50th anniversary celebration at Chester Station

Do you ever think about the Bloor-Danforth line? If you do, chances are your thoughts aren’t exceedingly positive. After all, subways aren’t really glamorous to think about, but the Bloor-Danforth line (or Line 2 as they now call it) has always been an underrated Toronto artery. The B-D is as simple as they come, with no need to get confused about what “northbound” and “southbound” mean like on its yellow, loopy-line cousin. It carries over 519,000 riders a day, which isn’t bad considering it just turned the big 5-0. No larger section of Toronto subway has ever gone into immediate operation than Bloor-Danforth. It played a vital role expanding Toronto as a city beyond its traditional borders, connecting Etobicoke to Scarborough, Greektown to Koreatown, and East York to Bloor West Village.

The Artists’ Newsstand is a performance space that showcases the talents of local artists, uniquely located inside the vacant Gateway Newstand at Chester station. They are throwing a birthday bash for the Bloor-Danforth line from 4 to 7 PM featuring cake, refreshments, and of course the hits of 1966. In addition, there will be a historical performance by theatre artist Moe Angelos on the construction of the subway.

What we now know as Line 2 was once a streetcar line, stretching from Jane to Luttrell Avenue, just between the Main and Victoria Park stations. Streetcars are historically a staple of Toronto transit, especially for those living in the city’s east and west ends. My grandmother recalls a drunk man commandeering an idle streetcar at Woodbine and taking it for a joyride with dozens of frightened passengers along the Danforth.

In the 1950s, when the Yonge subway just opened and the city was experiencing a population boom, the streetcars on Bloor-Danforth simply couldn’t handle the load. Construction of the Bloor-Danforth line was approved in September 1958, along with the western end of the “U” from Union Station to St. George.

The cost of the Bloor-Danforth expansion was $146 million, which is just over $1.3 billion today, and nine men died during its construction. It was built slightly north of Bloor and Danforth so that existing streetcar traffic would be unaffected. The Prince Edward Viaduct, connecting Bloor and Danforth Avenues, was already built in the 1910s with a lower deck, as urban planners correctly predicted that one day a subway would indeed cross the Don Valley.  

The original line stretched from Keele to Woodbine, but expansion plans were well underway. In 1968, the line was simultaneously expanded to Warden in the east and Islington in the west, and again in 1980 to its current terminuses at Kennedy and Kipling. It takes about 50 minutes to go from end to end.

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