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Abandoned generating sub-station a remnant of a forgotten public transit system

October 2020

On the west shore of Bond Lake, north of Richmond Hill, Ontario, is a small boarded-up building resembling an old farmhouse. Between the house and Yonge Street, a little to the west, are several small, parallel, cut-stone walls.

This was once a generating station for the defunct Metropolitan Street Railway Company, a privately-owned public transportation service that operated in southern Ontario in the late 19th and early 20th Century.

The beginnings of the line date back to 1884, when the Metropolitan Street Railway Company was given a contract to provide a light-rail transit service along Yonge Street, pulled by horses, from St. Claire Avenue northward to the Toronto-York County Border. Named the Metropolitan Line, it was converted to electric power in 1891.

A further agreement in 1894 saw the line extended through Newmarket to Jackson’s Point on Lake Simcoe, a process that was finally completed in 1910. This final leg was completed by the Toronto and York Radial Railway (T&YRR), which had acquired the line in 1904.

As the radial cars were powered by direct current dynamos, four steam-powered generating stations were built to allow the northward expansion, with stations at Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Keswick, and Bond Lake.

A two-story brick building, resembling a typical farmhouse of the day, was erected beside Bond Lake in 1899, on the east side of Yonge Street. The boilers and furnaces used to generate the hydro that powered the radial cars, were mounted on cut-stone foundations. Bond Lake was chose due to the need for large quantities of water. At its maximum capacity, the Bond Lake generating station generated almost 1000 horsepower, more power than the railway could use, so the company sold its surplus electricity to nearby communities.

A little to the south of the generating station was a large car repair barn to service the radial cars.

Bond Lake was already a popular spot for leisure activities, so the Metropolitan Street Railway added a station stop at the lake to serve a small amusement park they built, buying the 200 acre farm around the lake from William Bell in the process. The park was the first one in Ontario to have electric lighting and later a merry-go-round. 

Some of the stops along the Metropolitan line were full stations, but some were small buildings that served as a sheltered waiting room for passengers.

Some of the other stations:

In 1922, the City of Toronto acquired the T&YRR, contracting the operation of the four T&YRR lines to Ontario Hydro. The Metropolitan Line was turned over to the Toronto Transportation Commission in 1927 and re-named the Lake Simcoe Line, but its days were numbered.

The growing popularity of the automobile and improvement in the road system north of Toronto led to a drop in ridership on the line. As a result, the TTC ceased operation of the Lake Simcoe Line on 15 March 1930 and the line was abandoned. The amusement park at Bond Lake had closed after the 1929 season, so there was no interest in maintaining the line just for the park.

Today, some remnants of the former T&YRR can still be found; some still in use and some abandoned and crumbling.

The house at the Bond Lake generation station was covered with aluminum siding and became a private residence for several decades after the demise of the T&YRR. It’s now abandoned and crumbling, as are the stone foundations of the furnaces and boilers, and one small corner portion of the car repair barn.

Some of the other ruins that remain at Bond Lake:

Other remnants of the Toronto and York Radial Railway:

Read my article about the T&YRR Arch in Newmarket:

Sources: https://hikingthegta.com/2016/09/11/toronto-york-radial-railway/?fbclid=IwAR2d2-jZ9D0gjCkDhN6ZokSXHCj2fdN4jHqqpYL0_0mGFSswmOlta9hIWl4, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto_and_York_Radial_Railway, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_Street_Railway_(Toronto)https://www.newmarkettoday.ca/remember-this/remember-this-radial-railway-from-toronto-to-jacksons-point-flourished-until-1930s-1134606, http://www.trainweb.org/ontariorailways/railmet.htm, https://www.mykawartha.com/community-story/5661744-old-queensville-radial-line-station-getting-facelift, http://edrh.rhpl.richmondhill.on.ca/default.asp?ID=s10.1, https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?R=DC-PICTURES-R-1414, http://edrh.rhpl.richmondhill.on.ca/default.asp?ID=s10.4, https://www.ontarioabandonedplaces.com/ontario/richmond-hill/the-other-side, https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/search.jsp?Ntk=Subject_Search_Interface&Ntt=Bond+Lake+(Ont.)&view=grid&Erp=20, https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC1BJMW_bond-lake-the-powerhouse?guid=f6a1212d-3f3b-4d46-8ee9-4ca277768e3c.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/abandoned-generating-sub-station-a-remnant-of-a-forgotten-public-transit-system/

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