Queen Street East Looking North at the Rail line Between McGee and Degrassi in the 1890s. The rail line is usually accepted as Leslieville’s unofficial western boundary; westward, across the tracks, is Riverside.
In 1882, one more local resident was killed crossing the GTR tracks on Kingston Road. People called for immediate action to install better protection at the crossing. (Toronto Daily Mail
, August 12, 1882) Many more had been killed there since the railway was built in the 1850s, but the carnage at the level crossing wasn’t over.
In1883 the Toronto Board of Trade urged the City of the Toronto, the Government of Canada and the Grand Trunk Railway to improve the railway right-of-way through the East End of Toronto by elevating the tracks on a viaduct. It wasn’t done. They got gates instead.
Toronto Star, November 13, 1894
Queen Street level crossing looking west towards Broadview Avenue in the 1890s.
The deaths and maimings had increased as the former Leslieville and Riverside, now called Riverdale, became industrialized and densely populated.
In 1913 the Toronto Board of Trade passed a resolution calling for the parties to start the Toronto Viaduct right away. The railroads, the City of Toronto, the Toronto Harbor Commissioners and the Government of Canada finally reached an agreement, but, choking at the expense, the railways stalled. Then World War One pushed most major infrastructure projects.
Globe, Sept. 13, 1926
Globe, Sept. 13, 1926
William W. Hiltz (Hiltz Avenue is named for him) had been a city alderman, but from from 1921 to 1923 controller, representing Riverdale and strong advocate for the Viaduct. In 1924, he became Mayor, installed time clocks at City Hall so employees had to “punch in” and generally shook things up. This devout Christian, teetoller and East End contractor, had the negotiating skills to get all the parties at the table and the intestinal fortitude to push hard enough and long enough to finally get the Viaduct built. Hiltz was also championed the construction of the new Union Station we know today as “Old Union Station.” Construction began June 17, 1925 on the Toronto Viaduct (also known as the “Toronto Grade Separation”. It was finished on January 31, 1930.
Known to train engineers and other railway employees as the “High Level”, the project required huge land filling. Work crews not only raised the rail lines to a height of 18 feet above the ground surface, but they also extended the railway corridor out into Toronto Harbour some distance. To build the Viaduct, contractors installed a narrow gauge construction railway to move the earth and materials. (Traces of that light rail line can still be seen in some places.) We take it for granted now but it was considered a major engineering feet in the 1920s.
Below is a picture gallery of the Toronto Viaduct at Leslieville’s west end.
Toronto star, July 11, 1924
Map showing alternative Viaduct route through the downtown waterfront, Globe, July 11, 1924
Looking east along Queen St. Level railway crossing with trolley guard, Queen Street East between Degrassi and McGee streets : GTR level crossing, around 1915.
Call for Tenders. Toronto Star, Nov. 17. 1925
Construction, Toronto Viaduct, Toronto Star, Oct. 9, 1926
TTC track work, September 19, 1926. Queen St. looking east.
Creator: Alfred J. Pearson
Viaduct work, destruction of houses, Strange St.. – December 9, 1925. We are looking south. Strange Street was cut in two: the southern orphan became Dibble Street, a dead end off Eastern Avenue.
Viaduct work, destruction of stores, Queen & De Grassi. – December 9, 1925
Viaduct, Riverdale, steel in reinforced concrete. – October 7, 1926
Queen St East and Canadian National Railway grade separation, placing first girder, 1 p.m., (Way Department) Creator: Alfred J. Pearson, December 5, 1926
Queen St East and Canadian National Railway grade separation, placing first girder, 1 p.m., (Way Department) Creator: Alfred J. Pearson
Date: December 5, 1926
Second girder in place. Creator Alfred J. Pearson, Dec. 5, 1926, City of Toronto Archives
Creator: Alfred J. Pearson
Date: December 14, 1926
On top of the Toronto Viaduct, Looking east from Queen Street, October 25, 1927. The Riverdale Train Station is in the distance and heavy industry with smoke stacks on the right.
First Train on Viaduct, Globe, Sept. 24, 1927
Viaduct test, 4100 engine and crew, Conductor Armstrong, brakeman Saville, brakeman Stanford, engineer Woodman, U.E. Gillen. – January 20, 1930
Viaduct opening, old timers, James Roland, 40 years service, Edward J. Bell, 46 years service, Wm. Duncan, 40 years. – January 21, 1930
Queen Street East at Degrassi Street Creator: Harvey R. Naylor
Date: June 6, 1981
Looking east along Queen Street from Strange Street. Photograph by Joanne Doucette, Winter, 2013