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Sunday Supplement: Calgary's wild Grey Cup antics, the ARL's diesel trains, and Toronto's 1940s highway mania

Posted by Chris Bateman / November 25, 2012

toronto grey cup trainThis is a big weekend for sports fans. The 100th Grey Cup match between the Calgary Stampeders and the Toronto Argonauts kicks off at 6 p.m. tonight at the Rogers Centre. The Albertans have a history of bringing a party to Toronto: in 1948, 250 fans roared into town on a specially chartered train, and this year there was a repeat journey, captured above.

Below, there's the story of the famous Grey Cup weekend in Toronto that cemented a tradition of mascot horses for the Calgarians. There's also a look at the new Air-Rail Link (now the Union-Pearson Express) trains coming to the city in the next three years, now that a push for electric vehicles seems over and done with. Also, find out what Toronto could have looked like if a major push for downtown highways had succeeded.

THE 1948 STAMPEDERS STAMPEDEcalgary stampeder specialAs you've already likely heard, the Calgary Stampeders and their posse of horses are in town this week for today's Grey Cup match. There was a minor controversy on Thursday when staff at the Royal York decided not to let Marty, a 15-year-old dark brown stallion, walk through the hotel doors as per a 64-year tradition.

Management had a change of heart following cheers of "let him in" from Stamps fans on the street, and a concerted outcry on social media. But what of this tradition - where did that come from?

According to the Toronto Star on November 26, 1948, the day before the 36th Grey Cup match at Varsity Stadium between the Stampeders and the Ottawa Rough Riders, "the shrill yell of the cowpunchers echoed through the quiet [Union] station almost the instant the special train pulled in. Red shirts, yellow shirts, pink shirts, green shirts, high-heeled boots, spurs, lovely western lassies were all there in colourful confusion."

The Stampeder Special, a 14-car train from Calgary packed to the gills with 250 fans, had arrived. An impromptu square dance broke out in the station cafeteria complete with violin, guitar, and accordion players. Watching on, Toronto mayor Hiram McCallum remarked "I'm glad I'm not here officially; it's much more fun just to stand and watch. Toronto has never seen anything like this."

Later that day, a crowd of horses and chuckwagons brought on the train gathered outside Old City Hall for a public flapjack and bacon lunch.

Calgary would go on to triumph 12-7 over Ottawa, cheered on by a rabid crowd. During the celebrations, a horse rode through the lobby of the Royal York - it's not clear whether the rider had permission - launching a tradition of lobby-walking for the Calgary contingent that continues to this day, even if some of the swankier locations think twice.

AIR-RAIL LINK TRAINStoronto air-rail linkThis week, the Clean Train Coalition - a group fighting for electric trains on the under-construction Union Station-Pearson rail link, now being rebranded the "Union-Pearson Express" - failed in its attempt to have Metrolinx's diesel trains replaced with something more environmentally friendly.

That means the train pictured above, and presently on order from Japan's Nippon Sharyo, will likely be chugging along the line in time for the 2015 Pan-Am Games. The vehicles themselves will be extremely similar to ones being built for a similar project in the Sonoma-Marin area of California.

Here are some stats on those vehicles:

  • Cars: 2 (3rd optional)
  • Seats: 158 (two-car configuration)
  • Storage Spaces: 38

Features under consideration for the ARL:

  • Laptop outlets
  • Airline check-in consoles
  • Wi-Fi
  • Flight information screens

Line Facts and Figures:

  • Trip Time: 25 minutes
  • Line Length: 25 kms
  • Train Frequency: 15 mins
  • Stations: Union, Bloor GO, Weston GO, Pearson Terminal 1

And here's a video released Thursday to promote the new line featuring local business leaders and Spacing editor Shawn Micallef:

Looks like the website and associated YouTube videos have been pulled for now...


While looking for something else entirely at the archives, I came across an old copy of the Master Plan for the City of Toronto and Environs. Dated December 31st, 1943, the document is a stark illustration of what the city's leaders envisioned as the future of transit: namely, highways. Lots and lots of highways.

toronto highway mapThough the Gardiner Expressway, then "Superhighway 'A'," the Don Valley Parkway, and 401 were eventually built, many of the roads that would have penetrated downtown were nixed and replaced with rapid transit lines. One road dubbed "Superhighway 'E'" would have run in a trench just north of Bloor, exactly following the current route of the subway. At Church, it would have turned down the Rosedale Ravine, across the Don, and through the east end along Gerrard. Instead of an interchange subway station at St. George and Spadina, we would have had a major road junction. The subway, if it was ever to be built, would have gone been on track in the highway's median, à la parts of the Spadina line.

