossings between streetcar tracks and railroad tracks, and the safety factor may have influenced the decision to pull back the Harbord Streetcar. Ironically, shortly after the cutback, the city of Toronto installed an underpass beneath the CNR tracks, removing the cause for concern.

Despite losing regular streetcar service, Townsley Loop remained. As streetcar cutbacks continued, the ST. CLAIR line was isolated more and more from the rest of the system. The shortening of the HARBORD route removed the last connection to the rest of the streetcar network outside of Bathurst Street. The possibility of diverting streetcar service onto alternate streets should St. Clair be closed temporarily had been out of the question since the late 1930s. Given this, perhaps the TTC felt that it needed as many short-turning options as possible in order to maintain reliable service on St. Clair. Whatever the case, Townsley Loop remained available for service if required of it, until 2005.

In mid-August 2003, deteriorating track conditions forced the TTC to take the loop out of service for streetcars. A section of track leading out of the loop was removed and the hole in Old Weston Road filled with concrete. CLRV 4033 was the last vehicle to use Townsley Loop earlier in the year, pushed there after suffering an accident.

Today, Townsley Loop serves as the turning point for the 168 SYMINGTON bus.


It Ain’t Pretty, But…

PCC 4759 at St. Clair station

PCC 4759 pauses at St. Clair station on a wintry day in 1976, signed for a rare run to Townsley loop. Photo by Joseph Testagrose, courtesy New York City Subway Resources.

ALRV squeezes into Townsley Loop

ALRV 4223 has to twist very tight to get around Townsley Loop. This visit was one of the photo stops for a February 1998 charter. The ALRV’s mirror struck a pole close to the tracks and made a loud and alarming twang, but there was no damage.

PCC 4549 in Loop in 1999, by James Bow

The flea market behind PCC 4549 is a relatively recent neighbour to the loop, but the area has always been a mixture of residential, commercial and industrial uses…

Witt 2766b in Townsley Loop in the 1960s, by Joseph Testagrose

This 1960s photograph of Witt 2766, taken by Joseph Testagrose, shows how much Townsley Loop has changed over the years. What is today a flea market was once an industrial lot.

PCC 4367 on Davenport

PCC 4367 is running on Davenport Road as part of a westbound Harbord run. Townsley Loop is its destination, although the sign says just ‘St. Clair’. This early 1950s shot is donated by Curt Frey.

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One of the last days Townsley loop saw significant streetcar service was on July 14, 2003, when an accident at the St. Clair/Keele intersection forced the TTC to short turn the St. Clair streetcar at Old Weston Road. Rob Hutchinson was on hand to catch CLRV 4177 in the loop. Note the Old Weston Road rollsign, rarely seen in service.

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One of the last visitors to Townsley loop was chartered PCC 4500 on November 27, 2004. Photo by Rob Hutchinson.

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Townsley Loop, shot by Glenn Kapasky in early September 2005, showing the section of track removed and replaced with concrete.

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A close-up of the removed track, in daylight, showing the dilapidated condition of the remaining track. Photo by Glenn Kapasky.

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Townsley Loop, with removed track in foreground, in use by Symington buses.


References

  • Bromley, John F., and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders’ Association, New York (New York), 1978.
  • Filey, Mike, Not a One-Horse Town: 125 Years of Toronto and its Streetcars, Gagne Printing, Louiseville (Quebec), 1986.
  • Hood, J. William, The Toronto Civic Railways: An Illustrated History, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1986.