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Part 1 of 4: Valuable Donation to Toronto Railway Museum

While manning the TRHA booth at the 2012 Christmas Train Show, I was approached by a gentleman named Doug Montgomery, a resident of North York. Doug was seeking a home for a collection of 24 cabinet cards that he had found while renovating his home. After some assurances about suitable preservation of the cards, Doug generously donated his collection to the TRHA.

Cabinet cards are thin photographs glued to thick cardboard and are approximately 5.5 X 6.5 inches in dimension. They were usually sold commercially by professional photographers and were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The cards were often stored in customized wooden filing cabinets, hence the name. Early cards were smaller and usually included advertising for the photographic studio. With the invention of the affordable Kodak Box Brownie camera, first introduced in 1900, the public increasingly began taking their own photographs and the popularity of the cabinet card declined. Eighteen of Doug’s cards were of railway subjects and dated to approximately 1900.

Image #1 shows the format of the cards, which includes decorative embossing framing the photograph. Subsequent images reproduced here have been cropped to show the photograph only. A few of the cards have brief notations on the back and only one was precisely dated. Some of the cards include sufficient geographical features that make it possible for me to determine the precise location. TRHA Operations VP Michael Guy also provided some technical advice on a few of the cards.

Image #2 has the most detailed caption on the back. “Little York station and yards, July 1, 1901, 2:00 pm train for Brockville.” The photograph is looking east and was taken from the Main Street bridge. In 1884, the Grand Trunk Railway built a 420-car freight yard seen in the distance on the right. Out of camera range on the right was a 31-stall roundhouse. Nearby residents had long resented the fact that many people referred to their community as Little York, to distinguish it from York (Toronto) and New York. They lobbied for the station to be renamed East Toronto but the railway refused. In 1922, GTR renamed the station Danforth.

Image #3 inscription indicates “CPR bridge over GTR belt line, Don Valley.” This section of the Toronto Belt Line was abandoned in 1894. The photographer appears to have been standing near the east end of Summerhill Avenue looking north. The spindly CPR trestle was rebuilt into a more substantial concrete structure towards the end of World War I.

Image #4 caption is “CPR east of Nor. Toronto station.” This line was later double tracked at the same time the trestle in the previous image was rebuilt.

Click on each image below for a closer look!  

Posting by Derek Boles, TRHA Historian

Click here to read the next in this series of 4 TRHA News Postings.

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