The Industries of Liberty Village in the 1950’s

I’ve been busily researching the Liberty Village area industries before I start any serious attempts at track planning (more on that later) for my possible apartment switching layout.  I’ve spent all my spare time on breaks at work and at home in the evening searching online articles and archives for maps and information about the area.  One of the best resources for initial information in many places are Insurance Underwriters Plans.  These maps were used by insurance companies to help set rates, and included all kinds of details about buildings including their construction, what was happening within them, and who the industry in them was.  These plans are in copyright for 90 years, which means only plans from 1927 and before are available online in libraries and archives.  Helpful, but dated if I am setting a layout in the 1950’s.

Left, the 1910 Underwriters Insurance Plan of Toronto, Volume 2, Sheet 94 showing The “Hinde and Dauch Paper Company”.  On the right, is a photograph of the 1945 version of this plan, complete copies of which are not available online.

Plans from my era apparently exist, however, I’m running into a data availability gap. The west Liberty area was in Volume 2 of the Toronto Insurance Plans.  The 1945 set of maps for “Toronto Volume 2” are available in hard copy at the Toronto Reference Library.  There is an updated set dated 1954/1955 depending on the area of the City, however, no archive or library seems to have the 1954-1955 era updates of Volume 2.  They all have Volumes 1 and 4, but not 2 and 3.  I haven’t figured out yet if this means Volume 2 wasn’t updated in the 1950’s, or if all the copies of this area got reclaimed by the publishers and never made it to any Libraries or Archives.  This means the specific chunk of the city, and the information on the industries that existed closer to the era I am looking to model for is missing.  Having the 1945 information is more helpful than the 1910 or 1923 maps generally available online, but even then there are places where I know changes occurred, or where the available plan notes businesses as being vacant as of 1945.

Despite this, I have been able to learn a lot about the major industries that were or appear likely to have been rail served in the 1950’s.  In the western half of Liberty Village, major companies based on the 1945 map that appear to have been rail served with some idea of what the specifically produced in parenthesis were:

  • Hinde & Dauch Paper Company (Corrugated Paper Products)
  • Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company (Billiard Tables)
  • Poppy Fund of Toronto (Poppies, No, seriously, if you wore a poppy before 1996 it was potentially made here by a WW1 or WW2 veteran)
  • Toronto Carpet Manufacturing Company (Carpet)
  • Thrane Company of Canada (??)
  • Barrymore Cloth Company (?? Tied to Toronto Carpet by overhead walkway)
  • Canadian General Electric – Edison Works (Likely lightbulbs based on previous corporate names ??)
  • Carbide & Carbon Chemicals – Bakelite Plastic (??)
  • Exide Batteries of Canada (Batteries?)
  • Henry Disston & Sons (Saws), by end of 1950’s this site would be the Dempsters Bakery, later Canada Bread plant that was in operation until 2013.
  • S.F. Bowser Co Ltd (Apparently made Gas Pumps?)
  • Standard Brands, previously EW Gillette (maker of baking goods including Magic Baking Powder)
  • International Cooperage Company of Canada (One assumes wood and metal for barrels at one time, by the 1950’s, were wood barrels still a big thing then?)
  • Canada Foils Limited (?)
  • Aristocrat Manufacturing, Laundry Tubs and Toilets (Incoming metal/outgoing boxcars?)
  • Simmons Limited, beds/mattresses (??)
  • Thayers Limited (Fuel Oil)

As you can see, there are still some pretty gaping knowledge gaps in terms of what was being shipped in and out.  All of the industries above wouldn’t be on a layout the size I am looking at (17 industries is overkill for just under 12′ of length), but they give options for things that could be modeled in part, or types of car traffic.  Definitely lots of boxcar traffic, which is fine, but it would be nice to mix in the occasional oddball coal hopper or tank car to challenge operators.  Based on the trackage and property maps, I can see where there were cars going into buildings, or loading docks, and what the business made.  In some cases, there are even notations for what appear to be coal chutes for hoppers unloading into the boiler house areas on the factories.  If nothing else, that gives the option for an occasional delivery of coal for keeping the heating systems going!