Superhighway 'B' - the Spadina Expressway - came dangerously close to happening; a bitter three-year fight eventually forced its cancellation in 1971. Here in the Master Plan, it intersects the Bloor superhighway roughly where Spadina station is now. Chalk this one up as a bullet dodged.

toronto bloor highwayWHAT WE LEARNED THIS WEEK:

Images: "VIA 6445" by Stephen Gardiner, City of Toronto Archives, and Nippon Sharyo.



Simon Tarses / November 25, 2012 at 03:29 am
A shame that the CTC failed (for now, maybe) at what they wanted;I support this endeavor highly. The ONLY thing I didn't like (and have issues with) is what they think would have provided the juice to run the trains: an electric train is a big pull on the power grid, after all. If they though that wind would do it, I doubt it, because the demands on the grid alone would seem to suggest that nuclear power would be the way to go (unless the CTC wants to see coal and gas-operated plants provide the power.)

As for this air rail link, I`d rather be using the Eglington LRT for this; it could just as have been easily expanded to the airport with no problem, and visitors to Toronto can get on it and come into the city like everybody else would be doing (dignitaries, Pam Am Games athletes, and businessmen included-why should they be treated any differently from the rest of the common folk?)
Michelle / November 25, 2012 at 08:17 am
It's really interesting to me that they so accurately predicted future traffic flow back in 1943. It's something we seem to have a problem with now, which has resulted in waste.
jameson / November 25, 2012 at 09:19 am
I like the shots of Parkdale in the Pearson video...Odd though, because the station is at Dundas-Bloor, should've taken shots from High Park and Bloor...
JunctionJim / November 25, 2012 at 10:25 am
What a horrible waste of infrastructure improvements, this could easily have been built as a downtown relief line (either an LRT or Subway system) and served a huge portion of areas with little or very poor transit!

Hey Metrolinx, stop kidding yourself, dignitaries, businessmen and your CEO will still take limos to the airport.

sean / November 25, 2012 at 10:52 am
I'm not sure if it's the same person every week but I find the Sunday supplement articles the most interesting and best written of anything on Blogto. Keep up the good work.
badlink / November 25, 2012 at 10:58 am
now being rebranded the "Union-Pearson Express" link is getting: Bad Request (Invalid Hostname)
Al replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / November 25, 2012 at 11:29 am
The Eglinton LRT will be a commuter line. If it were extended to the airport, some would use it, just as they use the TTC buses, but it won;t be suited to most travellers. The LRT will not be a good fit for anyone who has luggage. It would also likely take over an hour to get downtown. It could be another option, but it doesn't replace the Air-Rail link.
Craig replying to a comment from JunctionJim / November 25, 2012 at 11:48 am
Jim, a DRL would cost about 10x what the ARL is costing. The Eglinton Crosstown is about 5x the cost of the ARL. The smart thing would have been to not cancel the original Eglinton line back in '95, but hey we have a Sheppard line to an under served area instead.

Toronto is one of the last major cities in North America without a fixed link to the airport, if we spent the money on the ARL we'd never get a link.

As for the riders, yes CEOs would still use limos. The non-executive business travelers will use it. From my experience a taxi from Union to Pearson is $60, the train will be less. Don't forget tourists, they will make up a good chunk of the patrons of this.
Chris Bateman replying to a comment from badlink / November 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm
Seems like they've pulled the site. Maybe the world isn't ready for the Union-Pearson Express.
Sam / November 25, 2012 at 01:35 pm
I've got the answer! Horses pulling wagons with airport passengers in them. No electricity needed and no (cough, cough) diesel either. All organic. Even horse manure is considered organic as horses don't eat meat.

Just a thought.
Aaron / November 25, 2012 at 02:17 pm
Website down, promo video withdrawn.. another highly professional Toronto transit initiative is on its way!
Ford4ever replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / November 25, 2012 at 02:21 pm
"If they (Clean Train Coalition) thought that wind would do it, I doubt it, because the demands on the grid alone would seem to suggest that nuclear power would be the way to go (unless the CTC wants to see coal and gas-operated plants provide the power.)"

Good point. Wind power seems great until you realize that there has to be an equivalent non-renewable generating station sitting on standby (using fuel and staff, not OFF) for when the wind dies.
Can't Wait! / November 25, 2012 at 06:29 pm
I can't wait for a these arl trains to be passing by my house every 15 minutes!
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Al / November 26, 2012 at 05:45 am
Nonsense. Many tourists would at least be able to get to the rest of Toronto without having to pay for an expensive airport bus or ARL, and this would also be amazing for the aircrews that come in from Pearson itself, as well as for the average person that lives in Toronto.
scottd replying to a comment from Ford4ever / November 26, 2012 at 09:29 am
Metrolinx's own studies on electrification show that electric is a superior system in terms of more stops, more revenue, and lower life time costs plus the ability for the grid to get greener which diesel cannot do. Kind of sad when you dont follow your own advice.
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