Friday was Day One of our official Toronto RailFest. Our plans were to ride three different GO TRANSIT commuter rail lines, and some streetcars in between.
Jishnu and John met Michael and me for our hotel's breakfast, which was situated inside a suite on the second floor. I believe that they left before Michael and I did, and we later saw them at Union Station. We finished our breakfast and then headed for the Sherbourne subway station to begin our journey to Union Station. Although we could not use them at the time, I purchased five TTC DayPasses at the booth in the station. Michael and I would each use one later on Friday and all day Saturday, and then for Sunday we could use the last one for a Family Fare, which was good for both of us.
Michael and I (and John and Jishnu earlier) took the Bloor-Danforth Subway one stop to Bloor-Yonge, and then the Yonge-University-Spadina Subway down to Union Station. At Union Station we first went to the GO TRANSIT part of the facility to both explore the place and purchase our tickets. From the machine we would be getting one adult and one child GO TRANSIT DayPass, which were good for any trip up to the zone on the ticket. By buying a DayPass for Burlington, it allowed us to also ride the shorter runs to Oshawa and Bramalea.
After we got our tickets, Michael caught a glimpse of a man with a white stick. Could it be? Yes, it was Mike Hammond, waiting near the GO TRANSIT ticket offices for us. I don't think he had gotten our message, so he wisely stood where he figured somebody from our group would have to run into him. I took Mike to purchase his ticket, which he did with a live agent so he could get a handicapped discount.
Then I led Mike upstairs to where the group was to assemble. In retrospect, it would have made a lot more sense to have the group meet where I found Mike. But I had not yet explored that part of the station, so I hadn't known about it before this morning.
Chapter 3.1: 12 participants
Almost everyone was accounted for. We had our group of ten from the MAPLE LEAF, and Mike and Brad were joining us for the first time. The only person missing was Ted. I wondered if he had made it to Toronto.
Chapter 3.1.1: Meeting at Toronto Union Station
Once we were all together, save for one, we went back down to the GO TRANSIT area. Those who had not purchased their tickets did so. Then we waited for the call for our train to Oshawa. It was called for boarding on Platform 2A. That's really Track 2, but train doors can open onto platforms on either side of the train.
Chapter 3.1.2: GO TRANSIT Lakeshore East Line, Train #908; Toronto Union Station, ON to Oshawa, ON
Some of us had ridden bilevel coaches on Virginia Railway Express, TriRail, and the ones in California before, so we were a bit familiar with this equipment. Toronto is where these lozenge shaped coaches first came into existence. In fact GO TRANSIT often leased surplus coaches to other agencies when needed.
Naturally we all sat on the upper level to get a better view. This route follows the shore of Lake Ontario, just as the Lakeshore West Line does. We would be riding the Lakeshore West Line later today and had already covered the trackage yesterday on the MAPLE LEAF.
On the way we did pass a VIA Rail train that was coming from either Ottawa or Montreal, or both. A combined train to Ottawa and Montreal also passed us in the same direction.
Our 55 minute trip to Oshawa, the furthest east we went in Ontario, was otherwise uneventful. We arrived there on time at 10:08 AM.
We had 33 minutes before the same equipment would take us back to Toronto. A few of our participants bought snacks in the station, while others remained outside taking pictures. We were treated to one freight train going by. Some people in the station were awaiting an eastbound VIA train. At one point we were thinking of possibly taking VIA back to Toronto instead of GO TRANSIT. But VIA, like Amtrak, prices its shorter distance station pairs pretty high to discourage travel where there are commuter trains available. The VIA fare was beyond some members' budgets, so we agreed to stick with GO TRANSIT.
Chapter 3.1.3: GO TRANSIT Lakeshore East Line, Train #913; Oshawa, ON to Toronto Union Station, ON
We reboarded our train for the westbound trip back to Toronto. Another uneventful trip was in store for us. That VIA train that was due shortly after our GO TRANSIT train departed from Oshawa did pass us along the way. Like our outbound trip, we operated exactly on time, and came back into Toronto Union Station precisely at the advertised time of 11:37 AM.
Chapter 3.2: All 13 participants
As we went downstairs into the station, we were met by Ted Patchell, who had gotten into town late and decided to sit out the early segment of the day. Now 13 members strong, we split for lunch, agreeing to meet in the same location in the GO TRANSIT area in advance of our next rail journey.
Chapter 3.2.1: Lunch in Toronto
Now it was time for lunch. My itinerary called for us to have lunch at the small food court area in Union Station. However, Ted knew of a better place a short walk away. A building diagonally across the street called BCE Place has a large food court on its lower level. On that same level is a small mall, as well as access to the Hockey Hall of Fame. And, as I later learned, part of Toronto's PATH System, a network of underground passageways and sky bridges connecting many downtown buildings, also runs between BCE Place and Union Station.
