Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Belt Line Railway

This article is about a railway system that used to go though the Don Valley called the Belt Line. Part of a series on places in the Don. The previous article was on the Keating Channel.

The Belt Line Railway was built in 1890s. It was constructed as a commuter line to service new suburban neighbourhoods being built just north of the city. It ran through the communities of Rosedale, Moore Park, and Forest Hill.

The route started at Union Station going east to the Don River. It turned north following the river before journeying up a steep grade through the Moore Park Ravine beside the Don Valley Brick Works. It then turned west at the north edge of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery. At Yonge St. it turned northwest and travelled through Forest Hill before returning to Union Station via the CNR line at Caledonia and Eglinton Avenue West.

It started running in 1892 but only ran until 1894 before experiencing financial difficulties. It failed for two reasons. First it was expensive. The company charged 5 cents to travel between each station. In order to make more money they built more stations than necessary. Second, Canada experienced a financial depression in the 1890s. These two reasons led to the collapse of the commuter traffic.

However, there was sufficient business to run freight trains along the line, servicing lumber and coal yards along Merton Street. Freight service ended in the early 1960s.

After trains stopped operating the rail line sat unused for several years. In the Moore Park ravine section the tracks were pulled up and the railbed turned into a walking trail. In the late 1960s part of the right of way was expropriated to build the Spadina Expressway.

In the 1980s CN tried to sell the right of way for housing since the land was quite valuable. However a local city councillor, Kay Gardner, lobbied the city to buy the land for a pedestrian trail instead. This purchase was completed in 1990 and eventually the trail was named the Kay Gardner Beltline Park in her honour. It now forms part of a trail network called Discovery Walks.

The section between the Allen Road and Caledonia has either been sold off to local property owners or sits neglected and unused where it runs behind an industrial park. The only reminder of its existence are two bridges crossing Yonge St and Dufferin St. The Yonge St. bridge was incorporated into the beltline walking trail but the Dufferin bridge is derelict.

Most of the train stations were torn down. The only one that was saved from demolition was the Don Station which was located at the Don River and Queen Street East. When it was slated for destruction, local naturalist Charles Sauriol heard about it and persuaded the city to relocate it to Todmorden Mills. It now forms part of the heritage museum on Pottery Road.


Anonymous said...

The Beltline now extends all the way past Caledonia, with the Dufferin bridge no longer derelict. The York Beltline, as it's called, is decently marked with city signage from Bowie, running north and then turning east at Caledonia. It runs all the way to the Walter Saunders Memorial Park, though it ends in a pile of woodchips, rather unceremoniously. Users can duck north at the end of the trail and pick up Roselawn.

Donwatcher said...

Thanks for the info. It's been a few years since I've been up there and its good to know that they are using that stretch. I'll have to visit it this year and take a look.