1958 Toronto Planning Board Map 6A w IndustriesExtract of 1958 Toronto Planning Board Atlas Map 6A with major industries that appeared to be rail served in the 1945 Underwriters Plans.  The massive Inglis and Massey-Harris plants are marked on this plan, but are too big for the kind of layout and operations I envision.

So, with a growing knowledge base on the industries of the area, I am more confident that there is something there in terms of modelling.  I haven’t yet figured out where to look for information on CNR and CPR operations in the area.  What limited information I have seen seems to indicate that the railroads switched different industries, and didn’t necessarily serve all the industries, as some could only be accessed from the CNR lines to the south.  It’s still not clear to me if the CPR trackage and CNR trackage actually interchanged, or if they just crossed (this has big impacts on model layout operations).  There was also no run around loop, and in some cases sidings were facing the direction a train would approach from, this means that trains might have been pushing cars in, or running with cars on either side of the locomotive to switch different industries.  I think, operationally, it will make more sense as a layout for operations if I provide a run around loop, as it will ease the management of trains in a small staging/fiddle yard area, and let crews make their own mistakes in shunting.

OntarioRailMap - Google Aerial.jpgScreenshot of the Ontario Railway Map Collection project, showing CPR in Red and CNR in green.  I still don’t have enough information to know if they shared rights along Liberty Street, or if the two railways operated completely independently.  There is at least a crossing that looks like an interchange in the middle of Mowat & Libery Streets at the west end.

So, track planning.  I haven’t gone very far yet.  I’ve done a first version using AnyRail as it’s free and has a good set of libraries for different brands of track.  It’s also not something that I’m ready to share yet, as it is more of a “does this generally work” plan to see if the concept benchwork will support a layout vs. any serious first attempt at planning a layout inspired by the Liberty Village trackage.  For anyone who reads and thinks they are a layout designer, I’ve included a link to a PDF on 11×17 paper of the benchwork that can fit into the apartment: Oct 24 17 – Benchwork Outline V1

My early concept is to have the Hinde & Dauch building at the east end (right side of layout), and the Toronto Carpet Complex at the west (left end of layout), and using the bit of “inspired by” rather than being slavishly accurate, have some of the industries along Liberty Street flipped to the north side to fit my space.   As noted above, I think I would design it with an on-scene run around track so a train could enter the layout, and switch cars.  Similarly, having the track along Liberty become “joint” opens up the possibility for both CNR and CPR industries and equipment, and operational conflicts between crews.  There is some interesting trackage in the intersection of Mowat and Liberty adjacent to Toronto Carpet, along with the sidings down both sides of H&D that could be reasonably accurately modeled with some liberty taken in between.

Feel free to doodle your own layout ideas on the attached benchwork sketch.  Hopefully in a couple of weeks I’ll reach a point where I have come up with a plan I’m willing to share.  Still need to understand the industries a bit better to determine which would have taken loads by rail, but thus far I am still satisfied that there is enough here to inspire a layout, even if its not strictly to the prototype.

2 thoughts on “The Industries of Liberty Village in the 1950’s

  1. Thanks for sharing your research, Stephen! I have seen the vestiges of trackage in the village area and have wondered about what went where. Modeling that area would give you the challenge of reproducing a whole bunch of interesting brick factory buildings. On the other hand, you would have the challenge of reproducing a whole bunch of brick factory buildings… 🙂

  2. Thanks Mark! The challenge of modelling all those beautiful brick buildings is absolutely part of what makes it such an attractive area to me. It’s not just the trains and operations, but the chance to give myself a big list of buildings to re-create that actually have somewhere to go, unlike my current projects that are dioramas or structures for the sake of doing it!


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