Radial Railways

When the Canadian Pacific Railway Company built its rail line across Yonge Street in 1883, the planned radial rail station was moved north to Farnham to avoid crossing its tracks. By 1885, construction of the radial tracks on Yonge Street had begun. The railroad was to provide a commuter link with communities on north Yonge Street. This was one of a number of radial lines built in late 1800s and early 1900s across southern Ontario. As each section of the Yonge Street Radial was completed, the line was electrified and opened. The railway’s trolley cars were built like railway coaches and double-ended, so they could be driven from either end, merely by changing the trolley pole. Each car had a motor man and a conductor wearing charcoal grey uniforms with brass cap badges showing their rank. Passengers sat on slippery leather seats with backs that could be flipped to face the direction of travel. As well as carrying passengers, the railway transported produce to the market. Early each morning, the cars stopped at farmers’ lanes to pick up cans of milk, giving those slow, early journeys the term “milk run.” With the coming of automobile, ridership began to fall and radials gradually disappeared. In 1922, the TTC introduced the motor coach. In 1948, radial service on Yonge Street was permanently discontinued and replaced by diesel buses.