Remembering the 1968 Bloor-Danforth Subway Extension: May 10-11: Snapshots in History
On May 10-11, take a moment to look back to 1968 when the Bloor-Danforth subway line (now known as Line 2 Bloor-Danforth), under the auspices of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), was extended to Islington Station in Etobicoke and to Warden Station in Scarborough. The official opening of the extensions happened on the afternoon of May 10, 1968 with full service for the citizens of Toronto commencing on May 11, 1968.
When the original east-west Bloor-Danforth line opened on February 26, 1966 (following the official ceremonial opening the day before), subway service ran from Woodbine Station in the east to Keele Station in the west. Loans from the federal and provincial governments enabled the St. George to Keele and the St. George to Woodbine portions to be constructed concurrently rather than one section at a time. The experiment in “interlining” the Bloor-Danforth line with the Yonge-University line (whereby subway trains could start on one line but then switch to the other line at either St. George or Bay Stations) was ended after the first six months of the original Bloor-Danforth line in 1966 as customers became confused over getting to their destinations and the TTC was concerned whether the costs outweighed the benefits, including slowdowns at the wye junction. However, despite being closed to the public for a long time, the Lower Bay station has been used for film shoots, for training TTC subway operators, and for moving TTC trains between the lines as needed. Occasionally, individuals are granted access to write articles and take photographs (For example, see Nathan Ng’s article on Station Fixation about Lower Bay.)
Work began on planning the extensions to the Bloor-Danforth subway in March 1965 (even while work on the original section was still underway) as the provincial government had provided an additional $10 million in grant funding to Metropolitan Toronto. Initial plans to have the two westernmost stations at Montgomery Road and Prince Edward Drive were changed to the current Islington Avenue and Royal York Road station stops that were part of the 1968 extension.
Let us examine what the print media had to report on May 11, 1968 about the TTC’s Bloor-Danforth line expansion to Islington and Warden Stations in Etobicoke and Scarborough respectively. Here is an excerpt from Douglas Sagi’s article entitled “Subway rolls to the suburbs: Day will live ‘in song, verse,’ Horton says” on page 1 of the May 11, 1968 issue of the Globe and Mail newspaper:
“The way Mayor Edward Horton was talking, it sounded like the most important railroad opening since Donald A. Smith drove in the last spike of the CPR main line on Nov. 7, 1885…At 6 this morning, direct subway service to Etobicoke and Scarborough begins…With one hand on the throttle and the other on the horn, Mayor Horton drove an official train into his borough at 2:12 pm yesterday…The trip from Scarborough’s wooded hills to the dandelion-covered fields of Etobicoke had taken only 34 minutes…stopped only once along the 15-mile route…A century ago, Scarborough Mayor Albert Campbell said, the same trip took a stage coach five hours…The extension into Scarborough is 2.72 miles [4.38 kilometres] long, running from Woodbine to three new stations, Main Street, Victoria Park, and Warden, in a curve from Danforth and Woodbine to St. Clair Avenue…The western extension is 3.44 miles [5.54 kilometres] long, and runs to six new stations, High Park, Runnymede, Jane, Old Mill, Royal York, and Islington, all along Bloor Street West…”
The May 11, 1968 issue of the Toronto Daily Star newspaper carried an uncredited article on page 13 entitled “NOW METRO HAS A SUBURB-TO-SUBURB SUBWAY”. Here is an excerpt from that article:
“The paying customer got his chance to ride the subway from suburb to suburb today – a day after inaugural ceremonies that saw 1,000 politicians and their friends board a special train in Scarborough and zip the nearly 15 miles [24.14 kilometres] to Etobicoke in 34 minutes…The regular service, which began at 6 a.m. today, won’t be quite that fast. The special made only one station stop and at times was travelling above 60 m.p.h [96.6 k.p.h.]…Ceremonies marking the opening began at 1:30 p.m. when the inaugural train pulled out of the $5,000,000 Warden terminal in Scarborough and ended at 5 p.m…There were a few hitches. The escalator at the $4,500,000 Islington terminal in Etobicoke blew a fuse shortly after Premier [John] Robarts and Metro chairman William Allen stepped on it…The official train was about seven minutes late pulling out of the Warden terminal. It made only one stop at the Bay station for more dignitaries…At Warden, Allen got in a few plugs for the metropolitan form of government…’As of this afternoon…we now have more than 21 miles [33.8 kilometres] of rapid transit (including the Yonge line) in operation. All has been opened in the last 14 years. No other place in the world has been able to equal that record.’”
