Toronto’s Yonge Street subway

Yonge street subway

Pictured here in the fall of 1950 is a Northwest model 25 cable backhoe at work on Toronto’s Yonge Street subway. 

Work had commenced the previous year on the Yonge Street subway with the contract awarded to a consortium of contractors that included Pitts, Johnson, Drake and Perini. About 1.3 million cubic metres of material were excavated over the five year contract with the majority of it repurposed to expand the port and waterfront areas.

Cable operated shovels with various attachments, such as this Northwest 25 backhoe, were the norm prior to the hydraulic excavators. 

Pile driving, tunnelling and open-cut excavations, as seen in this photo, were handled by these cable machines. Seventy years ago, the highly skilled and experienced operator with a Hoisting Engineer’s Certificate was in demand. No joysticks, air conditioning or other amenities for the operator in that era. Evidently, hundreds of ‘sidewalk superintendents’ lining Yonge Street were catching the action.

The Northwest model 25 was rated as a .57 cubic metre machine and typically powered by a Caterpillar D4600 diesel engine rated at  60 kW. Some earlier versions equipped with gasoline engines were repowered with GM 3-71 diesel engines. 

HCEA Canada has two Northwest machines in operating condition: a Model 25 on shovel front and a Model 41 set up as a dragline.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 situation, HCEA Canada’s annual ‘Last Blast’ event scheduled for October 17 at the Simcoe County Museum has been cancelled. We look forward to seeing you at our future events.

HCEA Canada is a proud Community Partner of the Simcoe County Museum.