Vintage Photographs from the Construction of the Toronto Subway

In 1912, the needs for a subway system in Toronto were first brought upon the city through an independent survey. This survey was intended to gather information on the citizens’ view towards existing traffic conditions, and was submitted with the purpose of proposing new changes and developments to improve the current issue of Toronto traffic. Upon consulting with the report, engineers came to the conclusion that soon, surface transportation would reach its limit of carrying capacity and efficiency. After that limit was reached, they proposed that a subway system would become both convenient and economically ideal.

1940-Men working underground
1940 – Men working underground

This estimated capacity that would soon render the streets of Toronto irreparably clogged, was primarily due to the original street measurements carried out according to the British chain measurement of 66 ft. While this width in pavement may have once been sufficient for the languid carriage rides of British folk making a trip into the city, it was simply not compatible with the heavy flow of rushed and irritated driver’s of Toronto’s modern day.

In 1943 the initial preliminary sketches and blueprints were first drawn up for what would be the heart and centre of the system, Young Street subway station. Thus in January of 1946, after receiving an enthusiastic rubber stamp from the citizens of Toronto, the subway system’s construction officially commenced having received a 10 to 1 in vote in its favour.

1949 – Maps, and section drawings relating to the Yonge Subway

The city burst out into booming celebration that summer. A festive shrill flowed jauntily from the orchestra’s bagpipes and politicians of the city made optimistic speeches with wide grins cast across their faces. With a meager 400,000 people at the time, compared to today’s almost 3 million, the city began to feel slow rumblings beneath their very feet, which would soon lead to the long and labouring process that would serve them with tremendous growth as they neared the 21st century.

As with any new change, an air of mystery and curiosity was blanketed over the city. The blaring drilling of the machinery and the sweeping skyline of colourful cranes spanning across the office building windows was a promise of glitz and glamour that undoubtedly kept the public intrigued. While the esteemed men, complete with tin hard hats and official orange jackets, proudly endured the arduous work that left them panting in the sweltering summer heat, the citizens of Toronto found great pride and entertainment in the new urbanization of their city. The public was so fascinated in fact, that a new group of “sidewalk superintendents” cropped up, composed of everyone from hurried business men to jovial children to leisurely women in hoop skirts from all walks of life who would fill up the sidewalks with glee and excitement. As if they were pressing their noses up against the glass at a sports arena, they would marvel at the grand excavations and innovations that were taking place right in front of them, forming colourful and exuberant teeming crowds around what seemed like the most dramatic transformation the city had ever seen. One particularly invested member of the enamoured citizens even began their own popular publication, which regularly ran editions centred around describing and delivering the progress of the subway’s construction.

1949-Maps, and section drawings relating to the Yonge Subway
1949 – Maps, and section drawings relating to the Yonge Subway

Even with the tremendous excitement and overwhelming support from the citizens, the job was draining and brain wracking. Throughout the 5 years of continuous construction, engineers of the highest calibre were busy rapidly studying the logistics of transit systems, planning and preparing for the proposed route of each train. While this took place mostly behind the scenes and not in the way of the average citizen’s view, it was certainly vital in the construction of the well honed system that we can all ride with ease today.

