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cityscape

Ask Torontoist: A Grave Mystery

What's the story behind the poor goner buried beside the train tracks?

Reader Karen Schein asks:

Do you know the story behind the grave, north of the abandoned rail bridge over Bayview Avenue?

Torontoist answers:

If not for the structures visible in the distance—not to mention the absence of tumbleweed, circling vultures, and a Man With No Name—the image below could easily be mistaken for a century-old burial plot in some remote patch of Arizona Territory.

But this isn’t a scene out of the Wild West, and neither is there a gun-slinging cowpoke, or anyone else for that matter, buried here.

This structure, which appears to be a lonely grave, is located on the eastern ridge above the Evergreen Brick Works, next to a disused rail line known as the Don Branch—a secluded stretch of land that runs between Cherry Street and Leaside. It’s favoured by dog walkers and hikers. A complete history of the line is here.

But the grave isn’t what it appears to be. In reality, it’s an access hatch Canadian Pacific linesmen once used to service underground electrical cables.

The cross, fashioned out of a discarded plank, was probably put there by a prankster.

Still doubting? Do as Lady Macbeth commands her sniveling hubby in Shakespeare’s lesser known spaghetti western, Macbeth, The Tragedy Of A Crooked Cowboy King, and “Screw your courage to the hitching post.” Err, sticking place.

Whichever. Man-up, open the hatch, and peek inside.

Less than 30 centimetres in depth, the conduit that once housed electrical cables is visible. Incidentally, there’s another, similar access point about a kilometre north. It doesn’t have a wooden hatch, and is easily overlooked.

In the process of getting to the bottom of this grave mystery, Torontoist stumbled upon another. If the Don Branch is no longer in use, how come the signal-light tower remains operational?

A ghost train!

Psych!

Malon Edwards, media relations at Metrolinx, provided a more practical answer. Even though this stretch of rail line is technically no longer in service, because its north-south terminals are connected to working lines, it remains an active siding track.

“As such,” Edwards explained, “GO Transit has not disconnected the signals in this area since the tracks may have short-term use, including storage or staging.”

Oh well, no shallow grave or ghost train. But still, the the former Don Branch remains a scenic haunt.

Ask Torontoist features questions posed by you, and answered by our elite team of specially trained investigative experts (also known as our staff). Send your questions to ask@torontoist.com.

Photos by Karen Schein.

Comments

  • Sarah ML

    That’s interesting but if you can explain the grave marker that is down behind the back entrance of the St. Clair West subways station, I would be very happy. It is on someone’s property, and looks like one of those tall narrow monuments you see in the cemetary. Maybe it’s a lawn ornament .. but it’s an odd looking one if it is. Does anyone know who or what this marker is for? Thanks

    • cookier

      I think you may be referring to a marker just outside the south facing disused doors to the StClairW underground tunnel? There was a man who lived rough on the streets kicked to death outside those doors some 15 or so years ago, and his murder remains unsolved, I’m sorry to say. I believe I saw a monument out there to him some time ago. Could that be what you’re talking about?

  • Anonymous

    Given it could be used a siding track, could you not describe it as “out-of-use”?

  • therandomdialer888

    If this line is unused, and owned by Metrolinx, it would make a very nice express line from the Don Mills/Overlea LRT, straight to Union. Avoids all the issues with crossing the Don on-street, and reduces the number of riders on the Yonge line.

  • Jpeck

    What’s with that mini cemetary beside the 401 in the west end?

  • http://rudy.ca/ r937

    the south end of the don branch might still be connected to active rail lines (i haven’t checked), but the north end, at leaside, has been physically cut off and cannot be used as a siding from that end

    see http://rudy.ca/toronto/don-branch-at-leaside-junction.jpg

  • Littlehollywood

    This is very amusing
    This is not a grave of any kind. It is a concrete vault that is part of the abandoned rail line . I should know because I have walked my dog along this track every morning for 13 years . I put the board across to keep my dog from falling in , although it is only 2 feet deep….The ‘cross’ is the work of kids, and/or the same grafitti artists and/or bon fire builders responsible for the ongoing defacement and abuse of the Brick Works Look Out