trainspotting (blog)

Au revoir to a neon icon

Despite the implications of the message board, we'll not soon forget the iconic pink-neon Inglis billboard that formed part of the railway landscape west of Bathurst Street in Toronto for nearly 40 years. An eastbound GO train lead by APCU No. 901 and powered by leased CN GP40 No. 9316 and GO GP40-2 702 approaches Cabin D in October 1984.

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.”

In the year of its installation, the Inglis sign has yet to gain its trademark message board as GO FP7/ACPU No. 9858 leads an eastbound arrival past Cabin D on October 27, 1975. The piggyback train on the left has come from the Bala Sub and is bound for the yard at Mimico.

Pink neon, searchlight signals and the setting sun. A westbound GO train passes Cabin D as an eastbound CN local lead by SW1200 No. 7029 deeks behind the tower. CP Tecumseh Street tower is visible in the gloom just to the right of the CN local.

A young Wayne Gretzky (flogging Canon cameras) peers from a competing billboard as CN SW900 No. 7221 races west through Exhibition station with a short local on October 18, 1984.

The Royal York dominates the downtown skyline as VIA LRC No. 6900 accelerates westward with Windsor-bound train 75 in October 1984.

Switching in the back yard at Inglis on June 5, 1978, CN S13 No. 8520, a wooden van and a string of 40-foot boxes are flanked by icons of the Toronto skyline.

Au revoir. VIA No. 85, with LRC 6907 and three Tempo cars, slips past the Inglis sign at dusk on October 18, 1984. Cabin E, one of the least noted of the downtown Toronto towers is visible just beyond the Strachan Avenue overpass.

greg mcdonnellComment