1949-Septemmber 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949 – September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949-Septemmber 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949 – September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949-Septemmber 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949 – September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949-September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949 – September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949-September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949 – September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949-September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949 – September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949 - September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949 – September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949 – September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949 - September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949 – September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949 – September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949 - September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949 – September 8- Ground breaking for Yonge Subway construction
1949-Yonge Street subway construction
1949 – Yonge Street subway construction
1949-Yonge Street subway construction
1949 – Yonge Street subway construction
1949-Yonge Street subway construction
1941949 – Yonge Street subway construction9 – Yonge Street subway construction
1949-Yonge Street subway construction
1949 – Yonge Street subway construction
1949 - Yonge Street subway construction
1949 – Yonge Street subway construction
1949 - Yonge Street subway construction
1949 – Yonge Street subway construction
1949 - Yonge Street subway construction
1949 – Yonge Street subway construction
1949 - Yonge Street subway construction
1949 – Yonge Street subway construction
1949 - Yonge Street subway construction
1949 – Yonge Street subway construction
1949 - Yonge Street subway construction
1949 – Yonge Street subway construction
1949 - Yonge Street subway construction
1949 – Yonge Street subway construction
1949 - Yonge Street subway construction
1949 – Yonge Street subway construction
1949 - Yonge Street subway construction
1949 – Yonge Street subway construction
1949 - Yonge Street subway construction
1949 – Yonge Street subway construction
1949 - Yonge Street subway construction
1949 – Yonge Street subway construction
1950 - April 14 - Underdecking, reinforcing, and truss work
1950 – April 14 – Underdecking, reinforcing, and truss work
1950-January 3-Subway car at Hillcrest yards
1950 – January 3 – Subway car at Hillcrest yards

1950 - July 12 - Group of men standing on decking of Yonge Subway during construction
1950 – July 12 – Group of men standing on decking of Yonge Subway during construction
1950 - July 14 - Raynor construction driving first pile in new section of subway, Maitland Street
1950 – July 14 – Raynor construction driving first pile in new section of subway, Maitland Street
1950-June 2-Underground excavation and construction
1950-June 2-Underground excavation and construction

1950-June 2-Underground excavation and construction

1950-June 2-Underground excavation and construction
1950-March 2-Underground construction near Queen Street
1950-March 2-Underground construction near Queen Street
1950-March 16-Underground construction near Queen Street
1950-March 16-Underground construction near Queen Street
1950-March 16-Underground construction near Queen Street
1950-March 16-Underground construction near Queen Street
1950-March 16-Underground construction near Queen Street
1950-March 16-Underground construction near Queen Street
1950-March 17-Underground construction, Shuter Street
1950-March 17-Underground construction, Shuter Street
1950-March 17-Underground construction, Shuter Street
1950-March 17-Underground construction, Shuter Street

1950-March 21-Reinforcing for centre wall and form for sump., underground, Queen and Yonge streets
1950-March 23-First pouring of concrete, Queen and Yonge streets, underground
1950-March 23-First pouring of concrete, Queen and Yonge streets, underground

1950-May 2-Men and trucks underground, Colborne Street
1950-May 2-Men and trucks underground, Colborne Street
1950-May 18-Old sewer, Front Street
1950-May 18-Old sewer, Front Street
1950-May 18-Queen Station
1950-May 18-Queen Station
1950-September 1-Ceiling over tunnel and pouring of cement, 2 Yonge Street and Trinity Square
1950-September 1-Ceiling over tunnel and pouring of cement, 2 Yonge Street and Trinity Square
1950-September 1-Ceiling over tunnel and pouring of cement, 2 Yonge Street and Trinity Square
1950-September 1-Ceiling over tunnel and pouring of cement, 2 Yonge Street and Trinity Square
1954-September 4-Crowds in subway, rush hour
1954-September 4-Crowds in subway, rush hour
1960-June 16-Artist's renderings of subway stations : by Sigmund Serafin
1960-June 16-Artist’s renderings of subway stations : by Sigmund Serafin
1960-June 16-Artist's renderings of subway stations : by Sigmund Serafin
1960-June 16-Artist’s renderings of subway stations : by Sigmund Serafin
1960-June 16-Artist's renderings of subway stations : by Sigmund Serafin
1960-June 16-Artist’s renderings of subway stations : by Sigmund Serafin
1960-Rush hour crowds in subway turnstiles : Queen and King stations
1960-Rush hour crowds in subway turnstiles : Queen and King stations
1960-Rush hour crowds in subway turnstiles : Queen and King stations
1960-Rush hour crowds in Toronto subway turnstiles : Queen and King stations

 

 

 

 

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About Jaya Kumar 3 Articles
Jaya is a high school student in Toronto, and an aspiring creative writer. She is fascinated by the history of the city, and loves digging deep into the past to paint an accurate and vibrant picture of the city's historical events.