Celebrating Toronto’s 506 streetcar

Grethe Jensen’s streetcar-inspired paintings will be on display as part of an instructors’ exhibition at Rebellion Gallery for a special art event on March 5. The event is part of a month intended to celebrate the neighbourhoods along the 506 streetcar route.

Some neighbours along Gerrard Street East are planting the seeds of what organizer Karen Franzen hopes will eventually grow into an annual celebration of the entire length of the 506 streetcar route.

The 506 Streetcar Project started as a plan to simply ride the streetcar from end to end, but has progressed to several events planned for the Gerrard India Bazaar during March. Franzen said she was inspired by a love of rail travel, and said she found people tend to be much friendlier on streetcars than on the subway.

“I have a real connection with the rail,” she said. “I sort of associate it with a friendly way to travel.”

On Saturday, March 5, art galleries on Gerrard Street East will take part in a self-guided art tour. The Flying Pony (where the idea was born on a cold, snowy day a year ago), Lenswork, and Rebellion Gallery will all have streetcar-inspired art on display, while Gerrard Art Space will feature a performance of a Noel Coward play. Rebellion will feature art by its teachers. The tour will also include stops at murals in the area.

Vintage Hunter will also host ‘The 506 Roadshow’ from 3 to 7 p.m., with a free antique appraisal or home décor and furniture ‘up-cycling’ consultation. The most interesting pieces will be featured on the 506 Facebook page.

Further events are planned for later in March, including a history-themed day on March 12. The Gerrard-Ashdale branch of the Toronto Public Library will mount a historical photo exhibit featuring images of the neighbourhood, and there are plans (still to be confirmed – check the next issue of Beach Metro News on March 8) for an antique streetcar to loop through the Bazaar. Local history buff Joanne Doucette will be on board sharing fascinating facts from the area’s past.

The library is also planning a streetcar-inspired writing contest (with – of course – a 506-word limit) according to branch librarian Gail Ferguson. More details will be forthcoming once details are finalized, and will be announced in these pages, at the library, and on the 506 Streetcar Project Facebook page.

Franzen hopes next year to expand to other areas along the lengthy streetcar route, which passes through Beach Hill, the Gerrard India Bazaar, two Chinatowns, Little Italy, Little Portugal, Cabbagetown, and other unique neighbourhoods as it works its way from the Main Street subway station to High Park.

“You can explore the city by going on the 506. It’s like a whirlwind tour,” said Franzen.

“Ultimately what I’d like to do is have a festival throughout the city … The possibilities are really open depending who jumps on board.”

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This is the streetcar I take to UofT. Don’t forget the university when you’re talking about all the neighbourhoods.

Streetcars are ridiculous. Loud, dangerous (what other mode of public transportation dumps its passengers into a lane of traffic and kills people on bicycles) and creators of massive gridlock and associated greenhouse gasses. Not to mention hugely inefficient and expensive. The overhead wires are ugly and make some intersections look like communist Leningrad circa 1960. Abolish streetcars!

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