We had lost a couple of our participants on our way to BCE Place, as some had stopped in the Union Station subway station to purchase their DayPasses. It is assumed that they found something to eat within Union Station.
We all regrouped in the GO TRANSIT area at 12:45, and prepared to board our next train to Bramalea. It soon was called for Track 1, and up we went to the platform closest to the station building.
Chapter 3.2.2: GO TRANSIT Georgetown Line, Train #263; Toronto Union Station, ON to Bramalea, ON
The Georgetown Line is the only line other than the Lakeshore East and Lakeshore West Lines that runs middays. However it does not make it all the way to Georgetown; the trains turn at Bramalea.
This was our only venture into the northwestern suburbs of Toronto. After we departed at precisely 1:00 PM and then veered onto the Georgetown Line, we recognized most of the streets that have east-west streetcar lines as we passed over them. We went through parts of Mississauga, and in fact we saw Pearson International Airport to our left. Unfortunately there is no station that is really convenient to the airport without a bus or taxi ride.
We arrived in Bramalea on time and without any noteworthy events. On the platform we stuck close by the train, since we only had eleven minutes before our train would head back to Toronto. During the time we were there, two freight trains passed. John heard on his scanner that one of the engineers was telling the other that there were about twelve railfans on the Bramalea platform, and to "wave and look good".
Chapter 3.2.3: GO TRANSIT Georgetown Line, Train #266; Bramalea, ON to Toronto Union Station, ON
The trip back to Toronto was smooth as well. We were only one minute off the advertised coming back into Union Station.
Although on this day we featured GO TRANSIT, we had 2-1/2 hours to go before our rush hour trip on the Lakeshore West Line to Burlington. We would use that time riding streetcars on the east side of the city.
Chapter 3.2.4: TTC Yonge-University-Spadina Subway; Union Station to Queen
To get to Queen Street, we first had to ride the subway two stops. Because I had underestimated the time it would take to walk through the station to the subway, and also due to a longer than expected wait for the subway, we missed the intended streetcar on our original itinerary.
The plan was to take a 502 Downtowner streetcar from Queen/Yonge to Bingham Loop, take the same car back a short distance to Main Street, then either walk or take a bus down to Queen where we would pick up the 501 Queen streetcar with a minimum of backtracking.
So since we were already a bit late, and knew we had a deadline to get back to Union Station to catch our next GO TRANSIT train, we had to keep an eye on the time and try to salvage at least part of the itinerary.
Chapter 3.2.5: TTC 501 Queen Streetcar; Queen & Yonge Streets to Queen Street & Coxwell Avenue
A 501 Queen streetcar came first, so I figured we should jump on and just ride this line from Queen/Yonge to the Neville Park Loop terminus and back again. I also knew that if we didn't ride the 502 Downtowner streetcar sometime on Friday, we would not be able to since it only operates on weekdays.
We rode the 501 Queen streetcar east on Queen, and right into our most serious delay of the entire Fest. Just past Bathurst, in the vicinity of where GO TRANSIT's Stouffville Line passes over Queen Street, it was obvious that a movie crew was doing some filming. Storefronts were covered over with fake signs, and there were antique cars lining the street. The TTC's own Peter Witt car was also running, fitting nicely into the obvious old-time set.
We sat unable to move for quite a while. Every so often the film crew would break to allow traffic to flow through. Whereas other vehicles could detour around this obstruction, the streetcars could not.
We finally got through the mess, and resumed moving east on Queen. At one point I glanced back, and saw a 502 streetcar behind us. This was most likely the trip that we had originally intended to take; it had also been delayed by the movie filming. Since riding the 502 was more important that day than the 501, we agreed to jump off our streetcar and switch to the one just behind it. Our impromptu transfer was done at the stop at Queen and Coxwell Avenues.
Chapter 3.2.6: TTC 502 Downtowner Streetcar; Queen Street & Coxwell Avenue to Bingham Loop
After our switch at Coxwell, it was only another long block before we turned off Queen and onto Kingston Road. The latter is more residential than Queen, but our streetcar still did plenty of business.
Almost too suddenly, we arrived at Bingham Loop, outside of Victoria Park. The time was 3:26 PM, which was 26 minutes later than my itinerary showed. It was time for me to bring up altering our plans. It was agreed that we would just remain on this 502 car around Bingham Loop and back downtown to Queen/Yonge. When coming to this decision, we were mindful of the fact that we most likely would be caught in the same movie filming that had delayed us on the eastbound trip. We'd hit the outermost portion of the 501 Queen streetcar another time.
