Template:Infobox Station Template:Dablink Union Station is the major inter-city rail station and a major commuter rail hub in Toronto.

The station is located on Front Street West and occupies the south side of the block bounded by Bay Street and York Street in the central business district. The station building is owned by the City of Toronto, while the trainshed and trackage east and west of the station is owned by the commuter rail operator GO Transit. Serving 200,000 passengers a day,[1] it is the busiest passenger transportation facility in Canada.[1]

Union Station is at the centre of the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor, the busiest inter-city rail service area in the nation (marketed as the Corridor), which extends from Windsor and Sarnia in the west to Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City in the east. Inter-city trains at Union Station are operated by VIA Rail, Amtrak and Ontario Northland, while commuter rail services are operated by GO Transit. The station is also connected to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway system.

Union Station is the busiest VIA Rail station in Canada. The station saw 2.34 million VIA Rail boardings in 2004, more than half of all VIA passengers carried that year.[2] Additionally, Union Station is the central terminal for GO Transit, handling approximately 41 million GO Transit commuter rail passengers and 20 million TTC subway passengers in 2004.[2]

Union Station's station code is TWO.


File:Prince of Wales at the official opening of Union Station.jpg

The current Union Station was officially opened to the public on August 6, 1927 in a lavish ribbon cutting ceremony by Prince Edward, Prince of Wales (using a pair of gold scissors). In attendance were Prince George, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario William Donald Ross and Mrs. Ross, Prime Minister of Canada William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Stanley Baldwin and Mrs. Baldwin, Premier of Ontario George Howard Ferguson, and numerous other members of the Ontario and Canadian governments.[3]

Predecessor stationsEdit


The history of the current Union Station can be traced to 1858 when Toronto's first Union Station was opened by the Grand Trunk Railway just west of the present Union Station. This wooden structure was shared with the Northern Railway and the Great Western Railway. The GTR replaced the first Union Station with a second Union Station on the same site, opening in 1873. As both the Northern Railway and Great Western Railway had been acquired by the GTR, this was not a true Union station, however the Canadian Pacific Railway began using the facility in 1884 and it was completely rebuilt, opening in 1896.

The Great Toronto Fire of 1904 demolished the block south of Front Street West, immediately east of the second Union Station (bounded by Bay and York streets), but did not damage the station itself. The GTR acquired this land east of the second Union Station for a new passenger terminal and in 1905 both the GTR and the CPR decided to proceed with the design and construction of a third union station.

The decision to undertake the third union station was made against a backdrop of significant change in the Canadian railway industry. At the same time, the federal government was encouraging the GTR to proceed with constructing a second transcontinental railway (what would later become the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and the National Transcontinental Railway) and the Canadian Northern Railway was undertaking an aggressive expansion across the Prairies and into southern Ontario.

Toronto Terminals RailwayEdit

On July 13, 1906, the Toronto Terminals Railway (TTR) was incorporated by the Government of Canada to "construct, provide, maintain and operate at the City of Toronto a union passenger station." The TTR was jointly owned by the GTR and the CPR who each held 50% of the TTR shares. The TTR supervised construction of the new station which began in 1914 and proceeded to 1920, having faced significant delays in the shortage of construction material and workers as a result of the First World War, as well as the deteriorating financial position of the GTR due to its ill-fated transcontinental GTPR railway project.[4]

File:Excavating site of new union station with old station in background.jpg

Although the headhouse and east and west office wings of the new station (the station building visible from Front Street West) were completed in 1920, it did not open to the public for another 7 years until the system of approach tracks were designed and implemented by the TTR and its owners. During this time in 1923, the bankrupt GTR was fully nationalized by the federal government and merged into the Canadian National Railways (CNR), which would assume the GTR's 50% ownership of the TTR and thus the third Union Station.

