The hidden outfall of this storm trunk almost seems cut from an earlier age in Toronto's building history, embellished as it is with engraved depth markers in roman numerals.

Roman Numerals

Dufferin Creek Storm Sewer

Dufferin Creek
West Don River tributary creek

Construction Details:
RCP, oval and rectangular box conduit.

Found deep in an overgrown floodplain southwest of North York's G. Ross Lord Reservoir and Dam, the outfall for the Dufferin Creek storm sewer is one of the city's more ornate drainmouths. Surrounded on two sides by industrial parks and on a third by the grounds of the City of Toronto's Chesswood Drive Transfer Station (and former incinerator), the outfall is also perhaps one of the more difficult to find in the city, a mystique that is heightened by the roman numerals engraved on a retaining wall beside the opening. Here the City of North York, or perhaps the drain's contracted builders, saw fit to inscribe flood level measures in an accomplished, Roman style. It is not clear for whom these numerals were engraved, nor what if anything might once have been mounted in the blackened inset panels beside each numbers, but they add a unique touch to this hidden tunnel.

Roman Numerals is a little messy, a little industrial, and a little mysterious. Its main conduit passes near to the waste transfer station, plenty of light industry, and several massive petroleum terminals. Sidepipes evidence likely sanitary cross-connections somewhere upstream (I wasn't in a mood to investigate the source of human grime and toiletries that occasionally appeared). At one point a gas pipeline crosses the drain at chest height. And then there's the ghost of A.E. LePage.

In one access room, a real estate sign that was once used as part of the original wood forms for the concrete walls of the chamber, transferred some of its ink to the concrete poured behind it. As a result, the ghostly image of a c. 1970 sign for the A.E. LePage Company (one of the forerunners of today's realty juggernaut Royal LePage) appears, reversed, above you as you enter the room.

The drain also contains one particularly fun stretch of RCP where the pipe has been laid at a noticeably more severe angle, a slide without the sort of chamber or ersatz surroundings that would usually accompany it. If you've never been up a drain, you probably can't appreciate why a section of pipe with a slightly large rate of descent would be notable, let alone fun, but you'll have to take my word on the matter. Also notable is a short stretch of squat, oval pipe, probably located where the drain crosses beneath CN's Newmarket Sub rail line, now in use for GO Transit's Toronto-Bradford commuter service.

Like most of Toronto's drains, this one eventually shrinks away to almost nothing. All you can do is enjoy it while it lasts, and then try to find something to enjoy about the long, winding walk back out.

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Michael Cook is available to speak to your organization about infrastructure history, lost creeks, current conditions, and opportunities for change in our management of and communication about urban watersheds, and to work with teams proposing or implementing such change. Get in touch.