CLRVs Visit Boston

Back in 1980, the Urban Transportation Development Corporation (UTDC) had suffered the demise of their planned magnetic levitation train system in Toronto, and the “Intermediate Capacity Transit System” (ICTS) we know as the Scarborough RT had not yet been foisted on Toronto.

During a brief period when the only viable UTDC product was its new light rail vehicle, the CLRV, they shopped the design around to various systems.  The only taker they ever got was San Jose, California, for a small order.  Three CLRVs found their way to Boston for a demonstration, and I was lucky enough to catch them out on the Riverside line in May 1980.

A train of 4027 and 4029 prepares to leave Riverside Yard (the outer terminal of the line which includes a large parking lot and the carhouse/shops for the route.  A train led by Boeing car 3400 sits beside the CLRVs.  The overhead in Boston at this point was set up for operation by cars with either trolley poles (the remaining PCC fleet) or pantographs (the Boeing cars).

The CLRV train pulls out of the yard.

… and onto the main line.

The Riverside Line was build on an abandoned railway corridor, the Highland Branch, and opened in 1959.  A new connection into the existing central subway (a streetcar subway dating from 1897) was built to bring cars through downtown.

Here the CLRVs pass outbound through Reservoir Yard.  The larger part of this yard and an old carhouse are out of shot to the left, and they serve the Cleveland Circle line which terminates there.  Work cars in the yard include a PCC converted for use as a line car, and several “Type 3” passenger cars adapted as snow plows, essential equipment for a network with so much private right-of-way.

Outbound at Newton Centre station.

The shot below is from May 1972 at Kenmore Station which opened in 1932.  Readers with eagle eyes and long memories will recognize this shot which I loaned to the UTDC for inclusion in a brochure advocating the wonders of LRT which, at the time, the Ontario Government was actually pushing as a product, if not as a “solution” for Toronto.  It didn’t last long, and they went back to their old lies about how there was nothing to fill the gap, the missing link, between buses and subways — hence the need for an “intermediate” capacity system.

Kenmore Station is a busy place and has separate platforms for routes which diverge here.  Boston cars have doors on both sides so that they can serve island platforms like this.  Needless to say, the CLRVs served only stations with right-side platforms.  (The sign in the front window says “All stops except Kenmore” because the Riverside trains used the outside tracks at this station.)  Yes, that’s a three-car train of PCCs sitting at the platform.

Finally, a look outward towards Riverside terminal (off to the left behind the trees in the distance)  in October 1968.  The small building on the right is an abandoned railway station.  This line could have been a model for the Scarborough RT, an implementation of “LRT” at the high end of what this technology can accomplish with almost complete grade separation, rapid transit station spacing, and speedy operation.  (Although the CLRVs are capable of 70mph operation — itself a design excess by the UTDC — they were limited to 50mph operation on the Highland Branch.)

By the time the SRT and its expensive ICTS opened at a cost more than double the original estimate for LRT, the Riverside line had been operating for 25 years.

19 thoughts on “CLRVs Visit Boston

  1. Boston’s Boeing LRV’s were in revenue service from 1976 until 2007, with the last LRV arriving in 1983 and the first one scrapped in 1987. Toronto’s CLRV’s are still in revenue service even though the first one was built in 1977.

    Steve: The CLRV’s lifespan is thanks to a combination of robust design and good TTC maintenance, although the cars have had their problems over the years.


  2. The “Type 5” cars in the yard near Reservoir Station are actually “Type 3”. The “5” model was a small lightweight steel car for the lighter routes and built many years later.

    Steve: Right you are! I will update the post.


  3. Thanks for the Boston CLRV photos.

    Since the TTC uses 1495 mm gauge while Boston uses standard 1435 mm gauge, were there separate bogies for TTC versus standard gauge, or was each set of bogies easily regauged?

    Steve: They were regauged, and when a truck is designed for this sort of thing, it’s easily done. It would have made no sense for UDTC to build a truck that could only be used on Toronto when the rest of the potential market was standard gauge systems.

    The same question would apply to CLRVs 4000-4005 when they were being tested on the standard gauge Chemin de fer Orbe-Chavornay in Switzerland. By the way, Flickr-member “Trams aux fils” has 2 pictures of CLRV 4004 at the Gare d’Orbe in 1977 here and here.

    In Orbe, that destination sign “EXPRESS – WEST MAIN” is a curiosity. It looks American but it does not seem to match the destination signs in Boston pictures. Perhaps, it’s fictitious.

    Steve: Yup, fictitious for sure, but good for generic publicity shots.


  4. The CLRV shown on the Orbe-Chavornay Railway in Switzerland numbered 4004 in an odd style was in fact not that car at all but 4000, newly-delivered there after climate tests in Vienna so that they could run MU trials with 4001, delivered to Orbe earlier on. It was so numbered in anticipation of it being the fifth car to be delivered but someone over there had their wires crossed up.


  5. I am wondering what happened after the two CLRVs were tested in Boston – does anyone know how the MBTA personnel reacted to the testing of these two cars – was any serious consideration given by the MBTA to purchasing them, and if so, what got in the way?

