What might become of our current streetcars when they’re replaced by shiny new ones over the next few years? No one knows yet, but they might well dream of seeing out the rest of their days at the Halton County Radial Railway.
The museum, a short distance from Toronto in Milton, includes two kilometres of track laid down through a forest, two old stations, and a gift shop. It’s all cared for by uniformed volunteers, and ten dollars will get you unlimited rides on a variety of streetcars, many of which are the originals that ran on various Toronto transit routes.
One of the vehicles refurbished to ride is an alarmingly open-plan affair that couldn’t have been very comfortable during the winter, with its standing-room-only boards running along the sides. The car is a 1933 replica of an 1892 vehicle, so it’s not just old, it’s meta-old. According to museum staff, it was only allowed to take part in a streetcar parade for the eightieth anniversary of the TTC when then-mayor Mel Lastman briefly suspended a law banning streetcars with exterior floor space from operating in the city.
There’s also a barn, home to more old streetcars, as well as a few trains that used to run in southern Ontario. Several are open to explore and charmed us with their historic details. In one streetcar, built in 1921, a notice tells passengers that the cash fare is ten cents or a dollar for sixteen tickets. And children get a discount as long as they are no taller than the oddly precise and non-metric figure of fifty-three-and-a-half inches.
In addition to the streetcars, the museum houses many long-expired timetables and tourism-by-train posters, all mothballed in the first half of the last century. It’s a glimpse of how travel used to be, before sprawl and the increasing popularity of the car knotted Toronto with clogged expressways. Perhaps in eighty years, Torontoist will be reminiscing at The Museum Of The 407, looking at people lovingly restoring their grandparents’ transponders. Nostalgia can be so fickle.
Halton County Radial Railway is at 13629 Guelph Line, at exit 312 off the 401. Prices and hours of admission can be found here.
Photos by Quin Parker/Torontoist.