The Toronto Rockets Debut (Updated)

Updated June 4 at 4:10 pm: In response to comments about the lack of a handout at Doors Open when the new cars were on display, I have scanned two pages from the Bombardier handout showing the train layout and technical specs.

Pages 1 2

Updated May 26 at 11:45 pm: Minor corrections.

Today, May 26, the media were treated to a short excursion on one of the new “Toronto Rocket” subway trains.  We assembled at Davisville Station anticipating a departure around 1100, but it was not the best of days for the TTC to roll out their shiny new trains.  Signal problems earlier in the morning made a shambles of service, and the YUS line was badly backed up.

This gave lots of time for everyone to wander the train and ask questions while it sat on the build-up track at Davisville.  Eventually, we moved off, but rarely got up to full speed because of the service backlog.  When we arrived at Union and pulled onto the pocket track, we sat for quite a period thanks to another delay in progress northbound on Yonge.  Finally, we left and made our way back to Davisville.  Not the most auspicious launch of the new “rocket”.

The train is attractive and certainly roomy.  The interior is one continuous space, and there are no central stanchions.  A few of the media joked about bowling, and wondered how long it would take for someone to attempt rolling a pop can or bottle from one end of the train to the other.

Where transverse seats are provided, they are in a 2+2 layout.  This leaves a wide walkway that is enhanced slightly by the fact that the seats on opposite sides of the car are slightly offset.

The train’s operation was smooth, although I look forward to riding at higher speed such as the section north of Eglinton once these units enter revenue service in a few weeks.  The noise level from motors and from the tunnel is slightly lower than on the T1 trains, and the braking appears to be squeal-free.  (Now if only the TTC can fix the problem with the T1s whose propulsion software was supposed to be updated to correct this last year!)  The ride is a less springy than on the older trains (good for rail that’s a bit out of alignment), although bad track is bad track no matter what you’re riding (the switches at the south end of Davisville Yard were particularly rough).

Many passenger features have been discussed before and I won’t dwell on them here beyond the photos below.  Technically, the trains are a big step up from the T1s, and many more of the controls are centralized in the operator’s cab rather than being sprinkled through the train hidden under seats.  In some cases, equipment isolation can be performed from the cab, or is handled automatically when the train senses something isn’t working properly.

A vaguely computerish female voice announces stops, and in an empty train this can sound a bit like being in a long cave if you stand in the right place.  The voice did not sing “Daisy” for us, but then nobody was trying to disconnect it.

The real challenge for these trains will be reliability.  Each set of trains Toronto has received from Bombardier is supposed to be far better than past generations, and yet the spare ratio doesn’t budge.  Part of this, of course, is that some trains are always going to be in the shop for routine scheduled maintenance, but the real test will be for in-service failures.  We shall see how this new fleet works out as the service on the YUS gradually converts to Rocket operation.

Eventually, after many projects that have yet to be funded, the TTC will be able to bring faster, more frequent operation to the Yonge line.  However, much remains to be done:

  • build up the fleet to a size that will handle planned service improvements (extending the short-turn to Glencairn, then to Downsview; extending the line to Vaughan)
  • re-signalling the entire line (not just the current project, lower Yonge) for automatic train control, faster speeds and closer headways
  • adding the trains needed to operate more frequent service
  • addressing terminal design issues for closer headways at Finch
  • addressing Bloor-Yonge capacity
  • expanding carhouse capacity

In the short term, the main promise of the TRs will be to add about 10% to capacity as they replace older rolling stock on the Yonge line.

The photo gallery follows the break.

We’re on train 5411-5416.  (The first set delivered to the TTC was 5391-6, and it’s the one on which all of the fixes have been worked out. As production rolls on, the changes identified on that train are retrofitted to later sets.)

Car numbering reflects the married sextet with each train having cab “A” cars numbered “xxx1” and “xxx6”, while three “B” cars (the ones with compressors) get numbers “2”, “3” and “5”. Car “4” is a “C” car, and so the train overall is “ABBCBA”.  Equipment arrangements are different on each car type, and swapping cars is not as simple as with the older married pairs.

This view looks down the train from car “5” toward car “1”.  There are lots of places to hold on, but the centre aisle is completely open.  This is intended not just for good circulation, but for mobility of wheelchairs or other large objects.

The space under the seats is completely clear from one end of the train to the other.  This gives passengers space to tuck both their feet and any packages they might have out of the way of the stampeding hordes in the aisle.

