The Toronto Terminals Railway was created and incorporated as a jointly-owned subsidiary of the GTR and CPR in July of 1906 to “acquire the requisite lands for the erection of a Union Passenger Station and to provide the necessary buildings, tracks, sidings and other terminals facilities for all passenger, express and mail traffic.”
Between 1906 and 1914 engineering design drawings were approved and two Union Station buildings had been created, however the physical scale of both stations were incapable of providing efficient service with the growth of tracks and trains. By 1914 TTR began construction of the new 3rd Union Station; however, the construction began during the First World War which significantly delayed the progress of the station because of the shortage of workers and materials.
Initially, Grand Trunk Railway owned 50% of TTR alongside Canadian Pacific Rail, with the other 50% owned by the Canadian National Rail. However, in 1923 GTR went bankrupt and was merged into the Canadian National Rail, thus making both CN and CPR 50% owners of TTR and Union Station.
From 1925 to 1930 TTR supervised all construction activities taking place on the Union Station tracks, which included the Waterfront Railway Viaduct, station tracks, platforms and train shed; partial completion is achieved in 1927.
Oct 1, 1928: the Toronto Terminals Railway starts building its new Central Heating Plant at York and Fleet Street—now Lake Shore Blvd. When the plant was completed in 1929, it was the largest district steam heating facility in Canada, producing 600 million lbs. annually. The Central Heating Plant provided steam heat piped through underground tunnels to a wide variety of railway facilities and buildings.
These included Union Station, the CN and CP express buildings, CP’s John Street Roundhouse and even passenger cars in the coach yard. The steam required for the John Street Roundhouse’s much vaunted “direct steaming process” also came from the Central Heating Plant.
Jan 20, 1930: the Toronto Terminals Railway tests the Union Station viaduct structure, a day before the train shed opens for business in 1931.
Sep 1, 1931: track work for Toronto’s Union Station is completed, with the full operation of the Toronto Terminals Railway interlocking system. The interlocking—installed by General Railway Signal Co. of Rochester, NY—is controlled from three towers at Cherry, Scott and John St. This 1931 interlocking system has operated reliably for 86 years although General Railway Signal stopped making spare parts long ago.
Dec 11, 1944- the worst snowstorm ever to hit Toronto begins early in the evening.By the next day, 20.5″ (52 cm) of snow had fallen, paralyzing the city for days. Fourteen people died as a direct result of the storm. One TTC passenger died on an overturned Beach Tripper streetcar at Queen and Mutual Streets, an accident that also injured 43 others. The storm also disrupted intercity passenger train service, although not to the same extent as it affected roads and transit.
Trains arriving at Union Station were late as the Toronto Terminals Railway was effortlessly trying to clear the track switches of snow. The CN Railway’s mighty 4100-series Santa Fe 2-10-2 steam locomotives had to be utilized and operated into a snow plow service machine.
Sep 12, 1957- CN and CP buy their express buildings from the Toronto Terminals Railway, which had built them three decades earlier. Since most express was carried on passenger trains, express facilities for both railways were built adjacent to Union Station. The 1929 CN Express building on the west side of York St. survived until 1989, when it was partially demolished to build the Skywalk.The 1930 CP Express building on the east side of Bay St. lasted until 2001. It came down to make way for the Union Station Bus Terminal. Remnants of the 1929 CN building can be seen on the west side of York St. and in the area around the new Union-Pearson (UP) Express Station.
Government of Ontario Transit, also known as GO Transit, was created in 1967. GO Transit proved to be extremely popular as it carried its first million riders during its first four months. The growth of traffic through Union Station created a need for new tracks to be constructed. In 1979 the construction of two new tracks began for GO Commuter trains and VIA Rail passenger service.
In the 1980s the TTR decided to buy steam heat directly from a commercial supplier. The Central Heating Plant was demolished in 1990.
Sep 25, 1987- the City of Toronto wins approval to build a pedestrian bridge over the Toronto Terminals Railway at the foot of John St. The bridge provided direct access from Front St. to the new domed stadium then under construction just south of the rail corridor. One consequence of this was that the Toronto Terminals Railway John St. interlocking tower (also known as Cabin C) lost its hip roof.
In addition to the pedestrian bridge, the city received permission to extend Peter St. on a bridge south over the tracks. Along with the Skywalk bridge east of Simcoe St., these gave rail fans several vantage points over the railway west of Union Station. A popular outdoor train watching lookout in this vicinity remains in place behind Ripleys Aquarium.
Mar 5, 1989- the last train moves over the Canadian National High Line, south of the CP John Street and CN Spadina facilities.
The bypass opened in 1929 so CN could avoid Toronto Terminals Railway wheelage fees for freight trains passing through Union Station. The line diverged from the TTR tracks west of Yonge St., ran around John Street and Spadina and rejoined the corridor at Bathurst Street. Until the York Subdivision opened north of the city in 1965, all CN freight trains passing through Toronto used the High Line.
When Spadina and John Street were dismantled in the 1980’s, the freight bypass moved closer to the rail corridor, opening March 6, 1989. The bypass now consists of Tracks 15 and 16 of Union Station—just south of the train shed—and still sees occasional CN freight traffic.
Oct 14, 1998- the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that they are no longer interested in acquiring and redeveloping Union Station. They had intended to turn it into a “grand entrance” for their newly acquired Air Canada Centre, then under construction.
The Leafs organization had earlier proposed building a replacement arena for Maple Leaf Gardens on top of the Union Station trainshed. When that deal collapsed, the Leafs bought the Raptors and ACC and offered the Toronto Terminals Railway $50 million for Union Station. The club was unable to reach an agreement with the city over the rent to be paid for the municipally owned land under the station.
May 19, 1999- City of Toronto negotiators reach agreement in principle to purchase Union Station from the Toronto Terminals Railway. The City had long owned a large portion of the land on which the station sits but disagreed with the TTR for years about the rent owed. As with any such agreement, working out the finer details would take almost a year.
In 2000, the City of Toronto purchased Union Station from TTR and GO Transit purchased the rail assets associated with the Union Station Railway Corridor. 15 years after transferring ownership of Union Station, TTR has gone through dramatic changes. Though no longer the owner, TTR still maintained and supervised construction activities for the Union Station, train shed and USRC on contract from the City and GO. In 2009, the TTR ceased to maintain Union Station, and was focused entirely on the rail operations of the USRC.
TTR celebrated 110-years of existence! This major milestone was celebrated by the company internally through the launching of employee rewards program as well as other outstanding achievement awards all focused on the unique people that make the Toronto Terminals Railway what it is today.
In 2016, TTR maintained a 99.8% On-Time-Performance for all trains entering and leaving the USRC.
Today, TTR still has an important role in maintaining and operating the tracks and train movement within the USRC. Whenever electrical or mechanical replacement parts are needed for the vintage interlocking, they must be custom manufactured by the TTR. Without the TTR, no GO or VIA trains would be able to depart or arrive at Union Station. The current owner of the Union Station Rail Corridor, Metrolinx, plans on replacing the original vintage interlocking system by 2019; this abmitious plan would be fully embraced by TTR.
TTR continues to pride itself in providing efficient and effective workers to Metrolinx as 180 commuter train trips are made daily creating ridership of 61 million riders annually.