Au revoir to a neon icon
It’s gone. The iconic pink-neon Inglis billboard that presided over the Toronto cityscape just west of downtown was taken down last week. The landmark sign, with its unique display board that scrolled a seemingly endless array of offbeat messages and quotes entertained generations of drivers on the Gardiner Expressway — and trainspotters on the Bathurst Street bridge — for nearly 40 years.
The giant neon billboard once marked the Strachan Avenue appliance factory of the John Inglis Company. It outlasted the 1881 factory, thousands of factory jobs, and the company itself. But it couldn’t outlast the gentrification and sterilization of the once gritty industrial neighbourhood known now as Liberty Village.
In a part of town that has changed beyond recognition over the past few years, the Inglis sign was a comforting sight, a quirky connection with the past. By virtue of its position and great presence, it was also a part of the railway landscape. A friend remarked recently that the Inglis sign was the last remnant of the great urban industrial vista we used to study while watching trains from the Bathurst Street bridge.
The Bathurst bridge remains one of the great places for trainspotting in the city, and more trains than ever roll through the junction spanned by the grand old steel-truss structure. But Cabin D and its switch tenders, the yards, roundhouses, telltales, freight sheds, factories, and industrial spurs are all gone.
So goodbye old friend, or as the sign itself read at the end, “say au revoir.”