TTC Contemplates the Future of Streetcars: 1952, 1971, 1972

From time to time, I am asked about the TTC streetcar replacement policy and some of the history. To flesh out some of this, I have scanned three reports of interest.

1952: Buying Used Streetcars

In 1952, the TTC was still acquiring second-hand PCCs from other cities, but planned eventually to replace all of their streetcar lines by 1980 when subways downtown would make the streetcar lines obsolete.

This is a scan of a photocopy of a carbon copy of a typewritten report. [26MB PDF]

This report shows the TTC’s thoughts on the future of its streetcar system from just before the Yonge subway opened, and how it would be an important part of the network until about 1980.

The importance of the Bloor-Danforth corridor can be seen in the following text:

The Service Change Committee estimates that after the subway is in operation the Bloor service will require 138 cars for through service over the whole route, plus 36 cars for short-turn service between Yonge and Coxwell, or a total of 174 cars.

No present-day route comes close to requiring this much equipment to handle passenger demand.

A longer extract is worth highlighting:

At the present time … there are available good, used, P.C.C. cars of recent manufacture which are suitable for operation in Toronto. This situation will obviously only continue for a limited time. It is believed that the Commission should seize the opportunity to protect its future by the purchase of some of these cars.

It might be asked why Toronto should consider buying additional street cars when so many of the transit properties on this continent are giving them up and turning to trolley coaches, buses or rapid transit operation. It is, therefore, necessary and useful to examine the practice as to vehicular service, past and present, of other transit properties to determine what course should be followed in this city.

It is more or less true that there has been a gradual abandonment of street cars in a substantial number of large American cities and some smaller Canadian cities.

There is obvious justification for the abandonment of street cars in smaller communities but the policy of abandonment of the use of this form of transportation in the larger communities is decidedly open to question. In fact it is hardly to much to say that the results which have occurred in a good many of these larger cities leaves open to serious question the wisdom of the decisions made.

It may be not wholly accurate to attribute the transit situation in most large American cities to the abandonment of the street cars. Nevertheless the position in which these utilities have now found themselves is a far from happy one. Fares have steadily and substantially increased, the quality of the service given, on the whole, has not been maintained, and the fare increases have not brought a satisfactory financial result. Short-haul riding, which is the lifeblood of practically all transit properties, has dropped to a minimum and the Companies are left with the unprofitable long-hauls. Deterioration of service has also lessened the public demand for public passenger transportation. The result is that the gross revenues of the properties considered, if they have increased to any substantial degree, have not increased in anything like the ratio of fare increases, and in most cases have barely served to keep pace with the rising cost of labour and material. It is difficult to see any future for most large American properties unless public financial aid comes to their support.

These facts being as they are, Toronto should consider carefully whether policies which have brought these unfortunate results are policies which should be copied in this city. Unquestionably a large part of the responsibility for the plight in which these companies find themselves is due to the fact that the labour cost on small vehicles is too high to make the service self-sustaining at practically any conceivable fare.

Why then did these properties adopt this policy? It is not unfair to suggest that this policy was adopted in large part by public pressure upon management exerted by the very articulate group of citizens who own and use motor cars and who claim street cars interfere with the movement of free-wheel vehicles and who assert that the modern generation has no use for vehicles operating on fixed tracks but insists on “riding on rubber”. If there is any truth in the above suggestion it is an extraordinary abdication of responsibility by those in charge of transit interests. They have tailored their service in accordance with the demands of their bitter competitors rather than in accordance with the needs of their patrons.

The report goes on to talk about both the deterioration of physical plant and equipment in many cities, but not in Toronto, as well as the very high demands found on our street car routes.

Even if the Queen subway were to open “in the next decade”, the initial operation of this line would be with streetcars and the TTC would continue to need a fleet. This statement was made at a time when the Queen route, rather than Bloor, was seen as the next rapid transit corridor after Yonge Street.

The report recommends purchase of 75 used cars from Cleveland, 25 of which had been built for Louisville but barely operated there before that system was abandoned. The TTC already had second-hand cars from Cincinnati, and would go on to buy cars from Birmingham and Kansas City.

