Toronto Subway

Where: Toronto, ON.

Engineer: H. C. Patten, W. E. P. Duncan and W. H. Paterson

Date of construction: September 1949

Growth of Toronto Subway System. (Source: Wikimedia.org)

Site Location: Toronto Union Station: Lat.: 43° – 38’ – 43” N.; Long.: 79° – 22’ – 50” W. (GPS: 43.6452621,-79.3805536). Readily accessible by Via Rail or TTC subway.

Plaque Location: The plaque is located in the Union Subway Station concourse.

Description: The first 7.4 km (4.6 mi.) long segment of the Toronto subway opened on March 30 1954. It followed Yonge Street from Eglinton Avenue south to Front Street, then turned west for one block to a terminus at Bay Street, adjacent to Union Station. The Yonge-Eglinton line was extended in 1974, 1978, 1996, and 2017: it now has 38 stations and is 38.8 km (24.1 mi.) long. The Bloor-Danforth Line opened in 1966 along Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue from Keele Street to Woodbine Avenue, and was extended in 1968 and 1980. It now has 31 stations and is 31.2 km (16.3 mi.) long. The Sheppard Line, opened in 2002, runs 5.5 km (3.4 mi) east of Yonge underneath Sheppard Avenue. Additional light-rail rapid transit lines were constructed in Scarborough in 1985.

Cut-and-cover construction of Toronto Subway, Yonge St. looking south to Front Street, March 16, 1950. (Source: City of Toronto Archives, Series 381, File 31, Item 6650-6)
Excavating manually around buried utility pipes and cables. (Source: City of Toronto Archives Series 381, File 6, Item 6045-1)

Historic Significance: The Toronto subway was Canada’s first subway. It replaced the Yonge Street streetcar, which was Canada’s first streetcar route.

The routing of the Bloor-Danforth Line across the Don Valley was possible thanks to a decision made more than forty years earlier. When the Prince Edward Viaduct (also ar CSCE National Historic Civil Engineering Site) was built in 1918, its designer insisted on providing for twin decks below the roadway to allow for future rail traffic.

Plaque detail. (Source: CSCE Archives)

Plaque Wording: National Historic Civil Engineering Site. CSCE. TORONTO SUBWAY. A tribute to the engineers and constructors who created this important addition to the transportation infrastructure of Toronto and Canada. This, the nation’s first subway, ran from Front Street to Eglinton Avenue, a distance of 7.4 kilometres. 1.3 cu m of material were excavated and over 200,00 cu m of concrete were used in the construction. H. C. Patten, TTC General Manager, 1939-1952. W. E. P. Duncan, TTC Chief General Manager, 1952-1059. W. H. Paterson, TTC Chief Engineer, 1949-1961. Start of construction, September 1949. Inauguration, March, 1954. Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. 2005.

SCGC. Site Historique National de Génie Civil. TORONTO SUBWAY. Hommage aux ingénieurs et constructeurs qui ont créé cet important element de l’infrastructure ds transports de Toronto et du Canada. Le premier du pays, le metro relie la rue Front àl’avenue Eglinton, une distance de 7.4 kilomètres. 1.3 million de mètres cubes de matériaux furent creusés et plus de 200,000 mètres cubes de béton furnet utilises pour sa construction. H. C. Patten, Directeur Général TTC, 1939-1952. W. E. P. Duncan, Directeur Général en Chef TTC, 1952-1959. W. H. Paterson, Ingénieur en Chef TTC, 1949-1961. Début de la construction, septembre 1949. Inauguration, mars 1954. La Société canadienne de genie civil. 2005.

Links to Online Documentation:

Transit Toronto, “A History of the Original Yonge Subway”.
City of Toronto Archives, “Canada’s First Subway: Underground Downtown”.
Fred Bodsworth, “What the Subway’s doing to Toronto”, Maclean’s, 1954.