A War of Attrition, 1915-20

AuthorC. Ian Kyer
years of t he Toronto Railway Company (TRC) franchise,
things wentfrom badto worseThe TRCwould nditself pressed forim
of external nanci ng wered isappearing and its operating prots were in
decline Costc uing became paramount tot heT RCbut more dicult to
achieve because of rising labour costs. It was a company beset on every side.
There was, however, no sympathy to be had at City Hall. Tommy Church
presided over city council for most of this period. He was elected as mayor in
Robertson of the Toronto TelegramalongtimesupporterofAdamBecka nd
theO ntarioHydroChurchsactions werei ntendedto further Becksplan
toexpand anOnta rioownedpower distribution systemthat wouldfeed a
series of electric railway lines radiating out from Toronto.ChurchandBeck
both knew that it was essential for Toronto to be part of both the power dis
tribution and radial railway systems.
Churchhadbeen inoceonlysix monthswhenhecreateda ninformal
transitcommiee toconsiderhowtoi mplementBecksplansOnChurchs
commieewere three men CityWorksCommissionerRoland CHarr is
FAGabythe chiefengine erofBecksHydroElectricPowerCommission of
Ontarioand EL Cousinsc hiefengi neerof the TorontoHarbourCommi s
sion. The Toronto Worldreportedthatthecommieewastaskedwithdeter
mining how to move forward if Toronto Hydro were to buy out the TRC,
and, alternatively, how to deal with tran sit if the TRC continued for the re
maining years of its franch ise agreement. Their task, however, was not pri
marilyorientedwith theTRCItwasfocused onthenewinterurbanradia l
railwaysystem being toutedby Beck Laterthat yearthe group produced
animpressivetwovolumestudyentitledR adial Railway Entrances and Rapid
Transit for the City of Toronto. This study was delivered to the Civic Transpor
tationcommiee onwhich sattwoof thefour controllersa ndeightsen ior
aldermen. The study set out ways for existing and proposed radial lines to
enter the City of Toronto and reach the city core despite the TRC’s monopoly
on operating surface lines with in the Toronto city limits as they had exi sted
IfBeckspowerdistribution andradialrailwaysystems weretobesuc
cessfully implemented, both the TRC and its related electric company had
to Hocken’s purchase plan, they were, in fact, open to a purchase provided
thatit couldbe doneat aroc kboompriceIf thatwere tohappen these
companies had to be weakened so that their ownership would be motivated
tosellc heaplyWiththatgo alinm indBec kandChu rchemba rkedonthe ir
Thatwar waslaunched atthe strokeof midnighton Junewhen
MayorChurchleda groupofpeopleto thecornerof FarnhamAvenueand
Yonge Street. That group included Works Commissioner Harri s, several of
Tel eg ram dubbeditaraidonthelinesofcommunicationofanenemytocivic
andpopularrightsMayorChurchjustied this actionby sayingthat the
franchiseon thatparticu larquartermiles egmenthadexpiredat midnight
Even though his actions meant that riders were inconvenienced by being
forcedtodisembarkfromtheTRCstree tcarandwalktotheTorontoYork
Radial Railway car that went north, he was hailed by many as a hero str iking
a blow against the monopolists.
Several City lawyers may have joined the raid, but legally speaking,
there wasa good deal of doubtabout whether the mayorwas justied in
his actions. RJ Fleming had heard that the Cit y might take some action and
had made it clear earlier in the day that the TRC was willing to assu me its
rights over this strip and to lay a set of double tracks to permit the TRC
toprovidebeerser viceoverthe routethan hadpreviouslybeen thecase
Onceagainthewordingoftheagreementhadtobescruti nizedThere

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