1971 and 1972: The Beginning of the End?

In 1971 and 1972, the TTC was still discussing their plan for a Queen Street subway, although it was looking rather uncertain as a project. As we all know, it did not open in 1980.

The 1971 report sets out a plan to discontinue all but the core routes of King, Queen (including Kingston Road) and Bathurst, with even these up for grabs should a Queen subway open in 1980, rather far-fetched idea for late 1971 and an era when all rapid transit planning focused on the suburbs.

This is a scan of an nth-generation photocopy and it is faint in places because that’s what my copy looks like. [6 MB PDF]

The 1972 report set in motion the political debate about the future of streetcars, and led to the formation of the Streetcars for Toronto Committee. Had its recommendations been adopted, the removal of streetcars from St. Clair would begun the gradual dismantling of the system.

It is amusing to see the sort of creative accounting by the TTC that we in the activist community associate with more recent proposals. There is an amazing co-incidence that the number of spare trolley coaches exactly matches the needs of the streetcar retirement plan for St. Clair even though this would have actually meant a cut in line capacity. Moreover, the planned Spadina subway would lead to an increase in demand as St. Clair would be a feeder route.

There is also the wonderful dodge that if the TTC abandoned the streetcars and claimed it was for the Yonge subway extension, they hoped to get Metro Council to pay for some of the conversion cost out of the subway budget.

In this report (as well as in the 1971 report above) we learn that the Dundas car just had to go because its continued operation would interfere with the planned parking garage for the then-proposed Eaton Centre.

Note: My copy of this report was in good enough shape to scan with OCR and convert to text rather than as page images. The format is slightly changed from the original, but all of the text is “as written”.

The Streetcars Survived, But the Network Did Not Grow

In November 1972, the TTC Board, at the urging of Toronto Council, voted to retain the streetcar system except for the Mt. Pleasant and Rogers Road lines. The former would be removed for a bridge project at the Belt Line, and the latter was in the Borough of York who wanted rid of their one remaining streetcar route.

The TTC had a plan for suburban LRT lines in the 1960s, but this was not to be. While Edmonton, Calgary and San Diego built new LRT, Toronto’s transit future was mired in technology pipe-dreams from Queen’s Park that bore little fruit and blunted the chance for a suburban network while the city was still growing. It is ironic that growth in the streetcar network, if it comes at all, will be downtown thanks to a renaissance of the waterfront when it could have happened decades ago while much of suburbia was still farmland.

The Sigmund Serafin Subway Paintings

About 50 years ago, there was a housecleaning at TTC’s head office at 1900 Yonge Street. A room in what was then the Advertising Department stuffed with archival material was to be cleared out because they needed the space. A call went to the transit fans interested in preservating things that would otherwise be lost. This included a set of water colours by Sigmund Augustus Serafin who produced images of what subway station designs would look like long before the days of computer graphics.

These date mainly from 1957 when the Bloor-Danforth-University subway was still in the design stage. Few of the stations were built exactly as shown here. The quaint presence of the red “G” trains that ran on BD for only six months is a wonderful touch. Other vehicles include PCC streetcars and GM buses that predate the “New Look” era. Many buildings in the backgrounds no longer exist.

For decades these paintings lived in our family house, but in 2016 with what appeared to be a “friendlier” crew with Andy Byford in charge, I decided that it was time for them to go back to the TTC and the City Archives where they now reside. The TTC had thoughts of publishing them as posters, but that idea never bore fruit. The original mats around the paintings were in less than perfect condition when I received them, but the watercolours were and are almost like new.

Reproductions are on display at Bay Station, but they do not do justice to the originals. In anticipation of the TTC’s 100th birthday on September 1, 2021, here is a gallery of the paintings with photos I took while they were in my hands.

Click on any photo to open a gallery of larger versions.

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The Richard F. Glaze 16mm Film Digitization Project

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I do not post commercial pitches here. Lots of people have things that they want to sell, but that’s not what my site is about.

