1892 Map of Toronto & Suburbs Shewing the Location of the Toronto Belt Line Railway

The Toronto Belt Line was supposed to be Toronto's first commuter railway. A real estate boom in the 1880s encouraged businessmen to form the Belt Land Corporation to speculate on opening up undeveloped land in northern Toronto. The Belt Line would link the suburbs to downtown Toronto with a railway that would encircle the city.

The railway consisted of two separate loops, both commencing from Union Station. The eastern loop circled around the north end of the city via the Don Valley, Mount Pleasant Cemetery and the Grand Trunk Railway tracks in the west, while the western loop passed through Swansea, Lambton and West Toronto Junction, returning to Union Station, via Parkdale.

A lot of money was raised, but most was spent on lavish promotion. The Grand Trunk Railway took over the project, finished the construction and opened the line in 1892. However, by that time a depression had caused the real estate market to fall and sales were low. The land boom did not materialize.

On November 17, 1894, after just 27 months, service ended on the Toronto Belt Line railway. With little development, the line was soon starved of paying passengers. By July 1894, there were only three trains a day on each of the loops, and by November, service was ended.

The land remained unsold until street railways were built into the area in 1910. Today, no tracks and buildings remain, but the Belt Line has become a very popular park [Kay Gardner -N.] winding through the city.”

- Combining text from: TPL, All Aboard Toronto! - Railways and the Growth of a City and City of Toronto Archives, This Month in History: 1892, closure of the Belt Line Railway

Click the image to view a full-size (5MB) version.

1892 Map of Toronto and Suburbs showing the location of the Belt Line Railway

Map of Toronto & Suburbs Shewing the Location of the Toronto Belt Line Railway. Published by Alexander & Cable, Toronto.
Image courtesy TPL. I believe this map may in fact be dated 1910; I’ve potentially misleadingly labelled it 1892, to place it in context with the operation of the line.

The central point indicated is Queen’s Park.

Of note is the reversed text faintly visible as ink showing through from the other side. At the top: Highlands of Toronto. At the bottom: ‘For descriptive pamphlets, plans and prices apply to John T. Moore, Manager’

Toronto Belt Land Corporation Land Mortgage Debenture
The Highlands of Toronto was a prospectus -- essentially, a real estate sales brochure -- published in 1891 by the aforementioned Toronto Belt Land Corporation, extolling the benefits of the Belt Line and the picturesque nature of the bucolic suburbs it made accessible. John T. Moore, president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, was the managing director of the Corporation (Moore Park is named after him).

The following bird’s eye view map of the Toronto Belt Line Railway appears at the end of the prospectus.

Click the image to view a full-size version.

1891 Birds eye view of Toronto Belt Line Railway route from the Highlands of Toronto prospectus

Other elements leading to the failure of the business were the fare (25 cents, quite high at the time) and the competing Toronto Street Railway, which carried considerable traffic as it was faster, providing more direct routes to downtown.

Bottom left: the Yonge St. Belt Line crossing
“... the Toronto Belt Line Railway makes its advent. Its mission is to economize time by rapid transit, and to carry men, women and children with comfort, safety and speed beyond the cramped and crowded city to the airy uplands; whence, having enjoyed the rest and refreshment of commodious homes and spacious grounds, they can return on the morrow to renew, with quickened energies, the task of life. It will also disclose some of the beauties which nature has lavished around Toronto which too long have remained unknown...”
- The Highlands of Toronto

A modern view for comparison
(via Google maps)

Going back to the first map, note the sections highlighted in red: Spring Valley (Moore Park), Forest Hill, Fairbank, Fairbank Junction. The developer would have been attempting to sell plots of land in those sections.

This map illustrates the lots available in Fairbank:

Click the image to view a full-size version.

Highlands of Toronto map showing Fairbank lots for sale

Highlands of Toronto plan of building lots for sale the property of the Toronto Belt Land Corporation in that portion designated "Fairbank" on the Belt Line Railway. Published by Alexander & Cable, 1910.
Map courtesy Toronto Public Library: T[1910]/4Msm

Bonus Map showing the ‘Northern Suburbs of Toronto’ in 1890. The Belt Line is marked in red:

Click the image to view a full-size version.

1890 Belt Line Map Showing Northern Suburbs of Toronto, compiled by Unwin, Foster Proudfoot

Belt line map shewing northern suburbs of Toronto. Compiled by Unwin, Foster & Proudfoot, published by Alexander & Cable, 1890.
Map courtesy Toronto Public Library: T1890-2/4Mlrg c1

Portions of the belt line were re-used for freight operations: the Yonge Loop delivered Canada’s first subway cars to Davisville Station in 1954 and also supplied Dominion Coal on Merton Avenue up until 1969.  

See Also
Please ‘Like’ and Share these maps with other Toronto history enthusiasts! (+1s are also welcome!)