The station building's grand-opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 6, 1927 was completed four days later when the track network was shifted over from the second Union Station on August 10. Demolition of the second Union Station began almost immediately and was completed in 1928. The third Union Station project was not fully completed until 1930 when the train shed was completed; its construction was supervised by the TTR from 1925-1930.[4]

The TTR also constructed a Central Heating Plant at the corner of York and Fleet streets (now Lakeshore Boulevard) to replace the original Toronto Hydro plant on Scott Street which had been expropriated by the TTR to build the approach track viaduct to the new station. It was fuelled by coal delivered by a CNR siding and was the largest such facility in Canada when it opened in 1929; it produced 330,000 pounds of steam per hour and 600 million pounds annually to heat the station, the passenger cars in the train shed, CNR and CPR yard facilities in the area now occupied by the Gardiner Expressway, Rogers Centre and Air Canada Centre, as well as the CPR's Royal York Hotel, the Dominion Public Building, the federal post office building adjacent to the station and the CN/CP Telecommunications building on Front Street. The CHP was converted from coal to natural gas but was decommissioned in the 1980s and demolished in 1990.[4]

The TTR owned and operated the network of trackage extending for approximately 2 km east and west of the station (3 statute miles) with over 25 statute miles of terminal trackage in this area. TTR provided all track maintenance and snow removal and controlled all of the interlocking which joined CNR's Oakville and Weston subdivisions in the west with CNR's Kingston and Bala subdivisions in the east as well as the CPR's Belleville subdivision in the east. Control of train movements was provided by the TTR's John Street, Cherry Street and Scott Street interlocking towers.

File:GO train leaving Union Station.jpg

The first major change to Union Station took place in 1954 when the Toronto Transit Commission opened its Union subway station adjacent to Union Station but buried beneath Front Street West. This subway station acted as the southern terminus of its new subway line. In 1990, the TTC's Harbourfront LRT project added an underground streetcar loop currently used by the 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina streetcar lines. TTC passengers using the Union subway and streetcar station may transfer between both modes without entering the Union Station proper.

Major upgrades to the TTR Union Station terminal trackage took place during the 1970s and 1980s as both CN and CP began to abandon their extensive waterfront rail classification yards south of the passenger station to make way for urban redevelopment.

At the same time, the GO Transit commuter rail agency which was established in 1967 had been undergoing unprecedented expansion which was seeing Union Station see passenger levels that outstripped some of the busiest airports in the world. The consolidated TTR trackage included a flyover west of the station to permit freight trains to cross CN's Oakville subdivision without blocking GO Transit's commuter trains.

The CN Tower had revamped the vision of Toronto's waterfront rail yards and proposals were made to construct what would later become the Skydome and the Air Canada Centre, resulting in further changes to the Union Station trackage. The PATH pedestrian tunnel network was built to connect Union Station's passengers with many of the downtown office towers and a footbridge was constructed over the terminal trackage west of the station to connect the PATH with the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and the Skydome.

In 2000, the City of Toronto purchased the station building from the TTR, while GO Transit purchased the railway corridor and the Union Station train shed. The former TTR trackage is now known officially as the Union Station Rail Corridor (USRC) and the TTR is contracted by GO Transit and the City of Toronto to operate and maintain the station, train shed and USRC. TTR is the operating railway and does not own any property anymore. TTR has become a property management group who provides employees to operate the rail system on behalf of GO Transit. TTR also provides cleaning staff and deals with contract security guards. The City of Toronto is billed by TTR for the running of the day to day operations of Union Station. This was only to be a temporary arrangement until the city leased the building for development. However, the lease and development has taken many years and some wonder if it will ever get done. CN and CP Rail no longer own TTR, it is a sole entity who operates the station for Toronto and GO Transit. Railway police no longer patrol Union Station, they were replaced by security guards as the railways no longer have a property interest in the station. GO Transit patrols its property including the Union Station Rail Corrider with a contingent of sworn Special Constables, who have the same authority as police officers while dealing with GO Transit matters. GO Transit also purchased theCN Don Yard, east of Union Station from CN and stores its train consists during the afternoon hours there. Freight train movement is stil active along the southern most track that by-passes the train shed and connects up with either the CN Oakville Sub, or the Kingston Sub. Typically freight movement is done during the off peak hours, so as to allow access to the hundreds of GO Transit and VIA Rail train movements during rush hour. The Union Station Rail Corridor is the busiest train corridor in Canada. If all the tracks were put end to end the Union Station Rail Corridor would stretch more than 80km!

The structureEdit

File:Union Station grand hall 7.jpg
File:Union Station grand hall 5.jpg

Toronto's third Union Station was constructed between 1914-1920 by the TTR and is the largest and most opulent railway station erected in Canada, particularly in light of the failure of the GTR to construct its planned replacement to Montreal's Bonaventure Station.

