From the first motorized buses, to women drivers in wartime and accessible vehicles, Toronto’s public transit system has seen many milestones over its more than 100 years in service — and it’s all on display in a new exhibit.
“Chances are, you’re going to be familiar with at least some of the pictures, some of the neighbourhoods that are shown in the exhibit,” said Michele Dale, the supervisor of collection management and standards at the City of Toronto Archives.
Located at 255 Spadina Road, the free exhibit, titled 100 Years of Moving Toronto, features photographs and artifacts from the TTC that start in the 1920s with the expansion of the streetcar network.
Then the exhibit moves on to the Depression and the Second World War all the way to the start of the pandemic in 2020.
“To go way back to that time and to realize how far we’ve come, it’s really an eye opener,” Dale said.
The show also honours milestones like the hiring of Irma James, the first Black female streetcar driver.
In addition, it includes little-known facts — for example, TTC operators were not permitted to wear eyeglasses on the job until 1922.
The exhibit will be open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m until Aug. 12. The TTC is also hanging historical photographs and maps in 12 subway stations across the city. They’ll remain in place until July.
“What we were hoping is that people who would be looking at these photographs in the stations might strike up a conversation with somebody beside them about what they were looking at,” said Dale.
“The TTC was part of the great expansion of the city and wherever the TTC went, the city expanded with it,” she added.
Kevin Brown, an instructor at the Wilson Operations Training Centre who has been working at the TTC for 37 years, is looking forward to seeing the show. His father also worked as a trainer at the same facility after the Second World War. His mother was a streetcar operator during the war.
Brown says he enjoys learning about the part the TTC played in the history of Toronto and further exploring the personal connection it holds for him.
“I plan on visiting the exhibits and also perhaps seeing my family members in there. That would be quite interesting to see,” he said.
The official 100-year anniversary was on Sept 1, 2021, but Toronto Archives was unable to host the event in-person due to the pandemic. Instead, the full exhibit was shared online.
“I think that people will come and get a renewed appreciation for just what an incredible service it is, and how lucky we are here in Toronto,” Dale said.
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