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Journal: Wychwood Carhouses

The glories of Wychwood carhouse.
Wychwood Carhouses (25 May 2003): In 1913, the Toronto Civic Railway company erected the first of the Wychwood streetcar carhouses. A second carhouse was erected in 1916 and three more followed in 1921, the same year that the operations of the Toronto Civic Railway company were taken over by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). The carhouses served as important hubs of the city's transportation network until the late 1970s, when streetcar traffic in the area declined. The streetcars that had called Wychwood home were diverted to the Russell, Harvey and Roncesvalles carhouses. After using Wychwood's decommissioned carhouses for special projects in the early 80s, the TTC finally abandoned the complex entirely in 1985. Recently, there's been a surge of interest in the old carhouses, which various groups around the city wish to convert into artists' housing or an environmental showcase.
       Liz and I had long been eager to get a look at the place before it was converted into a hippie ghetto, and when it was announced that Wychwood would be participating in Doors Open Toronto, we could hardly believe our luck. This was the first time I had ever heard of an abandoned building being legally open to the general public. I wondered how much of the building we'd be allowed to see and how much of the building we'd have to arrange to see ourselves.
       As it turned out, no sneaking was necessary. When we arrived at the front entrance, we were asked to sign a waiver (Liz pointed out that the waiver was invalid, since the date on it was incorrect, but the volunteer just asked us to keep quiet about that and try not break our necks). We then had free run of the place.
       It was amazing. We could go anywhere we wanted and that was everywhere. We climbed down into the repair bays, into tiny engine rooms under the tracks, up onto the platforms used for washing the roofs of the streetcars, and up the stairs into some old offices that were for some reason among the only vandalized parts of the building. It's strange that the TTC didn't reuse more of the old equipment in the complex: spare parts and old streetcar signs were strewn about randomly, and old desks had been dumped into service bays. Large hoists and the brushes and jets of the old automatic carwash were intact and signs promoting on-the-job safety were everywhere. The sunlight coming in through the skylights lit the brick carhouses beautifully and Liz and I both soon ran out of space for pictures on our cameras. Venturing outside, we deleted some pictures to make room for some shots of the outside of the building.
       While we'd been inside, it had occurred to both Liz and I that maybe we should try to find a way to prop open a door so we could come back later. But we didn't need to — we left fully satisfied. Props to the TTC for a building well shared.
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