The building was designed by the Montreal architecture firm of G.A. Ross and R.H. McDonald, with assistance from the CPR's architect Hugh Johnes, as well as Toronto architect John M. Lyle. Its design was cited in 1975 by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada as being of "national architectural significance as one of the finest examples of Beaux Arts railway station design in Canada."[5]

The building comprises three distinct sections facing Front Street West and occupying the entire south side of the block between Bay Street in the east and York Street in the west. The building measures Template:Convert long and the Front Street facade features 22 stone columns, each Template:Convert high and weighing 75 tons and are turned from Bedford limestone. The exterior of the building is constructed with Indiana and Queenston limestone and the building measures Template:Convert high while the central portion is Template:Convert high.

The building has a colonnaded porch facing Front Street which enters into the expansive Ticket Lobby, which has come to be informally known as the "Great Hall". VIA Rail's ticket counters and baggage counters are located in this space and passengers may sit in adjacent waiting rooms or seek train information; VIA Rail ticket agents handle all ticketing sales and baggage services for Amtrak and Ontario Northland passengers. This "Great Hall" is Template:Convert long and Template:Convert high at the apex of its vaulted ceiling which is constructed of Guastavino tiles and is lit with natural light from clerestory windows refracted throughout the lobby. Each end of the "Great Hall" features 4-storey tall arched windows and the walls of this room are faced with Zumbro stone from Missouri while the floor is constructed of Tennessee marble laid in a herringbone pattern. Below the cornice surrounding the "Great Hall" is carved the names of many destinations across Canada that one could travel to via the GTR or CPR systems at the time of the station's construction.

Stairways at either end of the "Great Hall" lead to the Arrivals Concourse which is used by VIA Rail, Amtrak and Ontario Northland for inter-city train passengers. There is access from this level to the GO Concourse which is used by GO Transit commuter train passengers, as well as access to the Union subway and streetcar station operated by the Toronto Transit Commission and the PATH pedestrian tunnel network which connects to the Royal York Hotel and many of the major office buildings in the central business district.

Union Station also features office space used by the TTR, GO Transit and CN and CP. The CN Police and Canadian Pacific Railway Police Service used a shooting range in the building until the early 2000s when it was turned over to the Canadian National Recreation Association Gun Club and subsequently shut down by the city of Toronto in its anti gun crusade August 2008. The range's lease was terminated effective August 29, 2008 after city council voted in support of the City Based Measures to Address Gun Violence.

Union Station has appeared in various films and television series, often representing settings in other cities.[6]

Redevelopment proposalsEdit

File:Union Station on Front Street.jpg
Main article: CityPlace, Toronto

During the early 1970s, Canada's two major passenger railways, the Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National were reducing their services to the bare minimum mandated under the Canadian Transport Commission, largely as a result of unsustainable losses resulting from increased competition in new subsidized 4-lane highways and airports.

The third Union Station's future was looking bleak by 1972 when both railways sought to increase return on their underutilized waterfront rail classification yards which was being viewed as valuable real estate. The Gardiner Expressway project was constructed over part of the railway property and CN had proposed constructing a telecommunication tower (what would become the CN Tower later that decade).

CN and CPR proposed a Metro Centre development at the foot of Front Street on the site of Union Station and proposed to demolish the structure (which was costing an increasing amount of property taxes but not bringing in revenue). The proposed Metro Centre development was strikingly similar to what occurred with New York City's Penn Station and would have consisted of an underground fourth Union Station (the terminal trackage would have been buried), a convention centre, a telecommunications tower, along with complementary office and retail developments. Local opposition to the proposal was successful in having the city council's decision to support the Metro Centre development overturned and Union Station was saved.

In 1978, CN and CP transferred responsibility for their passenger rail services to a new federal Crown corporation named VIA Rail, however both CN and CP retained their 50% ownership shares of the TTR.

File:Outside Union Station.jpg

In 2000, the City of Toronto purchased the station building from the TTR and GO Transit purchased the trackage and train shed, contracting their operation and maintenance to TTR.

