• Railfanning the Toronto metro area without a car

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Canada. For specific railroad questions, see Fallen Flags and Active Railroads categories.
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Canada. For specific railroad questions, see Fallen Flags and Active Railroads categories.

Moderator: Ken V

  by njtmnrrbuff
In August, I'm going to take a trip to Montreal and Toronto. I'm interested in railfanning in and around those cities. I WON'T have a car, so public transportation to the places is a a must. I'm also going to be in Quebec City and Ottawa. I heard Dorval is a very good spot. Thanks.
  by njtmnrrbuff
While in Toronto, I plan to go to the Bathurst Street Overpass, which looks like a wonderful spot. I plan to go to the Don Valley area. I saw some railroad tracks on maps there. I'm guessing GO transit uses some of them, especially to Richmond Hill, and Barrie. I may go along the Lakeshore East and West, as well. Thanks for letting me know the best spots.
  by njtmnrrbuff
I'm going to railfan mostly passenger, but am interested in photographing freight too. I see that there is a right of way the runs north of Downtown Toronto.
Where are the best passenger hotspots in and around Toronto? I plan to go to Bathurst street, and Islington Ave overpass, along GO's Lakeshore West Line. thanks.
  by Ken V
For GO Transit and VIA Rail, Toronto's Union Station is the best place to start. While you can't see the tracks from inside the station there is a glass enclosed pedestrian walkway over the tracks called "The Skywalk" that goes from the west end of Union Station to the base of the CN Tower and Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome). While you might get hassled if you hang out inside the Skywalk too long to take pictures and the dirty glass makes photography difficult, there should be no problems once just outside. Roundhouse Park is just steps south of there where the former CPR John Street roundhouse is located which houses the Toronto Railway Museum. The Museum is only open on weekends but there are still things to see outside when it's closed. There are also outdoor walkways over the tracks at either end of Rogers Centre.

The Bathurst St. and Spadina Ave. bridges are also good spots to catch the same action although the GO Bathurst St. Yard there has been decomissioned and may have been torn up. You could also go a few blocks further west to Strachan Ave. where the GO Milton, Georgetown, and Barrie lines and a few VIA trains all cross at street level.

A little further west, south of Queen St. at Roncesvalles Ave., there is another footbridge over the tracks and popular photo spot which goes to Sunnyside Park on the shores of Lake Ontario. You can get there by taking either the 501 Queen or 504 King streetcars. The Islington Avenue overpass which goes high above both GO's Willowbrook and VIA's Mimico yards is also a great photo spot.

While the Don Valley is certainly scenic there is little in the way of train traffic there except for a few Richmond Hill GO trains, the ONR Northlander, and VIA's three-times-a-week eastbound Canadian. The CPR line up the Don Valley hasn't been used in years.

There is very little in the way of freight in downtown these days as CN usually only operates one or two locals there each day and the CPR usually only works there at night. The main CPR route is in the northern part of the city which can be viewed from many spots. The main CP yard is a good place to go with road overpasses on Markham Road and Finch Avenue and the main entrance on McCowan Ave. CP's Lambton Yard, along Dundas St. around Runnymede Ave. is also a good choice.

For CN action you pretty much have to go outside Toronto. The best choices are by taking the GO Lakeshore line east to Pickering, Ajax, or Oshawa, or going west to Aldershot. Oshawa and Aldershot are also served by VIA if you want to travel in style and pay a lot more for the privilege. If you're lucky you might be able to catch the Ontario Southland Railway switching the plant at the Clarkson GO station and if you're really lucky they may be using an Alco RS instead of their usual Geeps.
  by njtmnrrbuff
Where in the Don Valley can I get good shots of the right of ways, especially of GO's Richmond Hill Line?

I won't have any full weekend days in Toronto, but I will check out the outdoor exhibits.

The footbridges along the Lake Shore West Line; I probably will check out.
  by Ken V
Since the Don Valley is a forested area with little in the way of homes or businesses, it is not well served by public transportation. There are a network of parks and trails in the valley which makes a bicycle the best way to get into and around there. I suppose you could look into renting a bike for a few hours and touring around. If limited to the TTC, there are a number of routes that cross the Don Valley in the south, including the Bloor-Danforth subway line between Castle Frank and Broadview stations, but not many ways to get down on foot. You could take the 506 Carlton streetcar from the College subway station to Gerrard St. and River St. or a bus north from Broadview subway station to Pottery Rd. and make the steep trek down into the valley or take the 54 Lawrence East bus from Eglinton station to the road overpass on Lawrence Ave. between Don Mills Rd. and Victoria Park Ave..

The best way to see the Don Valley is, of course, to ride the GO train between Union Station and Oriole or Old Cummer and take the TTC back.
  by njtmnrrbuff
Thanks again, Ken. I actually looked at a bird's eye view layout on maps.bing.com, of the Don Valley, and see that the majority of it is forested along the right of ways, especially the Richmond Hill Line.

I saw some photo possibilies a little south of the Don Valley, to almost where the Richmond Hill Line meets with GO's Lakeshore East Line.
  by njtmnrrbuff
Which route goes the Ontario Northland RR take, and where can I get good pictures of them at work? Thanks.
  by Ken V
The Northlander uses the same tracks as GO's Richmond Hill line. The current schedule has the Northlander departing Toronto at 8:40 am and arriving in Toronto at 7:15 pm daily except Saturday but the train often arrives late. The trainset also goes west of Union Station to turn around and spend the night in VIA's Mimico yard. Sometimes the southbound Northlander will meet an outbound GO train at Oriole or the Rosedale siding (below the Bloor St. Viaduct).
  by njtmnrrbuff
That information is good to know about the Northlander.

Have railfans been hassled at GO and VIA Rail stations?
  by Ken V
GO Transit has a no-photo policy regarding taking pictures of their equipment, facilities, and personnel. While I've never heard of anyone being hassled because of that, it may be advisable not to hang out on the platform unless you plan to get on the next train. The platforms at all GO stations are also fare-paid areas so you shouldn't be there without a valid ticket. VIA Rail does not have such a policy, however, all the VIA stations in the GTA are shared with GO Transit.
  by njtmnrrbuff
What time does the Northlander bound for points north arrive at Toronto Union Station? I plan to catch it from one of the overpasses west of the station one of the mornings?

How is the photography situation at Richmond Hill, Lincolnville, and Milton. Is there food and drink near those stations, and do a lot of freight trains pass? Thanks.
  by Ken V
I don't have all the answers but I can provide some information. I would guess that the northbound Northlander would arrive at Union Station from the VIA yard around an hour before its 8:40 scheduled departure but it could be earlier. The last time I saw it moving into Union from the west was when the schedule had a same-day afternoon turn around in Toronto.

As far as the GO stations you asked about:
  • Richmond Hill - There's nothing much around the station. I think the closest food or drink is about 10 blocks east at Yonge St. Richmond Hill is on CN's western transcontinental main line and there are a good number of freight trains throughout the day.
  • Lincolnville - nothing for miles around and zero freight activity. For food you'd be better off going only as far as Stouffville since the station there is right downtown.
  • Milton - there's a big box centre nearby with a few fast food places and a supermarket. For freight, it's on the CPR main to London, Windsor, Detroit, and Chicago as well as Hamilton, Niagara, and New York State, but CP tries to schedule their freights outside the GO rush hour periods.
  by Ken V
Here's another thought. If going on the GO to Stoufville/Lincolnville, why not continue by bus to Uxbridge? The bus lets you off right at the restored historic train station where the York-Durham Heritage Railway has its vintage equipment on display. From there it's a short 2-minute walk to the downtown area.