3.28.2016

Gray Coach Barrie

~
Happy Monday Urban Explorers,

We have yet another post on the history of Barrie, Ontario and if you have a thingy for public infrastructure or more specifically, transportation, then this article may be of interest to you as we will be looking at the history of of the Gray Coach Lines in Barrie.



First up, a backgrounder.  Gray Coach was founded in 1927 by the Toronto Transportation Commission with a number of suburban routes and rapidly expanded outwards from the Greater Toronto Area with several acquisitions.  By 1930, Gray Coach was a leader in Southern Ontario's city-to-city transportation.   In the early days the buses were more of a tall station wagon than what we would recognise as a bus.  The Gray Coach fleet line-up consisted of an evolution of early wagon, to a cab-over-engine design to the iconic Aerocoach design as you may see in these advertisements for Gray Coach from September, 1936 (top) to March, 1948 (bottom) as the bus company moved fleet assets from White Motor Company, Packard, Yellow Coach and Aerocoach.   One can also see the progression here of the popularity in coach travel from the older 12-seaters to a newer more modern design to accommodate 24 or more passengers.



Your keen eyes will likely note that the first older advert places the Gray Coach office at Dunlop and Mulcaster streets (yep - right at the old Clarkson Hotel), while the later advert provides the terminal at #73 Collier Street.

We should probably talk about location, location, location.

As you have guessed, in the 1930's the bus 'terminal' was just a arrival / departure point at the Clarkson with a small desk just inside where the ticket agent was stationed.  Before the Clarkson, Gray Coach operated from the Wellington Hotel in 1929 until July 1930.  There were no formal agents in the employ of Gray Coach during the early years, but that all changed in August 1942 with a new Agent and a proper modern bus terminal on Collier Street.  The new agent was James Vincent Byrne, or JV as most had called him, and the new location was borne out of necessity, mostly because of the war effort.  Here's an image from the TTC's 1942 'Coupler', one of the oldest (and continuous) internal newsletters in Canada.


Since 1938, Gray Coach had been providing service to nearby Canadian Forces Base Borden and with the declaration of war in 1939, this service was even more needed.  In May, 1942, Canadian Federal Department of Munitions and Supply and the Town of Barrie granted permit for the construction of the new bus terminal on the site of the former W.F. Stone building on the south side of Collier Street, adjacent to the (old) Fire Hall.  The facilities included a waiting room, ticket / agent office and a lunch bar.

'Before & After'

 ~

'Before and After' note the old firehall to left of terminal - rather a sad shame that was torn down.  :(


The Gray Coach bus terminal remained at the Collier Street location until September 1956 when it moved to #15 Maple Avenue.  One of the foremost reasons for this was simply the lack of space for all the buses that needed to park at the terminal.  If you had to pick someone up or drop someone off, there was simply no getting close to the front door and you had to try your luck across the street at the garage (where the present City Hall is now).

Bottom right of photo is the old Market Hall converted for use as municipal offices.

The new-new bus terminal on Maple featured a waiting room, black marble entrance, 3 awesome retro 'U'-shaped restaurant counters, offices, full garage, and six roomy boarding platforms.  The only thing 'old' at the new Maple Avenue location was JV Byrne, who remained the Coach Agent.
The 15 Maple Avenue terminal was closed, demolished and moved to across the street to 24 Maple Avenue in 1991, where it remains today.  The new terminal houses GO Transit, Greyhound Canada, Ontario Northland and Barrie Transit.
Many thanks to the Gray Coach Lines Facebook page for collecting and maintaining a wonderful collection of transit and local history on this page -
~