The lack of rail service to Toronto Pearson International Airport from the downtown has long been a thorn in the side of mass-transit planners in Toronto. Several competing proposals from the private sector (with government financing) were announced during the early 2000s, mostly requiring use of Union Station for a terminus. On November 13, 2003, Transport Canada announced the selection of Union Pearson AirLink Group to finance, design, construct, operate, and maintain a railway link between Union Station and the Toronto Pearson International Airport. The service is to be named Blue22 because of its planned 22-minute trip time. At present, it is planned that the line will use four refurbished Rail Diesel Cars, with trains running every fifteen minutes, seven days a week. Due to opposition and a new environmental assessment for the project, the expected opening date for Blue22 will be later than 2008, as originally projected.

On July 24, 2003, the City of Toronto agreed to lease Union Station to SNC-Lavalin subsidiary Union Pearson AirLink Group for a term of 100 years. A public-private partnership was to be created to redevelop the station.

The master plan for the Union Pearson Group development had four major components:

  • An integrated public realm, redefining and joining the Union Plaza and Front Street spaces,
  • A modern station, including redevelopment of the train shed with construction above it,
  • Revitalization of underutilized spaces, notably redeveloped concourses, moats, and teamways, and
  • Extended pedestrian connections, including improved passages, new entrances, and improved ease of movement.

On April 26, 2006, the city's deal with the Union Pearson Group for the refurbishment of the station collapsed as the company was unable to meet a city imposed deadline.[7]

A subsequent announcement on May 24, 2006, addressed several issues for commuters including:

  • constructing a direct connection from the GO Concourse to the PATH pedestrian tunnel system
  • a new eastbound platform for the Union TTC station
  • improved access to streetcars at Union TTC station
  • improved capacity for inter-city railway passengers

These developments were part of a $100 million initiative announced by the city and its transit authorities, along with the provincial and federal governments.[7]


File:Via 68-1.JPG
File:Columns of Union Station.jpg
File:Train Entrance.jpg
File:Typo in the carvings at Union Station.jpg

VIA RailEdit

Main article: VIA Rail


Main article: Amtrak
  • Maple Leaf to Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and New York

Ontario NorthlandEdit

Main article: Ontario Northland Railway
  • Northlander to Gravenhurst, Huntsville, North Bay, Cobalt and Cochrane

GO TransitEdit

Main article: GO Transit

Toronto Transit Commission subwayEdit

Main article: Toronto subway and RT

Toronto Transit Commission streetcarEdit

Main article: Toronto streetcar system

Toronto Transit Commission busEdit

Main article: Toronto buses and trolley buses

Intercity busEdit

Intercity coaches stop across the street from Union Station, in front of the York Street entrance to the Royal York Hotel or at the corner of University Avenue and Wellington Street, two blocks from Union Station.

Main article: Greyhound Canada
  • Inter-city bus to Guelph and Kitchener
  • Inter-city bus to Hamilton, St. Catharine's and Niagara Falls
  • Inter-city bus to Peterborough
Main article: Coach Canada
  • Inter-city bus to Niagara Falls and Buffalo
Main article: Megabus
  • Inter-city bus to Buffalo and New York

See alsoEdit


File:Toronto union station outside clock.jpg
A list of other railway stations (terminals or depots) in Toronto
Mass transit links pertaining to Union Station
Documents relating to
  • CityPlace - A master planned development that originally proposed that Union Station be torn down in the 1970s.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Template:Cite web
  2. 2.0 2.1 Template:Cite web
  3. Template:Cite web
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Template:Cite web
  5. Template:Cite web
  6. According the Internet Movie Database, the following list of movies and television series used Union Station as a location: Shining Time Station, Baby on Board, The Freshman, Johnny Mnemonic, The Last Detail, The Legacy, Loser, The Return of Eliot Ness (TV movie), Silver Streak, The Time Shifters, To Catch a Yeti, The Kids in the Hall, Cinderella Man, Death to Smoochy, Nikita (TV series), Witchblade TV Series, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Who is Cletis Tout?, The Man Who Saved Christmas (TV movie), Fool Proof, Picture Claire, 16 Blocks, Talk To Me, Runaway (TV series), The State Within, Martha: Behind Bars, Diana Krall: Live at Union Station Concert, Due South, and Chicago (2002 film). See list here.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Template:Cite web


Template:Toronto landmarks Template:GTA Mass Transit Template:Navbox GO Transitde:Union Station (Toronto) es:Union Station (Toronto) fr:Gare Union (Toronto) ko:토론토 합동역 pl:Union Station (Toronto) pt:Union Station (Toronto)

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