Text by James Bow.
Like the King Streetcar, the 505 Dundas Streetcar is a U-shaped route running through Downtown Toronto from Dundas West Station to Broadview Station. Most of the trip follows Dundas Street until Broadview Avenue, after which cars turn north and head for the subway. Along the way, it travels through several transit-friendly neighbourhoods and attractions, including West Toronto, Chinatown, the Eaton Centre, Chinatown East and much more.
Cars operate from as early as 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. at night, seven days a week. The portion of the line between College Street and Dundas West Station is used by the 306 Carlton Night car, giving it night service.
A History of Streetcars on Dundas Street
Up until late in the last century, Dundas Street was the major highway leading west of Toronto. Its curious present-day route was the legacy of the detour it had to take past the swamps that were the predecessors of today’s Grenadier Pond. Despite all this, Dundas Street did not extend into the City of Toronto, instead turning south abruptly at what is now Ossington Avenue and ending at Queen Street. The rest of its present route was comprised of several residential streets of different names. As late as 1910, what is today Dundas Street between Ossington and Bathurst was known as Arthur Street. The many curves Dundas Street takes as it travels through the centre of the city today is due to the fact that these original streets did not line up with each other. Although no longer the sole highway west of Toronto, Dundas Street’s importance increased as a central thoroughfare for burgeoning immigrant neighbourhoods west of the city, and as the main street of the West Toronto Junction.
The earliest predecessor of the Dundas streetcar was the Brockton route, established in 1882 by the Toronto Street Railway company and operating from Front and George Streets via north on George, west on King, north on Yonge, west on Queen, then north on Dundas (Ossington) and west on Dundas to Brockton Village, ending at Dufferin Street. Service was later extended northwest to Lansdowne Avenue by 1891. The Toronto Railway Company electrified the route on October 9, 1893 and rechristened it Dundas.
Under the TRC, service was soon extended northwest beyond Bloor, to a wye at Humberside Avenue. The TRC then purchased running rights from the Toronto Suburban Railway, and extended tracks to Keele Street in the heart of the West Toronto Junction. By 1910, Dundas Cars were running from a wye at Dundas and Keele, southeast along Dundas to Ossington, and then along Arthur Street to Bathurst. There, the cars turned south to Queen and then east along Queen to loop via York, Richmond and Victoria.
On to Dundas East
It took longer for tracks to spring up on Dundas Street East, but even when these materialized, these were not immediately connected to the Dundas tracks in the west. In 1921, when the Toronto Transportation Commission took over streetcar operations from the Toronto Railway Company, Winchester streetcars were operating from a downtown loop of Richmond, Church and Adelaide to run via Victoria, Dundas and Parliament, ending their route along a single track at Winchester and Sumach in the heart of Cabbagetown. By this time, Dundas cars were proceeding east of Bathurst to Bay Street (then known as Terauley), looping via Bay, Richmond, Victoria and Queen. A two block gap separated the two sets of tracks.
After the TTC took over, it set to work connecting the Dundas East tracks with the Dundas west tracks. Tracks were built over the bridge over the Don to Broadview, and over the gap between Victoria and Bay streets, but no through service was established. In the west, Dundas cars operated from a loop at Runnymede Road, along Dundas Street, to Elizabeth, looping via Elizabeth, Louisa, James and Albert Streets — the famous City Hall loop. The first City Hall loop, running onstreet from Bay via Albert, James and Louisa, was opened on August 30, 1921. The Dundas cars soon found themselves sharing this loop with the Dupont streetcar and the presence of Bay, Dupont, Dundas and Harbord cars trundling through the Bay/Dundas intersection made for significant streetcar congestion. City Hall loop was then rebuilt, this time looping via Louisa, James and Albert, and reopened on November 3, 1930, with access from Elizabeth Street, which allowed Dundas cars to avoid the Bay/Dundas intersection.
