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Don Station - 1896

  From 1884 to 1892, CPR passenger trains arriving in Toronto from Montreal and Ottawa traveled all the way across North Toronto to West Toronto Junction and then backed five miles into Union Station. In 1892, the Canadian Pacific Railway finally completed their branch line south through the Don Valley from Leaside and the Don Station opened for business in February 1896. Like many suburban depots, the station was built as a convenience so passengers wouldn't have to go all the way downtown to Union Station to board their trains.

For several years Queen Street crossed the tracks at a grade level crossing north of the Don station. In 1904, a collision between a Queen streetcar and a Grand Trunk freight train at a level crossing near DeGrassi Street several blocks east of the station resulted in three deaths and several injuries. The accident underscored the necessity to eliminate level crossings wherever there were busy intersections of road and railway traffic.

In 1906, the Canadian Northern Railway entered Toronto from Parry Sound and began using the Don Station as a suburban stop. CNoR timetables referred to the station as Queen St. East and all their mainline trains to Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal stopped there.

In 1911, the City of Toronto built a high level bridge carrying Queen Street across the Don River and over the railway tracks, eliminating the level crossing. A long staircase was built from the bridge to the station platform so that streetcar passengers could directly access the station from Queen Street. After the war the Canadian Northern became a component of the Canadian National Railways and both CPR and CNR trains continued to call at the Don station. In the mid-1920's, the CNR began to abandon portions of the Canadian Northern line east to Ottawa and Montreal and through trains were shifted to the more direct Grand Trunk route.

At the height of intercity railway travel during the 1920s, all CPR passenger trains between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal stopped at Don. After the CPR entered into the pool train arrangement with the CNR in 1933, many CPR trains were shifted to the more direct CNR main line and the station declined in importance. In its last years, the only CPR passenger trains that stopped at Don were the locals to Havelock and Peterborough.

The Don station was taken out of active service in 1967 and moved to Todmorden Mills in 1969, with help from long-time East York mayor True Davidson. In order to accomplish this move, the roof was taken off and the remaining structure was divided in two. The three portions were then moved north on Bayview Avenue and east on Pottery Road then reassembled in its current location. For some years, the building housed a railway heritage exhibit and was accessible to the public. By the 1980s, the Don station was being used a storage facility and closed to visitors. In 2006, the TRHA began hosting an open house at Todmorden, with various historical displays on exhibit during selected weekends.

Between 1853 and 1966, there existed about 75 railway stations within the boundaries of what is now the city of Toronto. The Don station is the only 19th century Toronto station remaining. The building's distinctive turret was typical of hundreds of stations across Canada but only a handful of these buildings survive. The station is owned by the City of Toronto who have moved it to Roundhouse Park where it is currently under restoration as part of the Toronto Railway Museum.

Written by Derek Boles, TRHA Historian, who retains copyright on the content. These pages are not to be reproduced without written permission.
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