The Lost Subways of North America: Boston, Kansas City and Toronto


Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.  I've resolved to turn this project into a book, and so you'll be seeing more of these.

The latest maps:

Toronto, 1985

Toronto's subway system expansion stalled in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Money was short, the densest parts of the Greater Toronto Area were adequately served by the Yonge and Bloor subways, and the Toronto Transit Commission was experimenting with maglev lines to satisfy the rapid transit needs of the suburbs.  (The result of the ultimately unsuccessful maglev was the Scarborough RT, now known as Line 3.)  After maglev petered out, the Progressive Conservative Party decided to support an expansion of traditional subway service and produced this plan in early 1985, called “Network 2011.”  But the Progressive Conservatives couldn't stay in office long enough to enact the plan.

Boston, 1865

1865 was a happy time for Boston.  Boston was a hotbed of abolitionism, and after slavery was officially banned in January 1865 by the 13th Amendment, the state governor ordered a 100-gun salute, and a week of celebration followed.   (The draft riots of 1863 had been forgotten, as federal troops' increasing grip over the South had quieted opposition to the Lincoln Administration.)

During the Civil War, Boston already had a well-developed system of horse- and mule-pulled streetcar lines run by five competing companies. Boston would eventually electrify its lines in the 1890s, and build North America's first subway for its electric streetcar lines, which is still used by the Green Line today.

Kansas City, 1924

Kansas City of 1924 was a great city to party in.  The city was run by the corrupt Pendergast Democratic machine, which had its tentacles in nearly every single aspect of municipal life.  While a glance at a 1920s law book would tell you that alcohol, bribery and gambling were all illegal, in Kansas City those laws simply never applied.  Tom Pendergast's machine saw to that.

Pendergast was larger-than-life.  A son of Irish tavernkeepers, he prided himself on his touch with the people, and his Main Street offices were constantly besieged by the working classes looking for a hand up or a favor from the Boss himself.

Kansas City's interurban streetcar network provided regional transportation during this era.  An "interurban" is most analogous to light rail, providing high-speed transportation through a region, as opposed to a local streetcar like the KC Streetcar that runs today.  Most of the network depicted here would be gone by World War II.  The last independent line, the Strang Line, survived until 1940; KC Railways' streetcars survived (under new ownership) until 1957.


Any particular city or era you'd like to see?  Drop me a line at

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