In the East, College Streetcars used Dundas Street from Broadview to Spadina as part of their trip from Luttrell loop (Danforth at the east city limits) to Royce loop (Lansdowne and Dupont). In the years that followed, College Streetcars were replaced by Harbord Streetcars, but Dundas Streetcars didn’t venture east of City Hall Loop. Even when the Yonge Subway opened (on March 30, 1954), and streetcar service was eliminated on Elizabeth Street (June 4, 1961, in order to build Toronto’s new City Hall), Dundas cars simply moved to Bay Street to access City Hall Loop, and Harbord cars continued to operate from Spadina Avenue eastward.
It took the opening of the Bloor-Danforth subway to hand Dundas Street East to the Dundas cars. When the Harbord Streetcar was laid to rest, every second Dundas car operated beyond City Hall Loop, along its current route to Broadview Station. The section between Dundas West Station and Runnymede loop did not fall so quickly, however. Remaining part of the Dundas Streetcar and operating both ways though Dundas West Station, this portion of track remained in service until 1968, when the Bloor-Danforth subway was extended to Islington and Warden, and trolley buses were ready to start operating on the replacement 40 JUNCTION route.
When the massive new Eaton Centre development started construction in the early 1970s, the TTC stopped operation to City Hall Loop on a ‘temporary’ basis. The TTC claimed that the loop would reopen, providing direct streetcar service to the doors of the Eaton Centre, but that never materialized. The City Hall Loop operations moved east on January 6, 1975 to an on-street arrangement of Church, Queen and Victoria. This branch of the streetcar line faded to a rush-hour only operation, and then disappeared altogether on June 20, 1986.
There are no plans at present to shorten or delete the Dundas Streetcar, as it is one of the most busy and cost-effective lines on the system. The high level of transfers between southbound Spadina to eastbound Dundas was noted in a TTC report in 1997, however, and consideration given to an additional line operating between Spadina Station and Dundas and Yonge, looping via Church, Queen and Victoria. In the end, the TTC decided that the benefit of such a service would be outweighed by the inconvenience of increased headways on the rest of the two routes, as the proposed service did not have enough traffic to justify operation in addition to the surrounding normal service.
Indeed, increased service on both King and Dundas led the TTC to modify the loops at Dundas West and Broadview stations, to try and prevent waiting streetcars on each route from blocking the other. On Labour Day 2002, the TTC began work installing a separate track and platform for Dundas cars. This opened to the public on Sunday, November 24, 2002. A similar project began the next year at Broadview station, although it took much longer to finish. Dundas cars now operate via a separate track and platform here as well, with a stairway providing a direct connection with Broadview station’s westbound platform. This was followed by an extensive rebuilding of the tracks along the Dundas route, meaning its infrastructure should last another thirty years or so.
While the TTC was considering ways to keep the King and Dundas streetcars out of each other’s hair, they considered having the Dundas streetcar rerouted from Broadview and Gerrard east on Gerrard, north on Carlaw, east on Riverside and north on Pape (restoring a portion of the Harbord streetcar) to loop in Pape Station. Nothing came of this proposal, but it is possible that the Dundas Streetcar may reacquire its Junction extension. The TTC is considering extending streetcar service on St. Clair Avenue to Runnymede Road, Jane Street or Scarlett Road. When this happens, the TTC may extend tracks up Dundas Street to connect with the tracks on St. Clair. Although the 40 JUNCTION bus does not carry the passengers to justify the improvement on its own, the benefits of shortened deadhead time for St Clair streetcars entering service might provide enough additional incentive to spur construction.
505 Dundas Image Archive
- 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.
- Toronto Transit Commission, Report No. 7: Opportunities for New Streetcar Routes, The Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto (Ontario), January 21, 1997.
- Westland, Stu, ‘The Winchester Carline’ Rail and Transit, September-October 1979, p23-24, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1979.
Special thanks to Mark Brader, John Bromley and Ray Corley for their corrections to this web page.