Monday, February 8, 2010

Rapid Transit in the 1950's

This photo is taken on Somerset Street in front of the Plant Pool, looking east up the hill into the heart of the Little Italy district which is now Chinatown.

Preston runs left - right across the photo. The Rainbow grill on the corner of Preston and Somerset is now May's Chinese restaurant. The Atlas tire billboard is now Frisby tires. The buildings on the far left corner of the intersection houses Azar Signs amongst other businesses. The buildings burned down in the late 60's I think. At that time, my elderly Italian neighbor once told me, one of them housed a topless shoeshine parlour, which were popular venues back then. Further up the hill, beyond the Atlas sign, was the Vendome bar, which became a strip club and All Star Hotel before it burned down.

I note that the streets do not have a painted centre line, stop lines, crosswalks...
The lamppost in the right foreground is a streetcar rail on end. It was removed only about 10 or 12 years ago when the posts were moved back behind the sidewalk. All of the traffic control signals and signs are mounted on telephone poles, none had their own posts that so clutter or enivronment today. is a link to a short movie that shows the streetcars moving around this intersection at minute 7.35. There are shots at 4.20 and 6.10 showing the streetcars on Elm street leaving the Champagne Streetcar Barn.


  1. Thanks for posting the link to this great video. We even saw old houses right near our house! Those old streetcars were kind of pretty next to our smelly buses. We love the history.....can you post more historical posts please!?

  2. Really cool! We were a less affluent society then than we are now. I wonder how the system was financed and how long it took to plan it and build it. Was there private sector involvement? I'd love to see streetcars back, in addition to the light-rail. We need to scale back oil-dependent systems like the bus system and obviously cars. We've allocated our money to highways and car infrastructure for far too long.

  3. 1. there are sites that have more historical context. try urbsite.blogspot by robert, and images of centretown by charles akben-marchand. My blog will focus on the present and future, but thanks to your enthusiasm I will put up some more historical stuff from time to time.

    2. the ottawa elec.railway co was privately owned, so after the second war the govt seized all its profits as war profiteering o=r some such thing, crippling transit for decades. In toronto, the ttc was city owned, and therefore got to keep all its wartime profits, which it spent on building the initial ttc lines.

    google streetcars, ottawa and you will find a number of articles about the system, route maps, etc.

  4. should read 'built initial subway lines'

  5. the 1st thing I notice is the 4 or 5 trees that are no longer there :(

  6. There's also a book on the subject, Ottawa Streetcars, which should still be in print and available from select bookstores and Hobbyhouse as well, last I checked...?