Since the operator knew we all had DayPasses, we were allowed to remain on board during his quick three minute dwell at the loop before returning with him towards downtown.
We got up to a point just before the block where the movie filming was taking place, and then as predicted we sat a while once more. After we proceeded through the block between takes, our operator was radioed by his dispatcher to go out of service. Apparently the streetcars were bunching up too close around the temporary street closure. We had to wait on the corner of Queen and Broadview for the next streetcar, which we assumed would be a 501 since they run more frequently on Queen Street. However we were surprised to find a 503 Kingston Road streetcar, which had come from the same Bingham Loop as the car that had just dumped us. The 503 runs a different route, mostly via King Street (which we would be traversing in full on Saturday on the 504 King streetcar. The 503, however, takes a slightly different route downtown that loops very close to Union Station. So since it would save us the subway ride from Queen and possibly some precious time, we took it.
Chapter 3.2.8: TTC 503 Kingston Road Streetcar; Queen & Broadview to Wellington & Bay
The 503 was not on our original itinerary since it duplicates parts of other routes (except for the trackage downtown on Wellington, which became an unexpected treat for us). We rode on Queen for a bit, and then turned onto King Street where it began. Then the streetcar moved off King onto another side street before heading west once more on Wellington.
We got off at Wellington and Bay, which was within sight of BCE Place where most of us had eaten lunch earlier. It was a two block walk down Bay from Wellington to Union Station.
When we entered the station, it was about 4:15 PM. We had successfully gotten back to the station with a little over half an hour to spare before our evening GO TRANSIT run. It was rush hour, and the station was packed with people. A few members of our group went into a newsstand to purchase small snacks for the upcoming train trip, since it was our intention to have a late dinner after we got back into town at 6:37 PM.
We went back to what had become our "usual" GO TRANSIT meeting place, and we awaited the track assignment for our rush hour train to Burlington.
Chapter 3.2.9: GO TRANSIT Lakeshore West Line, Train #481; Toronto Union Station, ON to Burlington, ON
This rush hour train was chosen to give us a little taste of express running. When we departed from Union Station, we ran nonstop to Clarkson and then made all local stops to Burlington. Just like our other two GO TRANSIT outbound trips that day, we ran on time the entire way, getting into Burlington at 5:35 PM.
GO TRANSIT goes beyond Burlington to Hamilton. However, Hamilton is served by GO TRANSIT trains only with the flow of rush hour traffic, so there would be no return train. Therefore, I chose a train that turned at Burlington.
Off the train at Burlington, we had just ten minutes of layover time. The sun was low in the sky here, and it was hard to see anything, much less to take pictures. We soon reboarded the same equipment for what would be our final GO TRANSIT venture of the Fest.
Chapter 3.2.10: GO TRANSIT Lakeshore West Line, Train #484; Burlington, ON to Toronto Union Station, ON
The inbound trip made all local stops, so we got to stop at inner stations we had passed on the outbound run to Burlington. I was surprised that all trains make a stop at the Exhibition grounds, even though there are no events taking place there. (We would see that area a little more closely on the streetcars on Saturday afternoon.)
Timekeeping had been excellent on all six GO TRANSIT trips we had taken that day, so it was no surprise that we arrived back at Union Station just two minutes late.
Chapter 3.2.11: Group separates at Union Station
Our Friday activities were officially over when we arrived back at Toronto Union Station. We all walked back up to the place where we had met that morning. We agreed to meet for our Saturday morning travels downstairs in the GO TRANSIT area, since that would put us closer to the entrance to the TTC subway and streetcars. And finally, we bid goodbye to Skip, who was leaving Toronto on Saturday morning to fly quickly back to Massachusetts for a wedding.
What about dinner? Well, although our official rail travels were over, we had differing opinions about a) where to have dinner, and b) whether we indeed were finished riding the rails today. What happened was that we ended up splitting into two groups, which I will call the Haves and the Have Nots. The Haves wanted to treat themselves to a nice steak dinner at the notoriously expensive Ruth's Chris Steak House, while the Have Nots would be happy with the more reasonably priced fare and larger selection at a food court.
All 13 of us walked down to the subway station together. The Haves would take a train going west and then north under University, while the Have Nots would take a train going east and then north under Yonge. So the cliche of trains going in opposite directions like our outlooks on where to get dinner was very real. Our trains came at about the same time, and off we all went to our respective dinners.