Here is an exception.

Richard F. Glaze was a visitor to and later resident of Toronto for decades. He started shooting photographs and film of the TTC while I was still at the “look, a streetcar!” stage my evolution. He was a crusty guy who would show up on fantrips, and our paths would cross socially from time to time.

About 18 months ago, Richard’s vast collection of slides and six hours of colour film were passed on to James Bow who many will know for his site Transit Toronto. Images from Richard’s collection have appeared regularly there as James worked his way through scanning the collection.

The film material is another matter, though, and it requires professional handling for cleaning, high quality scanning, colour and exposure restoration. To that end James has mounted a Kickstarter campaign in the hopes of funding this work. The short term goal is $6,900, and this will pay for about one quarter of the work.

For those interested in the preservation of Toronto’s transit history, this is a worthy goal. You can visit the Transit Toronto website where there is a sample of restored video (streetcars on Rogers Road) and a link to the Kickstarter page. The cutoff date for the campaign is July 16, 2021.

Richard’s photos appear in many places on the Transit Toronto site, but there is a small selection and brief bio here.

To whet your appetite, here a few shots taken from Transit Toronto’s site.

Glen Echo Loop with a regular service car (3010) and a fantrip (2528) signed utterly inappropriately for the location
Lakeshore Road at Parkside Drive looking east to Sunnyside Amusement Park. The Gardiner Expressway doomed all of this.
Queen and Bay looking northwest. Today New City Hall would be in the background. Street decorations anticipate the coronation of Elizabeth II.

The Last Night of the Mt. Pleasant Car

Streetcar service on Mt. Pleasant Road ended at dawn on Sunday, July 25, 1976. To mark the occasion, a group of transit enthusiasts (or railfans if you prefer) chartered Peter Witt 2766 for an overnight tour around the city. We stopped at many places for photos, something that is only possible in the middle of the night, and then finished up with two round trips on the Mt. Pleasant line before calling it a night.

Here is a gallery of photos from that journey. I have published some of these before, but here is the full set.

Some of what we photographed remains, other views have disappeared or changed substantially.

There are more buildings in the way of the CN Tower than in 1976 and getting a clean shot top-to-bottom is much harder now than it was when the tower was new.

The buildings on Spadina have not changed too much, but it would take almost two decades from the photo here before we would see streetcar service return in 1997.

Bay Street is utterly transformed, now a condo canyon, including the stripped and repurposed Sutton Place Hotel.

The tail track at Bingham Loop that allowed a brief excursion into Scarborough was removed years ago as were spurs and tail tracks almost everywhere else.

The variety store beside Coxwell-Queen Loop disappeared under a condo in the past few years.

Now it was time to venture up to St. Clair for the last runs on Mt. Pleasant. Our first pass took us along St.Clair past the subway station over track used only by the night cars. Up at Eglinton, it was still quite dark although the deep blue of the dawn sky had begun to show. We returned south and west to St. Clair Station and then looped back east to Moore Park Loop where we met the first bus on the new Mt. Pleasant route. Another trip through St. Clair Station brought a meet with the last night car, and then we headed off for the final trip with the line all to ourselves.

As we were posing in front of the coal silos at Merton, a TTC Supervisor came by to chase us off of the line as they wanted to cut off the power. Our operator, Charlie Price, a veteran of many charters, was not too worried about getting back to the carhouse on time.

At Eglinton and Mt. Pleasant, nothing that was on the four corners remains today. A bus loop, currently unused, sits inside a seniors’ building on the northeast corner that once held a gas station and the streetcar loop. The bank on the northwest will return some day as the shell of the main entrance to Mt. Pleasant Station on Line 5 Crosstown. Eglinton Public School on the southwest was replaced with an ugly building whose architects assure me was the product of cost cutting by the Board of Education. The south east corner, formerly a typical 1920s-era row of stores with apartments above, now has a midrise commercial building that, like other developments along Eglinton, added nothing to the local character. It is sad to think that the bank, when it returns, will probably be the most distinguished building there.

