Forty-five years ago, on June 24, 1973, Peter Witt car 2766 began operating on the streets of Toronto as the Tour Tram. For that first day, the car was decked out with bunting, Canadian and Ontario flags, a Union Jack and photos of HM Queen Elizabeth whose official birthday was celebrated about a week earlier in mid June.
In a previous article, five years ago, I showed the restoration work at Hillcrest Shops. Now, here are photos from on-street operation in the early days. The photos are arranged geographically around the route rather than by date. At the end of the gallery are a few shots of a Tour Tram diversion on Adelaide Street on its third day of operation.
Throughout these photos there are many buildings that no longer exist and views that are now impossible to take because open spaces have been filled in with redevelopment.
I feel so old…..
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In 1971, when I was the tender age of eight, I was given a tour of Wychwood Barns one quiet Sunday morning. 2766 was actually sitting in one of the sheds, and the shop crew member giving me the tour actually allowed me on, fired her up, and moved her up a few feet to allow a PCC to park behind. He also gave me a linen from a scrapped PCC. Try doing that today as a civilian, just walking onto the property.
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lol…David Cavlovic beat me to it. My slant would be the memories…and where to start on that?
Excellent piece Steve.
In twenty years, maybe there will be a CLRV tour tram. (Shudder!)
Steve: It will actually be easier to keep the PCCs running that a CLRV which has four decade-old solid state control systems that were not exactly standard when the cars were built.
Fascinating photos – how long did the Tour Tram operate for?
Steve: As a scheduled TTC route only until 1975. Thereafter, there were charter tour runs as well as the occasional fan trip. More info on Transit Toronto.
45 years! Holy crap! I remember riding the Tour Car and enjoying it as well as the confusion of riders who would get on and when the car took a turn “off route” they would panic and the operator had to stop to let them off! It happened over and over again! Why? Because the car stopped at every normal stop and people just got on without even looking at the route sign. I remember one operator after he made an extra stop to let someone off saying, “Didn’t you notice anything different about this car? No answer. They even added tons of flags etc. to try and draw attention to the “different” car. No luck! They should have boarded passengers only at 1 or 2 places (Union Station say), or maybe any stop _IF_ flagged. Sadly, all good things come to an end.
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I can’t remember the year but it was in the early 70’s when the Witt ran out of Russell. It was the Friday before Labour Day and the races were on at Old Woodbine (Greenwood). An operator showed up and asked if he could do some overtime. The Superintendent told him that every car that worked was in service. The operator told him that he was qualified on the Witt which was in the Yard. He did two round trips on the race track tripper from McCaul to Woodbine and not one person had any questions about the car.
Steve: I was on a Queen car behind it and (curses! foiled again!) could not chase the Witt to ride as I was enroute to another event.
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I worked near King and Yonge and patronised a shop at Queen and Spadina. I could get on the Tourtram, spend 20 or 40 minutes in the shop, and take the tram back to work. Round trip (literally) was 20 minutes.
I took my now wife counting on the tram.
And the last trip allowed you to go to Wychwood.
In Canada, Her Majesty’s official birthday is celebrated on the Monday before May 25.
This is perhaps more explicit in Quebec, where the name of the holiday is “Fête de la Reine.” Which, translated, means “The Queen’s Birthday.”
Steve: That may be so, but her birthday is celebrated in mid-June in the UK. The irony, of course, is that Elizabeth had not been born when 2766 was new.
I got to ride on the tour tram once, probably in the late 80s shortly before it got cancelled for the last time. It was a pair of Peter Witts grinding through downtown and it was the first time I’d ever been on a Peter Witt.
Sadly, I really don’t think there’ll be another tour tram of any kind unless there’s a serious mentality change at the TTC.
If the TTC and the City were smart, and they’re not!, they would take San Francisco’s approach and build an actual heritage route that would feature historic cars from around the world, as well as what’s left of local vehicles. If they did, Church St. would be a perfect part of whatever route they would decide upon.
One thing that I recall about the launch of the Tour Tram was the driver training. About two weeks before the service started they ran several training trips on Rogers Road. I remember chasing 2766 for about three hours. Lots of fun!
The TTC seems to have changed a lot in its view of the historic fleet and also charters. There are restrictions or requirements on chartering WItt or PCC streetcars, and in general charter rates are sky-high. When those two meet, they have made it close to impossible for groups to charter the old streetcars.
For a while, the Peter Witt was supposed to have a preceding and following streetcar. The chartering organization paid for all that.
Now, I have heard that a chartered PCC will need both an inspector and a CLRV chase vehicle.
The TTC has also upped the charter rates for any of their vehicles to astronomical heights. Instead of just paying for the operator and overhead and some maintenance, it’s as if the charter fees are designed to cover regular maintenance. Since the historic streetcars rarely venture out, the charter fees seem to be set so that the charterers are going to cover all the costs of storing and maintaining them. Of course, this dissuades charters, while the storage and maintenance costs remain the same, so the charter prices continue to rise.
I have heard from a reliable source that, to charter a TTC PCC for three hours, the cost is well over $1000 per hour. This is simply unaffordable for any group that isn’t well-funded (and likely able to make this a tax write-off). What can the possible justification be for fees this steep?
I don’t know if this crazy pricing is due to some low-level accountant whose ideas are not being critically examined by management, or whether management simply doesn’t want charters and is happy to price them so that no one can afford them, at which point they can point and say triumphantly, “See? No one wants to charter these old wrecks!” It would not at all surprise me if it was the latter.
I can only call this attitude stupid and ignominious. I’ve been on a few charters, and the amount of excitement from both young and old when a PCC or Witt rolls by is something to behold. Unlike waits for a bus or streetcar that doesn’t come on time, or yet another subway delay or interruption, the old streetcars have positive connotations to almost everyone who sees them. They are a great ambassador for the TTC. I don’t understand why the Commissioners, being members of the public and also City Council, don’t grill management on why the charter rates are set so unreasonably high.
I am sure that the charter costs for historic vehicles could be easily be set to a reasonable level that would lead them to be out many times in a month, and that would cost less than plastering self-plaudits for being APTA’s 2017 “system of the year” on buses and subway cars. That slogan regularly gets mocked when customers are punted off a subway train due to whatever incident, and I’ve certainly seen and heard this mocking. Instead of spending money on a pat-your-own-back campaign that simply increases the cynicism of your riders, why not put out the historic cars?
And where are the Commissioners, who in their public duty should be all over this?
Steve: Some years back during the Ford era, the Board, probably not fully understanding what it was doing, told management to make the historic fleet operate on a cost recovery basis. This is a catch 22 because the less the cars are used, the more they will cost to rent. I think that management would be perfectly happy to see them all at Rockwood, not on the streets of Toronto.