Chapter 3.3: "The Haves": Steak dinner group
The Haves included HaRRy, Alan, Jishnu, and Skip. They rode the subway one stop to St. Andrew, and then walked a short distance to the Hilton Toronto Hotel to access Ruth's Chris. They spent the rest of Friday evening having steak, emptying their wallets for the privilege, and then retiring for the night.
Chapter 3.4: "The Have Nots": Food court dinner group
The nine member Have Nots consisted of Mike, Piotr, Brad, Ed, Ted, John, Steve, Michael, and me.
Chapter 3.4.1: TTC Yonge-University-Spadina Subway; Union Station to Queen
Together we rode the subway two stops to Queen. We then walked into Toronto Eaton Centre, the city's largest downtown shopping mall.
Chapter 3.4.2: Dinner at Eaton Centre
We easily found the large food court on the lower level. Apparently my reputation for loving Sbarro is well documented in these reports, so I got a good chuckle out of the group when I came to the table with a heaping plate of ziti and meatballs. Being in a food court allows everyone to get whatever they please, and in 20 minutes or so, we and our stomachs were very pleased.
During our meal, the majority of us realized that we did not want to break company just yet. Because of our delays earlier in the day, we did not get to do the 501 Queen streetcar as we had intended, from the corner of Queen and Kingston out to the end of the line at Neville Park Loop. To salvage what we had missed in our plans, we decided to take that line out for another spin, this time remaining on Queen Street to Neville Park. Remember, we all had DayPasses, and they all were good until 3 AM. So, it would cost us nothing more to ride as long as we wished.
John and Steve decided they did not want to take this just planned jaunt.
That left seven of us, who went across Queen Street to wait for the next eastbound streetcar. While waiting, we wondered how the Haves group was doing with their steak dinner; odds are they were just having their salads or other appetizers.
Chapter 3.4.3: TTC 501 Queen Streetcar; Queen & Yonge Streets to Neville Park Loop
The trip east on Queen initially retraced our travels of earlier that day. When we got to the block where the movie filming had been taking place, they had put a wrap on their activities for the day, so traffic was not affected. We moved rather well down Queen Street, this being a Friday evening after the rush hour.
The motorman of our streetcar was interesting, he told jokes while driving. When we came to the last stop at Neville Park Loop, he told us we were at the end of the line. He then looked us over and correctly spotted us as railfans, and let us stay aboard for the ride around the loop. He told us that we had to lean first to the right, and then left around the loop in order to "steer" the streetcar.
While at Neville Park Loop, we asked our motorman about the movie filming. He told us that they were shooting "Cinderella Man", starring Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger. The movie will come out in mid-March of 2005.
Chapter 3.4.4: TTC 501 Queen Streetcar; Neville Park Loop to Queen & Carlaw
When we began to return westbound on Queen towards downtown, our driver said that he had been told to short turn. He would be ending his run at Carlaw, which is just before the car barn along Queen. He took us there, and then made a left turn onto Carlaw as he was now out of service. That left us to wait for the next 501 car to come by.
We made the best of our second dumping of the day. We noticed that Queen Street was busy with streetcars, some also going out of service at the depot. As long as we were there, Piotr got some photos of the idle streetcars parked outside the barn.
In revenue service besides the 501, there was also the detoured 506 (which normally runs on Gerrard, and which we would be riding officially on Saturday). Ted saw this car approach, and decided to leave us, as it would bring him closer to the college where he was staying.
After Ted left on a 506 car, a 501 came by. The six of us remaining rode it back to Yonge Street. Still left together were Mike, Brad, Ed, Piotr, Michael, and me. We wondered if our Haves group had finished their juicy steaks yet.
Ed and Piotr were next to leave us, as the streetcar passed relatively close to the hostel at which they were staying.
It was down to Mike, Brad, Michael, and me. A few blocks later, we arrived at Yonge. Brad remained on the 501 streetcar, which would take him directly to his Days Inn west of town. Mike, Michael, and I got off at Yonge, and entered the subway on the corner.
The three of us rode the Yonge-University-Spadina Subway up to Bloor/Yonge. There, we switched to the Bloor-Danforth Subway. Mike would go west from there to Kipling, and then make his bus connection to his hotel near the airport. Michael and I, of course, had just one stop east to go, and we were at Sherbourne, a stone's throw from our hotel.
Chapter 3.5: End of Friday's activities
Once again we went into a convenience store for some ice cream and drinks, and then Michael and I walked to our hotel and eventually retired for the night.
So ended Friday, our only day for riding GO TRANSIT and a day when everyone did what they felt like doing. When all was said and done, the Have Nots got some more rail riding under their belts, while the Haves had to loosen theirs to make room for their full steak dinners.