At St. Clair and Yonge, even the “modern” towers don’t last forever. Updates and replacements are already in the pipeline.

The subway station had the distinction of being the first to have a restaurant inside of the paid area, a counter-example to the “though shalt not eat in the subway” bylaw that was never implemented. It eventually became a McDonalds.

Moore Park Loop is now a local parkette little changed except for the removal of the streetcar tracks.

Dominion Coal is long gone, and the area between Mt. Pleasant and Yonge along Merton is almost all condos in what was once an industrial area.

The cemetery, founded in 1873 when it was out in the countryside among farms, goes on, an oasis with the city’s best collection of trees.

Updated July 27, 2020: Service east of St. Clair Station to Moore Park Loop continued until October 2, 1976 but only for the St. Clair night car (and occasional daytime cars killing time because they were off schedule). Thanks to Philip Webb for sending me a copy of an article by Mike Roschlau in Rail+Transit, January 1977, with this info.

Bill Davis Had A Plan (Updated)

Updated June 3, 2020: A PDF version of the document has been added.

With all of Metrolinx’ recent hype about the Ontario Line and its design, I have been digging into my archives looking at the promises made back in 1972 when Premier Bill Davis announced “An Urban Transportation Policy for Ontario”. This was to be the transit answer to his cancellation of the Spadina Expressway, a new transit network that would bring rapid transit to outlying areas in Toronto, as well as to Hamilton and Ottawa.

There was to be a test track around the CNE grounds linking to Ontario Place. A new technology, trains that would fill the missing link between buses and subways that were far too expensive at the then astronomical cost of $25 to $30 million per mile.

This scheme was doomed from the outset by its dependence on an untried technology (although at the point of the announcement, the Krauss-Maffei magnetic levitation system had not been officially chosen). All that ever happened at the CNE was a small stand of trees near the Princes Gates were felled in anticipation of guideway construction, and a few column footings were built. So much for the brave new world of a transit network.

Oddly enough, buried in the announcement is the following acknowledgement that existing technology could be used, at least as a stopgap:

“As an interim measure it may be feasible to provide express routes through parts of these corridors using existing modes of transportation such as buses or streetcars. When operating in exclusive rights-of-way these facilities are capable of providing intermediate capacity transit facilities.” [p 15]

This was the only time the government acknowledged that a brand new technology was not a pre-requisite for building their network. Within a few years, Davis’ dreams would be dust. The government would resurrect the work on a new TTC streetcar design that was underway in the late 1960s, but was stopped when the focus shifted to Davis’ Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS). Eventually, a less technically complex system that we now know as the SRT in Toronto and Skytrain in Vancouver came along, but the plans were never resurrected on quite so grand a scale.

The announcement itself makes interesting reading with many comments that will be familiar today especially as they relate to the limits of car-based travel and expressways.

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Planned Changes to King, Queen, Roncesvalles and The Queensway for 2021 (Updated)

Updated July 2, 2020: The contract award for this work will be before the City’s Infrastructure & Environment Committee on July 9, 2020, and then it will go to Council for approval at its meeting of July 28-29, 2020. This is a complex multistage project stretching over three years.

This includes the reconstruction of the TTC track allowance and platforms, roads, sidewalks; construction of new streetscaping; replacement of watermains, sewer relining; and the rehabilitation of The Queensway bridge over Parkside Drive.

Part of the work is planned for 2020 and was already awarded under another contract. This will not affect streetcar or road traffic.

In order to reduce the overall impact of construction on all road users in the area around Parkside Drive, the underside of the Parkside Drive bridge at The Queensway will, therefore, be completed in 2020 in conjunction with the Dundas/Howard Park and Howard Park (Sunnyside Avenue to Parkside Drive) project. This bridge substructure work includes abutment repairs, recoating structural steel, reconstruction of the TTC stairs and concrete patch repairs to the TTC owned portion of the bridge.

