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UTDC Kingston Transit Development Centre

UTDC Test Loop

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Text by James Bow, Photos by Jordan Kerim

On June 22, 1973, the Province of Ontario formed the Ontario Transportation Development Corporation (later renamed Urban Transportation Development Corporation). It was designed by the provincial government to build a public transit vehicle construction industry within Ontario, in accordance with the government's new emphasis on public transportation over highway construction. Its first project was to design and build an Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS). It was later charged with designing and building a Canadian Light Rail Vehicle to replace the TTC's aging fleet of PCC cars.

OTDC (later UTDC) was granted considerable resources and financial backing from the provincial government, and set about constructing plants that would build and test these transportation vehicles. One such facility was set for Kingston, Ontario and, in 1978, was officially opened by James Snow, the Ontario Minister of Transportation and Communications. This plant has seen the construction of ICTS vehicles for Toronto's Scarborough RT and Vancouver's Skytrain as well as CLRVs and ALRVs for Toronto's streetcar fleet. Since being taken over by Bombardier, workers have been kept busy on more ICTS cars for Vancouver's Skytrain and the JFK Airport line in New York City, not to mention parts for the Acela Amtrak trains.

The development centre in Kingston was designed not only for UTDC to test its own products, but also for it to be made available to governments, other manufacturers and transit operators. The centre is located on a 480-acre site in Millhaven, Ontario near Highways 33 and 133, about 14 miles west of Kingston. Three hundred acres of property are fenced for the test centre: a 6168-foot loop of standard gauge ICTS track, including an elevated guideway section at the north-east portion of the oval. An access road passes beneath this guideway. A parallel siding, 968 feet in length, sits at the south side of the oval, with a high speed switch at its westerly end, and a low speed crossover at the east end. From this siding, a spur track leads to a Test and Maintenance Facility building located in the south-east quadrant of the oval. The spur track branches into three before entering the building.

The Test and Maintenance Facility building has 27,000 square feet of floor space, devoted to offices, laboratories, machine shops, workshops, storage areas, automatic vehicle control and computer facilities. The centre track in the three-bay maintenance area is a pit track, and the tracks inside the building are non-powered. The computer centre, located below the observation deck, includes vehicle command and a control and communications station, plus numerous test equipment to monitor force, displacement, pressure, temperature and stress.

At the entrance to the facility, there is a two-storey office building. In 1980, the facility was the base of operations for 150 engineers and support staff, and after 1980, work began on giving over the remaining 180 acres of the Transit Development Centre to a transit-related industrial park. The facility saw a number of vehicles currently operating on the TTC, including all of the ICTS equipment and the ALRVs. Demonstrator ALRV 4900 had been returned to this facility when it was accidentally struck by ALRV 4211 on March 24, 1988. In that same year, car 4900 was sold for scrap to Kimco Refuse Systems of Kingston, Ontario, and was forcibly loaded onto a flatbed trailer with the use of two bulldozers.

Jordan Karim toured the design/development facility in October 2000. At the time, much of the original components of this facility were still in place, including the streetcar test track (though it is only used to transport the ALRT cars from the assembly line to the test track). At the assembly plant, workers are busy building ten cars for the new Vancouver Skytrain line, thirty cars for the JFK Airport ALRT and the parts for the Amtrak Acela trains. Jordan was allowed to photograph the very first ICTS prototype, built in 1979, which sits today on a storage track with the couplers removed, some of the logos painted over and the interior stripped of parts.

If anybody has additional photographs of this facility, we would like to see them. Please submit them at one of these e-mail addresses.

Test ICTS Vehicle

One of the ICTS test vehicles, parked off on a siding.

Inside of Test ICTS Vehicle

The inside of the ICTS test vehicle parked at the Millhaven property.

Front view, UTDC Test Vehicle

Front view of UTDC ICTS test vehicle, with buildings in background.