    Steve: Given that the MBTA already had the Boeing fleet (although it was giving a lot of problems), and they were really in the market for artics, I don’t think the CLRVs quite fit the bill. There is an interesting thread on this topic at


  6. When are we going to see your ICTS railfan pics from 1985? 🙂

    Steve: Photographing the ICTS was not high on my priority list, and there’s little by way of historic views to give shots a wider context.

    I thought your viewers might like this footage of passengers boarding streetcars at the Bloor/Yonge transfer station or King Stn. in the 1950s, gleaming blue glass and all, in color.

    Lots of other TTC stock footage shots on that site as well.

    Steve: I am suspicious of the footage at Bloor if the date on the clip, 1953, is correct. The subway was not open yet, and this may have been staged to show how the connection would work. I notice that there is a workman polishing the terrazzo on the westbound platform. The footage at King is also staged, I think, given the rather odd lighting as the train “pulls into the station” and the fact that everyone is getting off of the first car of a four-car G train. Again, the clip is dated 1953, a year before the line actually opened. But the station is amazingly clean!


  7. Thanks for posting these Steve.

    I remember seeing other photos of the CLRVs in Boston and wondered why the cars wouldn’t serve Kenmore – indeed a busy station, especially when the Sox are playing at nearby Fenway Park. I was in Boston again in May. I took in a Red Sox game and remember a 15 minute wait just to get into Kenmore Station, and another 15 to squeeze into an LRV car.

    Rebuilt PCCs are still used on the Mattapan “High Speed Line” – a misnomer, but a friendly little operation that’s a frequent and effective feeder service into the Red Line Subway.


  8. Both 1953 clips are excerpts from a TTC publicity film. It was shown at my school when I was in Grade 9 and I recall seeing it again a few years later, along with the famous TTC color film that showing operations in 1939. It’d be nice if THAT film was on line somewhere – brand new Class A-1 PCCs, TRs and Brill Witts in the old hairstripe paint scheme on Bay St made for great viewing (and a few Witts in the “brand new” 1938 paint scheme as well. Net researchers, start your engines …..


  9. Those clips were part of a series of TTC “propaganda” films that would show how the subway would work (complete with the newsreel type narration), with people buying tokens, stamping their transfers, even showing how to use the revolutionary transferless fare-paid area subway-to-bus transfer facility. These were probably made around September 1953.

    In regards to the CLRVs in Boston, I think they had three on loan in all, with 4031 being the third one.


  10. All of those clips were staged with actors, and the TTC filmed them in the 1950s (just before the Yonge line opened) as publicity reels. Yonge subway construction shots are on that site as well. The film, in color, is remarkably well preserved, and something the Toronto Archives should get their hands on.


  11. Steve said:

    “Yup, fictitious for sure, but good for generic publicity shots.”

    I’m going to assume the run number “69” showing on car 4000/4004 was also ‘fictitious’.


  12. I believe with regards to the CLRV’s in Boston, 4027 and 4029 were initially sent, and then at a later date, 4031 was also sent down to have tests done with 3 car trains, to match those run with the PCC’s during the peak times (although I’ve read that 3-car trains only ran in the AM peak, with 2-car’s only on the PM).


  13. Seeing these trams on what the MBTA considers a ‘rapid transit line’ would utterly shatter Rob Ford’s narrow view of the world. Also shows that the only real difference between the Green LRT and Blue subway lines is level boarding and that the Blue line chooses not to run with at grade crossings (both lines use overhead wires).

    Steve: And, of course, the Blue Line tunnel between Bowdoin and Maverick was originally a streetcar subway from its opening in 1904 until it was converted to high platform operation in 1925.


  14. @Ben Smith

    The issue in Toronto was never about the vehicles and stations themselves, but about the alignment. Also, the Green Line branches are predominantly street running with numerous at-grade crossings, similar to the proposed surface LRT in Toronto.


  15. The dates for shipping the 3 CLRVs to Boston (read dates in this order: 4027, 4029, 4031) in 1980 were March 12, Feb 29, Feb 29. Return dates were June 10, June 9, June 20. All three were returned to TTC service the following October.

    4031 retains the flag brackets from its days in Boston (Ray Corley decided to keep them on that one car). At least, they were on the car the last time I bothered to look, which was four or five years back.


  16. Much attention is given when new vehicles enter service (either revenue or experimental) But little attention seems to be paid to the long trip these vehicles make (in the case of Toronto’s current rail stock, almost exclusively from Thuder Bay). This website has an interesting sequence of photographs showing the freight equipment used to transport these vehicles from the factory to the system. It would be really neat if anyone has links to photographs of a freight train loaded with new subway cars en route from Thunder Bay.


  17. Didn’t the CLRV’s come with pantographs back in 1980? Why would they bother changing these CLRV’s to Trolleypole for service in Boston? Or am I wrong?

    Steve: No, they didn’t come with pantographs although they are capable of conversion. Boston was running a mixed system of pans and poles at the time, and so there was no need to modify the CLRVs that went there with poles on them.


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