Pantographs Up On Harbourfront

On Tuesday, September 12, 2017, the TTC began operation of its new Flexity streetcars with pantograph power collection on the 509 Harbourfront route. This is a short, comparatively isolated route running entirely with Flexitys where problems, if any, can be ironed out on a small piece of the network. Any off route moves including carhouse trips are done with trolley poles, and the normal changeover point between modes is at Exhibition Loop.

Here is a small set of photos of the route.

20 thoughts on “Pantographs Up On Harbourfront

  1. What are the relative (dis)advantages to one system over the other – trolley pole vs pantograph?

    Steve: Advantages of pantographs include:

    • Dewirements are not possible.
    • Operation through curves and special work is less concerned about pulling down the overhead.
    • Operation under bridges with low clearance does not shift the pantograph into a position where contact with the overhead is less reliable.
    • A higher power draw is possible. This is important for larger cars (Flexitys) where a single point of contact with the overhead must handle power for a vehicle that is the equivalent of at least two CLRVs. This can be seen when Flexitys running with poles pass under section gaps and arc much more than older cars.
    • During ice storms, pantographs maintain better contact with the overhead.
    • Not really applicable to the TTC, but pantographs enable much higher speed operation than trolley poles.

    The overhead structure for trolley poles is simpler than for pans.


  2. This may be a dumb question but is there any advantage to using pantographs rather than the standard poles? Maybe they don’t come off like the old tech. Just asking.

    Steve: See previous comment/answer.


  3. Is there any truth to the stories that the Flexities are limited or reduced in power while running poles? If so, at what point will they be allowed to run at full power? (Shades of high rate operation on the subway.)

    Steve: Yes, they cannot draw full power on poles. The effect was not as visible this summer because of the cool weather, but the cars will reduce their draw for air conditioning when running on poles.


  4. Are those elaborate crossing frogs a temporary measure? Or are they the latest “new and improved”? Don’t remember seeing them being used in Europe?

    Steve: These are temporary for pole/pan co-existence.


  5. One other item that I heard was that in regenerative braking mode the poles cannot return as much power to the systems as the pantograph can. This would seem reasonable if the pole can’t draw as much power as the pan can.

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  6. As one might expect (!!) the TTCs priorities for installing the new overhead are hard to decipher. (Why are bits of King done but not others, why is anything being done on Carlton now?) At some point can you try to post an up-to-date version of their “overhead plan”?


  7. Wow pantographs in Toronto! I was living in San Francisco in the late 70’s when SF MUNI rebuilt its entire overhead wiring in preparation for new LVRs that were soon to go in service replacing the existing PCC fleet. That took a few years to complete. While the first test vehicles (Boeing Vertol) had a trolley poles, none of the regular service vehicles did. San Francisco had (and still has) an extensive trolley bus route network that had to co-exist with the pan-only trams, so I saw elaborate skates put up around overhead intersections and switches. Interestingly the rebuilt overhead even where only trolley buses ran which seem to reduce substantially de-wiring.

    With a pantograph-only system, overhead frogs and switches would no longer be necessary. I would assume that when the overhead is converted to pantograph-only the wire with shit a bit from right to left so as to contact the shoe over its width?


    Steve: Yes, the TTC plans to slew the overhead more once trolley pole operation ends.


  8. Reblogged this on Chris James Drew and commented:
    Check out this post by Steve Munro on the TTC testing out the pantograph on their new streetcars. What’s the big deal Chris?

    1) It’s looks cool
    2) It’ll improve reliability – the pole tends to pop off at intersections and during turns
    3) What about the historic look of the pole? No problem – visit Halton County Radial Railway. It’s a museum. They have ice cream. It’s fun.


  9. It’s great to see the pantographs in use, seems like a modern now (well almost, until they get proper track switches and signalling). In other streetcar news, seems like the TTC is gauging interest in an additional 100 streetcars. Have you heard any background on this? MERX link.

