Monday, April 6, 2020

From Railyard to National Icon: Toronto's CN Tower

As the North American railway network contracts in size (while improving efficiencies and moving more tonnage overall), there are many examples of former railroad property that has been converted into prime real estate, as many railyards were once built in and around major cities in the United States and Canada.

Chinatown Square in Chicago, and Heinz Stadium in Pittsburgh are two of the many examples of this, and something we've discussed before

In Canada, the Canadian National Railway turned a redundant railyard into Toronto's Entertainment District, which houses, among other venues, the Toronto Railway Museum, and the CN Tower, the subject of today's blog.

JetLaggedJaff visited the Tower in 2015, and shared his thoughts on the visit.

CN Tower Stock Image
The CN Tower, also known as The Canadian National Tower, was constructed from 1973 to 1976. It was built over the former Railway Lands. The Railway Lands is a neighborhood in Toronto near the waterfront that used to be a large railway switching yard. After CN ownership, it was transferred to the Canada Lands Company. 

"The Railway Lands between Front St and the Toronto Waterfront, c.1919." Rail lines were built up between the 1850's-1920's. Image: Canadian Postcard Company, Wikipedia Commons
After the train yards shifted away from Toronto and into Vaughn in the 1960s, the yards in Toronto became redundant and the railway lands began the process of abandonment.

With newly opened land, development started in that area, including the building of the CN Tower. The Tower was the only part of the proposed MetroCentre that actually became reality. From its opening, until 2007, it was the tallest free-standing structure in the world and is now the 9th tallest free-standing structure in the world. 

In 1995, it was declared one of the 7 Modern Wonders of the World. The CN Tower is a communications tower, observation tower, and a major tourist attraction in Toronto. Today, it is a signature icon of Toronto’s skyline as it attracts more than 2 million visitors.

Toronto's Skyline as seen from the tower. Image: JetLaggedJaff
I had the pleasure of actually visiting the CN Tower 5 years ago when I went to Toronto. It was truly an amazing experience to view the tower from the outside and the inside. You get amazing views of the city, the Toronto Islands, and of the railway that passes by the tower. The railyard may be gone, but the main line still passes just to the north of the tower. Toronto Union Station is less than a half a mile away.

Image: JetLaggedJaff, Billy Bishop Airport
One of my favorite views was watching the planes take off from Billy Bishop Airport. You can either take the elevator to the observation deck or you can go even higher to the SkyPod. I had the opportunity of going all the way up to the SkyPod, which is 446 meters (1460 ft) off the ground.

Editors Note: No way in hell. Thank you.
Another cool feature of the CN Tower is that it has a glass floor at the observation deck, and it was really, really cool to stand on. I admit, I was really freaked out that I was standing on top of the glass floor, but then someone told me that it can practically handle anything and I was like “phew”!

Overall, if you are visiting Toronto, this is definitely a must-visit. I promise that you will not regret it.

A panoramic view of the city taken from the SkyPod.
As stated already, the railway heritage of the land is still present, as the Toronto Railway Museum occupies a significant portion of land adjacent to the tower, and has many different pieces of rolling stock on display along Roundhouse Park, which preserved an old railway roundhouse as part of the museum.

Image: CN 6213 on display. Image: Discover Ontario Museums
Further Reading: Toronto's Railway Heritage (Amazon),

For more on Jaff's travels all across the world, visit JetLaggedJaff on Potoky Creative

Thanks as always for reading!

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