To view the article in full, please access the Toronto Star Historical Newspaper Archive database with a valid Toronto Public Library card.
The construction of the Bloor-Danforth line resulted in the cancellation of some streetcar routes along its path. With the opening of the initial part of the Bloor-Danforth line in early 1966, the one-time Bloor streetcar was downgraded to a Bloor shuttle going from Keele Station to Jane Loop, and to a Danforth shuttle going from Woodbine Station to meet Scarborough-based bus routes at the Luttrell Loop. Other streetcar routes (i.e. Harbord, Coxwell, and Parliament) were discontinued and replaced by new bus routes (e.g. 22 Coxwell, 65 Parliament, and 72 Pape) or absorbed into other streetcar routes (i.e. 505 Dundas). The Bloor and Danforth shuttles were re-routed into the Keele and Woodbine stations, although these shuttles were terminated upon the opening of May 11, 1968 Bloor-Danforth subway extension. Transit buffs might enjoy learning about the moving sidewalk at Keele Station and the tunnel at Woodbine Station that were walled off when the 1968 subway extension began service.
With the extended Bloor-Danforth line, the TTC was operating on a quasi-zoned fare system of payment for passengers as the subway (i.e. both Bloor-Danforth and Yonge-University lines) was treated completely within “Zone 1” regardless of location, while bus route connections west of Old Mill Station and east of Victoria Park Station were treated as “Zone 2”. Metropolitan Toronto Council insisted that the TTC switch to a single-fare, single zone paying system in 1973 that is the norm today (with a few exceptions – Downtown Express bus routes and bus routes crossing municipal borders outside of Toronto).
Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:
If you would like additional information, consider reading some of these good online articles:
The Abandoned Bloor-Danforth Streetcar Shuttle Connection Passages (James Bow, Transit Toronto, January 13, 2017)
Bloor Danforth Subway (Line 2) (Get Toronto Moving Transportation Committee, 2016)
A History of Subways on Bloor and Queen Streets (James Bow, Transit Toronto, May 8, 2018)
Looking Back: Bloor-Danforth Shuttles (Steve Munro, Steve Munro: Transit and Politics, January 6, 2015)
Lower Bay (Nathan Ng, Station Fixation, November 15, 2015 [photographs taken])
Mapping Toronto’s street railways in the TTC era (1921-2016) (Sean Marshall, Marshall’s Musings, January 11, 2017)
Past Pieces of Toronto: Subway Interlining (Jamie Bradburn, JB’s Warehouse and Curio Emporium, March 5, 2013)
The modernist Bloor-Danforth line at 50 (Chris Bateman, Spacing, February 25, 2016)
That time when Toronto tried to extend the subway west (Chris Bateman, BlogTO, September 6, 2013)
The Truth behind the Interlining Trial (James Bow, Transit Toronto, June 25, 2015)
The TTC Used to have Fare Zones – and They May Be Coming Back (Sean Marshall, Torontoist, July 14, 2016)
(Credit: Toronto Archives - File 244 - Opening of Bloor-Danforth subway extensions - May 10, 1968 - Forms part of: Series 648; TTC and subway construction photographs by Eric Trussler – File 244, Image 23)
(Credit: Toronto Archives, File 244 - Opening of Bloor-Danforth subway extensions - May 10, 1968 - Forms part of: Series 648; TTC and subway construction photographs by Eric Trussler – File 244 Image 24)
(Credit: Transit Toronto, September 30, 2017)
(Credit: Transit Toronto, June 3, 2017)