    Steve: For the benefit of readers, here is a screen grab of the Merx info as this does not stay online as long as this comment is likely to last.


  10. Pantograph operation is long overdue. The TTC will now have to wash the trams more thoroughly. Pantograph dust will eventually collect on the roof. When it rains, those will wash off to the side. It is not a big deal, but dirty trams do not leave the best impression.

    Pantographs do impose a speed limit on the design of the network although it is higher than what a pole system can do. The metal part that connects to the overhead wire will heat up at high speeds due to friction. This can cause arcing. Based on various design papers, even disregarding aerodynamic drag, the practical upper speed limit of pantograph is about Mach 0.25 or 190MPH ground speed.

    Steve: You might want to chat with the TGV folks who have achieved a speed record of 357.2 mph with pantograph power supply, albeit with arcing. Regular operation is in the 200mph range. The TTC has a new goal for The Queensway!


  11. Can the old streetcars operate with the new overhead with the trolley poles?

    Steve: At present, yes. The photos I included show how the frogs are set up to handle both types of power collection. Once trolley pole operation is discontinued system-wide, this will present a problem for the historic fleet.


  12. “Pantograph dust will eventually collect on the roof. When it rains, those will wash off to the side. It is not a big deal, but dirty trams do not leave the best impression.”

    I don’t know what specifically is the cause, but the Flexities all have what looks like soot stains all over the back of the vehicle under the under the trolley pole already.

    Steve: That is from runoff from the trolley shoe which is carbon.


  13. Will any vintage streetcars (Peter Witts, PCCs, CLRVs, ALRVs) be converted over to pantographs?

    Steve: I have already answered this, but here is the compendium of what I know so far. CLRVs: no. ALRVs: probably. PCCs: maybe. Witt: uncertain.


  14. I remember riding a class W tram in Melbourne with a pole that travelled on some pan only routes. Every time it took a switch the pole had to be moved from one wire to another. It was a bit time consuming but it was a dinner tour and ran after the rush hour.


  15. “CLRVs: no. ALRVs: probably”

    I thought they where planning to keep CLRVs around longer then ALRVs. Is there a physical difference that make pantographs more difficult on CLRVs?

    Steve: No. It’s only the fleet plans that have changed. The idea was to keep the larger cars (those that can be rebuilt) as long as possible.


  16. In terms of shared routing such as the 510 and 511 is it possible to switch to pantograph operation at a certain point or is that simply not practical?

    Steve: I think you mean the 510 and 509. The 510 (Spadina) is completely separate from the 511 (Bathurst).

    No. Imagine having to get out twice per trip to pull down/put up the pole in whatever weather was happening at the time. And inevitably someone would forget.


  17. In terms of shared routing such as the 510 and 511 is it possible to switch to pantograph operation at a certain point or is that simply not practical?

    In theory the 512 could be switched over as it is 100% pan-friendly and has no diversion trackage anywhere. Remember the first version of the new streetcar implementation plan from 2013 implied the overhead system would be converted by 2016 with the last route Carlton, however it’s 2017 now and replacement is far from done and appears to be done in an ad hoc manner with no particular plan apparent.

    Steve: It would not surprise me to see St. Clair switch over. The TTC has already run test cars with the pans up.


  18. The Wikipedia’s trolley pole page states: The first 60 new Flexity vehicles being delivered to Toronto are using trolley poles as an interim measure while the entire system is being converted to pantograph operation. Vehicles delivered after the initial 60 will be equipped only with pantographs, and will eventually be removed from existing Flexity vehicles as the older CLRVs and ALRVs are retired and the upgrading of the wires is completed.

    I think the statement is false. I understand the TTC order initially specified that only the first 60 Flexity cars would have pantographs, but that the contract was later modified so that all 204 would have pantographs along with trolley poles. Is my understanding correct? Thanks.

    Steve: You are correct. The order was changed. The only thing that is later than Bombardier’s deliveries is the TTC’s overhead conversion program.


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