Model Local in 2020

January 19, 2020


Eric Gagnon in his excellent Trackside Treasure blog suggested that 2020 was the year to Model & Railfan Local. He suggested that we do ‘a moustache’ and look at what’s right under our noses. That got me thinking for a couple of reasons.

I run a company that encourages people to shop local and believe that there is an argument that we should be increasingly thoughtful about the impact that our shopping has on local businesses and communities. Local is the new thing and more people are thinking more about their neighbourhoods.

I also live in west end Toronto and just 500m from my house is a former industrial area off the CPR/CN (now Metrolinx) rail lines. Most of the old warehouses and factories are long gone or have been recently converted into wildly expensive hard lofts. But some traces of the neighbourhoods colourful railroad past still remain.


Time to go exploring.

As one of my favourite parts of this hobby is research, I decided to fire up the google machine and check the archives. And then I went for a walk in the ‘hood.


The 1958 City of Toronto Planning Board Atlas is a ‘to scale’ wealth of information of what was.

Sorauren Avenue

1.  239-251 Sorauren Avenue
J.M. Loose & Sons Ltd. (piano keys & actions)
and replaced by Lester & Burton Ltd.
In 1951 they were listed as a woollen mill with over 50 hands.
Here is a first hand account of one of their employees:

2.  263-269 Sorauren Avenue
Lowe Brothers Co. Ltd.
This paint and varnish company had between 100-199 hands in 1951. It had a siding on the north side of the building on Wabash Avenue. The building was demolished in the late 1970s and has been replaced by the Charles G. Williams Park.

Wabash Avenue

3. National Equipment Co. Ltd. 1 Wabash Ave.
Canadian Carbonate Ltd. (carbonic acid gas) 5 Wabash Ave.
Eastern Power Devices Ltd., 29 Wabash Ave., Toronto 3. (200-500 employees)
All these businesses are long gone and the buildings have been demolished and replaced with town homes.

4. 40 Wabash Avenue
Canada Linseed Oil Mills Ltd.


The Canada Linseed Oil Mills property on Wabash Avenue, looking north with the Grand Trunk railway (now Metrolinx GO line) behind it. The grain elevators are now gone.

This is the building that really grabs the imagination and is probably one of the best least disturbed industrial relics in the neighbourhood. It was built in 1915 and has been abandoned since 1969.  It will live again and is being repurposed into the  $40 million Wabash Toronto Community Centre.


The Canada Linseed Oil Mills buildings have been standing on Wabash Avenue for nearly one hundred years.  For forty of these years, they have been vacant.  Industry’s gradual exodus from the surrounding area has been steady; several nearby buildings which once employed local residents and made products for the community have been retrofitted and reborn as condos or artist’s studios, while other buildings have been torn down completely and placed with new city infrastructure.  The Canada Linseed Oil Mills structures have yet to undergo this rebirth, but they have certainly not been forgotten.

Shortly after the turn of the 20th Century, a manufacturing area grew along Sorauren Avenue, just south of Dundas Street.  Industry was spurred all along the Canadian Pacific Railway lines lying to the immediate east, which over the years belonged to several railroads including the Credit Valley Railway and the Toronto, Grey and Bruce.  The strip along Sorauren was also just south of a major rail junction, near where Annette, Dundas & Dupont streets all come together.  From this lucrative location at the northern tip of Parkdale, an industry could easily connect by rail with all of southern Ontario.


Canada Linseed Oil Mills (back left of photo) and Lowe Bros. Paint (front, right) on Wabash Avenue. Check out the team track in the middle of the street!

Sorauren Avenue

5. 345 Sorauren Avenue and 347 Sorauren Avenue

Neptune Meter Co. Ltd. (water meters)  (Still Standing)
Line & Cable Accessories Ltd., 1951 (over 50 employees)
Corman Engineering Co.Ltd. (cyl. grinders)
Jack Frost Ice Machine Co.Ltd.
Chapman Double Ball Bearing Co.of Can.Ltd.


An old ball bearing factory from sometime around the turn of the century, 347 Sorauren is actually a composite of the initial mill style warehouse with two new additions, featuring a combination of interesting industrial finishes. It is now a loft conversion that features 15 foot ceilings with massive timber columns and beams. Vintage meets contemporary at the 48-unit Sorauren Lofts building, with dramatically high metal ceilings with open web steel joists and 6-foot windows.

6. 361 Sorauren Avenue  
643 Channell Ltd.(“O’Cedar” furniture polish)
647 Canadian Sunbeam Lamp Co.Ltd./ 647 Cannon Canadian Co. Ltd.(adhesives,glue)

7. 363 Sorauren Avenue
Robert Watson Co.
This is the biggest industrial building left. The factory was built in 1907 and there were additions made in the 1920s. The company was known for their “Watson’s Cough Drops”. Their slogan was “Koff No More” and they marketed them towards smokers who had sore throats. At some point they switched from cough drops to mints.


Great article with more info can be found at

8. 383 Sorauren Avenue – Doan Coal Co. Ltd.  (gone – new condo development)

9. 393 Sorauren Avenue – Wilkinson Foundry Facing & Supply Co.Ltd.

IMG_0165 2

An aerial view of Sorauren and Wabash Avenues circa 1959.

I plan to do a lot more exploring in the neighbourhood and who knows, maybe the next layout will be an industrial Toronto switching layout set in the 1950s!


  1. Chris Mears

    Wonderful post. Eric’s really on to something and it was fun reading your interpretation of the idea. Wouldn’t it be neat to stitch all these discoveries together?

    Thanks for sharing this post. I’m looking forward to the next instalment.


  2. Stephen Gardiner

    Very interesting idea from Eric, thanks for bringing it to my attention. I know his site, but I don’t regularly read it. As for your historical wander down Sorauren, fascinating reading. Many of the cars arriving there (if not all) would have passed through Parkdale Yard on the CPR, which is the “off-scenic” staging for my layout.



    • bernardhellen

      Thanks! Would love to learn more about your research. I very much enjoy your blog as well.

  3. David Woodhead

    Many times I played music or watched music at Gallery 345, 345 Sorauren! Closed just this month, the gallery featured a fine grand piano, high ceilings with huge timbers. Sounded great! Nice to see more background on this area – thanks!

  4. Matthieu Lachance

    Another aspect of modelling local is that basically, railways in North America all share common things… so many common things that you can find them easily in your own area if you open your eyes. For decades, I thought my local “prototype” was boring (Chemin de fer Charlevoix) and lack-luster. But when I started modelling it seriously, I quickly found out it was more than I could chew.

  5. William PAUL Hurly

    I particularly like the Canada Linseed Oil section with the old photo showing the team track. Do you have maps or aerials which show how that track connected into the rail network? Your concluding para is along the lines of what my email suggested. Purpose – result. This would lay a nice foundation for the next Doors Open. There are wonderful repurposed architectural gems in a old industrial city like Toronto.


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