As a regular traveller on the Bloor-Danforth subway (Line 2), I cannot help noticing how often a car will appear with a very grimy exterior. Although inside the cars look just fine, the exterior can leave much to be desired. The comparison is quite striking with the gleaming trains on Yonge-University-Spadina (Line 1).
It turns out that this problem is caused by a combination of factors including the fact that the BD trains (the T1 sets) are riveted aluminum, while the YUS trains (the newer TR sets) are welded stainless steel.
I asked the TTC about this issue, especially considering how important system cleanliness is in their attempt to present a good face to customers, and they replied:
You’re correct that some of the T1 cars are not as clean as we like.
There are a number of factors in play here.
Trains are not washed regularly through the winter when the ground temperature drops below a certain point. Every winter, it follows that the trains become less clean. We do wash trains mechanically but it is less effective.
Each summer we employ summer students to hand wash the trains using detergent and pressure washers. They can do a train or so a day. They look pretty good, but with the condition of the body and its design – it takes time.
Chemicals used also make the aluminium more porous and so we have to be careful how much we use, or we potentially make the issue worse over time as the body will attract even more dirt.
The work is made more difficult due to the number of rivets used on the sides of the train. You can see more staining around the doors in general where the normal train wash (think of a car wash for trains) just doesn’t get into these nooks and crannies. On the TR we designed this dirt trap out by the smooth car body.
The students have started work and you’ll see a gradual improvement in the fleet. That said, progress will be slower this year as we are using them to clean also air filters on the trains’ heating system which whilst invisible to customers needs doing across the fleet and is a higher priority.
We will be targeting the worst units first, and working through the fleet on a priority basis.
[Email from Mike Palmer, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, TTC, April 19, 2016]
The T1s will be with us for many years as they are only about 15 years old. TTC has had aluminum bodied cars for decades, and I hope that they can maintain some semblance of cleanliness with this fleet.