This shows the articulation between cars “5” and “4” which presents less of an intrusion on the compartment than what we know in the ALRV streetcars.  Of course those cars are both narrower, and must handle much tigher curves than a subway train.  Subtle curves on the line will be much more obvious to riders with this open, flexible passenger space.

The area reserved for wheelchairs includes three fold-down seats that will automatically flip out of the way when not in use.

Doorways feature an emergency call station through which passengers can talk to the crew.  In the cab, any of the video cameras on the train (four per car, and one at each end) can be selected either as a group for one car, or individually.  This allows an operator to see what is happening without leaving the cab.

The route maps are now build into the cars, and installed in a manner that makes them just about impossible to remove.  The line on which the train is operating is illuminated.  Stations “behind” the current position are shown in green, while those “ahead” are in red.  When the “next station” call comes over the PA, this station blinks on the map.  Junctions are highlighted, and when a train arrives at one (for example at Bloor), the intersecting line flashes.

Another method of showing the location gives both the location, and the side of the train where the platform will be.

At the cab ends of the train, there are small seats on which someone can rest their bum.  This is the only location where seats like this are provided.

No, there is no railfan seat, and the window to the operator’s cab has a reflective coating that cuts visibility from the passenger compartment especially when in low lighting areas underground.

Here is our train on its return to Davisville (this is car 5416).  The central doorway folds down for emergency evacuation, and the mechanism is completely manual (and easy for an operator to deploy) so that it does not depend on power or the train’s control systems.  There is a handcranked winch to pull the door closed again, and the design obviously assumes that this won’t be needed often.

The TTC will have a train on display for tours at Davisville Station on Sunday, May 29 from 1000 to 1600.

Additional info and pictures are on the TTC site.  Bombardier has a nice 4-page handout, but the info from it is not yet completely available on their site.

43 thoughts on “The Toronto Rockets Debut (Updated)

  1. Like you said to Miroslav Glavic, the T1’s cannot all fit on BD and some were supposed to stay on YUS? But since they’re not getting ATO, the TTC ordered more TR’s for YUS so does that mean that the “extra” T1’s that were supposed to stay on YUS can be withdrawn?

    Also, just to clarify, ATO means that trains will operate on their own without a driver correct? Sounds a bit strange, not what I’m used to at least, although they do have ATO elsewhere. So are trains going to be controlled from the transit control center? Sounds like a difficult task, considering they’d have about 50 trains to control at the same time.

    Steve: They will be controlled by computer, the same way the SRT is driven. The operator tells the car to leave the station, except when the line is in some version of manual operation thanks to one of the frequent failures of the signal system. Computers can drive all of the trains at once quite easily.

    Yes, the TTC will have a surfeit of T1’s and I’m sure this will be counted as a bonus toward the construction cost of a new subway line.


  2. From what I remember of the fleet projections that have been posted here, there certainly won’t be any extra T1’s if the intent is to retire all of the H6’s early and ramp up service on the BD line to 50 train sets.

    Steve: Also discussed here is the question of whether it is physically possible to operate the headway a 50-train service would trigger.


  3. I also forgot to mention this; just a few comments about some TR design features I noticed when I went on it for the first time.

    Firstly, I think that the overhead LED announcement displays extend too far (over halfway) to the middle of the car from each end and alter shape of the interior. The geometry of subway cars is generally supposed to be straight and parallel (rectangular) when viewed from the side/top/bottom. Although the TR cars adhere to this geometry on the outside, I’d rather that the interior geometry also match. Why can’t the displays extend only as far as they do on the H5/6/T1 cars (ie until the side doors closest to the car ends)? Yes, the H5/6/T1 cars don’t have visual announcements, but they still have a “step” in the ceiling at the car ends.

    Secondly, I noticed that the exterior guard lights and interior security cameras are placed right in the middle of the car, of all places. I think that this should also be changed, the guard lights can be put closer to the car ends like on the H/T1 cars. As for the cameras, I would put one at each end of the car.

    Finally, I noticed that the non-cab cars are slightly asymmetrical in terms of length – there are 4 side facing seats at one end of each car, and only 3 at the other. And on the blueprint the lack of symmetry can be seen because each car has one truck directly below the side door, and the other shifted slightly closer to the middle. But this is not necessarily a bad thing, it is a new design feature which actually makes the second point not quite true – the cameras and guard lights are not exactly in the middle due to the extra side-facing seat at one end.

    However, I was very excited about the new trains and I don’t want to be disappointed in them, especially since we’re going to have 70, so I suppose that these little details can be ignored.


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