Major works begin in 2021 and these are divided into phases. The TTC has not yet announced the transit service arrangements corresponding to each phase

Stage 1: February 2021 to July 2021

The Stage 1 of construction will be carried out on The Queensway between Parkside Drive and the KQQR Intersection and on Queen Street West between Triller Avenue [one block east of Roncesvalles] and the KQQR Intersection. This work includes watermain replacement, sewer relining, TTC overhead wire removals, TTC track work, road reconstruction and hydro works along The Queensway, the KQQR Intersection, and along Queen Street West; and the rehabilitation of The Queensway bridge at Parkside Drive (outer lanes).

While this work is in progress, access to and from Roncesvalles Carhouse will be available only from the “north gate”. With the intersection closed, the 501 Queen and 504 King services will not be able to operate west of Dufferin Street. How much of the routes are converted to bus operation remains to be seen, but the TTC would be wasting vehicles if they converted two major routes for work that would not affect their entire length. Track replacement is also planned on Queen from University to Fennings (near Dovercourt) in 2021, and so it would make sense to retain streetcars at least on the eastern half of that route, and on King to Dufferin Loop.

Stage 2: July 2021 to April 2022

The Stage 2 of construction will be carried out on The Queensway from Parkside Drive to Sunnyside Avenue and on King Street West from the KQQR Intersection to approximately 100 m south thereof. This work includes watermain replacement and sewer relining on King Street West; TTC track work, road reconstruction and hydro works along The Queensway (Parkside Drive to Sunnyside Ave); reconstruction of the southwest corner of the KQQR Intersection including streetscape work at Beaty Boulevard Park (southwest corner of the KQQR Intersection); TTC overhead wire replacement along The Queensway, the KQQR Intersection and King Street West; and the rehabilitation of The Queensway bridge at Parkside Drive (inner lanes).

From this description, it is unclear which portions of the work will actually extend into 2022, and for what period the intersection will be impassible. That would determine the period during which streetcar service on the west end of Queen and King would have to be suspended.

Stage 3: April 2022 to August 2022

The Stage 3 of construction will be carried out on Roncesvalles Avenue from the KQQR Intersection to Dundas Street West. This work includes watermain replacement, sewer relining, TTC overhead wire removal and replacement, and TTC track work; and road reconstruction on Roncesvalles Avenue from the KQQR Intersection to Harvard Avenue. Stage 3 also includes minor work on Roncesvalles Avenue, from Harvard Avenue to Dundas Street West, to modify the TTC platforms for compliance with the Province’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requirements.

This stage involves Roncesvalles Avenue north from Queen including the North Gate at the carhouse. While this is underway, streetcars would not be able to operate on Roncesvalles, but should be able to use the South Gate.

I have sent a query to the City for clarification of the staging of this project.

The original article follow below.

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The Early Days of the CLRVs

As I write this, it is Christmas morning in 2019, and the TTC’s fleet of CLRVs, now 40 years old, has only a few more days to run in revenue service.

Here is a gallery of photos culled from their early years. There is a preponderance of photos showing construction activities because that is what I tended to focus on in those days. Although the TTC had decided to retain its streetcars and bought a new fleet, track construction techniques had not caught up with the idea that things should be build to last. Untreated ties and rails that were only spot welded at the top, not with a solid top-to-bottom thermite weld, were not the most robust.

This design combined with the vibrations from the original Bochum wheels on the CLRVs led to the quick disintegration of roadbeds leaving the TTC by the mid 1990s with a double-dose of track repairs. Not only did they have to rebuild track that was 20-30 years old, they had a fresh batch that was 10-15 years old. The overall track repair program caught up with this backlog a few years ago for tangent (straight) track, but the adoption of panel-based and properly welded special work (intersections) took longer to get underway. Some major intersections, notably Queen & Roncesvalles, are falling apart leading to slow orders on various parts of the streetcar system. (Ironically, because this is a blanket order, there are slow orders on all special work whether it needs it or  not.)

Back in the 1980s, the CLRVs were brand new, and after many teething problems they became the workhorses of the network as the PCC fleet was gradually retired.

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