The Neighbo(u)rhood Has Changed

Posted by George Hamlin
on Sunday, December 1, 2019

According to its current proprietor, the Toronto Railway Historical Association (TRHA), “A switcher type locomotive, CP Rail 7020 (class DS10-b, serial 72855) looks like she was 'ridden hard and put away wet' ".  (Background/historical information was taken from the group’s excellent webpage, http://www.trha.ca/locomotives.html).

Delivered in October 1944, the 7020 was both a “war baby”, and, by birth, a Yank.  Built by Alco in Schenectady, New York, this model S-2, 1000 horsepower switcher (note the Blunt trucks, as opposed to the AAR models utilized on the later S-4 models), was assigned directly to Toronto’s Parkdale Yard. Such was the novelty, as it was the first CPR diesel assigned to operate in Toronto, that a major newspaper, The Globe, published a photo of the new arrival, which was expected to contribute to reducing smoke pollution (from steam locomotives) in the city.

By the 1980s, Canadian Pacific was replacing its older, smaller locomotives with more modern versions, resulting, among other things, in the retirement of many Alco/MLW switchers.  The railroad was also closing its John Street passenger yard and roundhouse, and elected to donate the 7020 to the City of Toronto for a planned railway museum.  An excellent source for further information is the article “Canadian Pacific No. 7020 and the Dieselization of Toronto”, available from   https://www.academia.edu/25213685/Canadian_Pacific_No._7020_and_the_Dieselization_of_Toronto.

As of this photo taken on June 12, 2012, it was still in the area, albeit now as a preserved exhibit at what is left of the CPR’s John Street roundhouse. 

This location, immediately southwest of Toronto Union Station (and directly south of the CN Tower), in what was described in previous times as the city’s “Railway Lands”, once was a proverbial beehive of rail activity, essentially occupying virtually all the land south of Front Street (the location of Toronto Union Station) to Lake Ontario between Bathurst Street on the west, and Yonge Street to the east.

In addition to the Canadian Pacific facilities at John Street, the Canadian National also had large servicing facilities centered on Spadina Avenue; that street’s overhead bridge -- also occupied by Toronto Transit PCCs in the 1970s, and CLRVs (Canadian Light Rail Vehicles) today -- made for great viewing of the classic cab units, including FP9s and FPA-4s that lasted well into the VIA Rail era.

Today, there’s still lots of rail activity in the vicinity associated with the northernmost part of the corridor, used by both VIA and GO Transit to access Union Station.  South of this, however, the sole remainder of the rest of the once vast Railway Lands is the aptly-named “Roundhouse Park”, including the Toronto Railway Museum.  This is now the home of the 7020, which has been in essentially continuous residence in Canada’s largest city longer than the vast majority of human Torontonians. 

Now, however, its milieu is largely “mixed development”, including the surrounding towers seen here, rather than boxcars, streamlined passenger equipment and seemingly interminable back and forth movement, day and night.  Its rest is well-deserved, however, and it’s nice to have a nod to the entity that stitched Canada together, as well as enabling the city to develop into its present form, still visible in otherwise thoroughly modern downtown Toronto.

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