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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.

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