Text by James Bow.
Follow the map to York Mills Town, east of Leslie and walk around, go to the bridge and look down, and you will see the last trolley bus in T.O. Town...
Okay, so I can't write treasure map poetry. Sue me.
But you will find an unexpected treasure near where York Mills crosses over the CN rail tracks where GO Trains run to Richmond Hill. It is perhaps the last trolley bus still to be found in the city of Toronto. Bus 9240 sits forlorn in a parking lot of a factory at York Mills and Leslie. What it's doing there is something of a mystery, as is its future. Its past, however, is an interesting story.
So, what is this trolley bus doing here, some five years after trolley buses stopped running on Toronto streets? It's not even one of the Edmonton models, which the TTC leased to continue trolley bus service during the brief reprieve of 1993 (those were sent back to Edmonton upon completion of the lease). The answer is, bus 9240 was lucky enough, after being stored in Birchmount Garage until 1995, to be purchased by a club operating out of Centennial College Astonbee campus. This club made a hobby of restoring old electric vehicles, and set to work there bringing this vehicle back to operating condition.
Unfortunately, it didn't go well. Apparently, the plan was to affix batteries to the bus and run it around; the only feasible method for doing this, considering that none of the trolley bus overhead wires were still strung up. However, the club found that after affixing the batteries, the bus had become too heavy to move. So much for forward planning. So Bus 9240 sat at the college until people got fed up with it and kicked it out. How it ended up in the factory parking lot is anybody's guess; perhaps the factory purchased it as a storage shed, or a lunch area, or perhaps somebody charged with getting rid of the bus just dumped it there and left it. Your guess is as good as mine.
This bus sits exposed to the elements and, unfortunately, vandals. Aaron Adel took these pictures and saw it in a pretty sorry state.
Bus 9240 still retains most of its windows, a trolley pole and its colour scheme. Exposed to the elements, however, it's doubtful how long that's going to continue. Bus 9240 is missing its rollsign and its builder plate and sits in plain view on a parking lot of a factory. Perhaps that has offered some protection from vandals, but Aaron was able to take these pictures without being approached. It remains in good condition, with its body intact, and its interior sheltered and largely untouched. I hope that this page gives somebody the impetus to purchase this bus and hand it to a railway museum like the Halton County Radial Railway. Portions of this bus are now 51 years old, since this bus is one of the batch that were purchased in 1947 and rebuilt in the early 1970s. It would provide, I believe, a fine addition to any collection; it is, after all, a piece of Toronto history. It may have been the last trolley bus stored on TTC property, and it is probably the last trolley bus to be found in the City of Toronto.
(Update: March 18, 1999): An anonymous reader wrote me to add an addenum to this story. In his words, "In the summer of 98, the bus became temporary living quarters for lonely kittins from an abandoned litter. Three university students, working in the area, found the kittens and, prior to turning them to the Humane Society, provided them with food and used the bus as temporary shelter."
(Update: April 5, 2006): Toronto's last trolley bus has been removed from its parking lot to the scrapper, and is now but a memory.
Other Trolley Bus Treasure Hunting
Bus 9240 isn't the only trolley bus treasure to be found in Southern Ontario. In Toronto, some evidence of trolley bus operation still remain, including the poles used to hold up the electrical wires. Lake Shore Boulevard East between Freeland and Jarvis is one example, and two unused vertical poles on the north side of Eglinton near Eglinton station are another. These examples are slowly fading. Yorkville Avenue between Bay and Yonge used to have these poles long after trolley bus service ceased, but these have finally been removed.
But the only place where you'll find trolley buses operating in Ontario may be at the Halton County Railway Museum. They've taken possession of a number of trolley buses from Toronto and Hamilton, and their long term plans include building a road and a streetscape and operating the trolley buses alongside their streetcars. This plan requires considerable money, time and effort, however, but it is the Museum's hope.