The Peter Witts

peter-witt-measurements.jpg

Diagram showing the measurements of a Small Witt. Image courtesy the TTC and Mike Vainchtein.

Text by James Bow.

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When the Toronto Transportation Commission inherited the public transportation network of the city in 1921, it inherited a bit of a mess. With the Toronto Suburban Railway, various radial routes and the separate systems of the Toronto Civic Railway serving areas the Toronto Railway Company refused to serve before, work was needed to amalgamate the several systems into something seamless. Worse still, the TRC had skimped during its last days on the job, and so the TTC was expected to dramatically expand and improve service and at the same time dealing with aging equipment and infrastructure.

Between April 1921 and early 1923, the TTC turned to the Canadian Car and Foundry of Montreal to provide new cars for its service needs. The design, originated by a commissioner of the Cleveland Street Railway, Peter Witt (hence the name), offered a front entrance, centre exit, “Pay as You Enter” car for 2 man operation inside a steel body. The TTC were to get a modern vehicle offering large passenger capacity and able to haul a trailer. A total of 575 cars were ordered in all (350 motors, 225 trailers), and several variations came with each. Of these, 50 (2800-2898) were ordered from the Ottawa Car Company and 50 were from the Preston Car Company (Brills 2580-2678).

The Peter Witts ranged in size from 47 feet (Small Witts) to 51 feet, 10 inches (Large Witts) to 52 feet, 3 1/4 inches (the Brill Large Witts), and the trailers came in two door and three door versions. The streetcars were eight and a half feet wide, and due to the TRC’s narrow devil strip (the space between two sets of tracks) tracks had to be relaid in order to provide proper clearance. No problem, as much of Toronto’s street trackage had to be relaid anyway, due to its poor condition.

The Peter Witts were the workhorses of the fleet until 1938, with the appearance of the Presidents Conference Committee car. On September 7, 1952, after York Township requested that the TTC replace the Small Witts with PCCs, the operation of pay-as-you-enter Witts during normal hours ceased and the Witts were largely confined to rush hour tripper service. The large, two-man Witts continued to operate on the Bay and Yonge lines, however, for another two years, at which point the Yonge subway opened. Witt trains were the base fleet of the Yonge Streetcar route, and of course, the model took a big hit when its showcase route, Yonge, was abandoned due to the opening of the Yonge subway. A month before the subway opened, the Yonge service was cut back to Eglinton Avenue, to prepare North Yonge for the new 97 Yonge trolley bus route. The morning of March 30 started out normally for the Witts, as they trundled past throngs of people viewing the opening ceremonies, but after 1:30 p.m., the trains started to disappear, as the subway took over.

After the subway opened, many Witt cars and their trailers were rolled into the newly constructed Harbour Yard, on the south side of Harbour Street, between York and Bay. The new yard opened for use on September 5, 1951, featuring six tracks and a capacity of 36 Witt trains. The yard made up for capacity lost at Eglinton carhouse due to subway related construction and, on March 30, 1954, stored all of the Yonge line’s Witt trains while they awaited their fates at the hands of the scrap merchants.

Even with the loss of the Yonge Line and the shrinking size of the streetcar fleet, Witts hung on tenatiously for another nine years. The trailers were now surplus and were disposed with, but the venerable Witts were not… at least, not until February 28, 1963. On that day, with the opening of the University Subway, streetcars were removed from Bay Street (the Dupont route). After that, the Witts made only a few more appearances on Toronto’s streets, scheduled as extras on the Bathurst, Fort and Kingston Road Tripper runs, to make up for car shortages until March 7, 1963. Bill Hood noted in the March 1963 UCRS Newsletter that car 2890 made run 83 on Bathurst on March 7th, and this is known as the last peak hour Witt car. The very last time the Witts were used was for the opening game of the International League Toronto Maple Leafs at Maple Leaf Stadium on April 24, 1963.

Several Witts were retained as spares until January 1, 1965, after which point they were officially retired, except for 2766, which was withdrawn on July 18, 1965, following its “last” fan trip. Railfans thought that this was the end, but there was a reprieve. The TTC retained Small Witt 2766 and brought it back into service in 1973 as part of a special ‘Belt Line Tour Tram’. Unfortunately, despite a lot of initial interest, this service was discontinued in 1975 due to lack of ridership, and Small Witt 2766 returned to occasional charter duty, where it remains to this day.


Technical Specifications (Large Witt, except where noted):

Fleet List (Peter Witts):

  • 2300-2498 - Large Witt (CC&F) (Even Numbers Only), Hauled Trailers
  • 2500-2578 - Large Witt (CC&F) (Even Numbers Only), Hauled Trailers
  • 2580-2678 - Large Witt (Canadian Brills) (Even Numbers Only), Hauled Trailers
  • 2700-2798 - Small Witt (CC&F) (Even Numbers Only)
  • 2800-2898 - Small Witt (Ottawa Car Company) (Even Numbers Only)
  • 2900-3018 - Large Witt (CC&F) (Even Numbers Only), Hauled Trailers

Fleet List (Trailers)

  • 2301-2419 - 2-door (CC&F) (Odd Numbers Only)
  • 2701-3029 - 3-door (CC&F) (Odd Numbers Only)

Features

  • Seating: 58 (Large Witt), 51 (Small Witt), 60 (Trailer)
  • Normal service usage: 113 passengers - 67,100 lbs
  • ‘Crush’ load capacity: 140 passengers - 71,150 lbs
  • Empty streetcar weight: 50,000 lbs
  • Minimum horizontal curve radius: 10,973 mm (36’0)
  • Minimum verticle curve radius - convex: 350 feet
  • Minimum verticle curve radius - concave: 700 feet
  • Motor rating: 4 x 50 HP one hour
  • Braking rate: 1.6 m/s/s (3.6 MPHPS) in service, (3.8 MPHPS) in emergency

Peter Witt Cars Image Archive

ttc-2300-1956-02.jpg

TTC Large Witt (CC&F-built) #2300 runs beside the QEW, on the way to Humber Loop, before the Gardiner rebuild, on April 22, 1956. Photo by J. William Hood. John Bromley Collection

ttc-2300-1956-01.jpg

TTC Canadian Car & Foundry-built Large Witt #2300 at Dufferin Loop, bearing a Montreal roll sign for a fan trip on April 22, 1956. Appropriately, the vehicle is now being preserved at the Canadian Railway Museum in Montreal. Photo by J. William Hood. John Bromley Collection.

ttc-2420-loop-1960.jpg

TTC CC&F-built large Witt #2420 is seen here on a private charter at an unknown location in this August 1960 shot. The photographer is unknown. The photo came to us by way of Mike Filey.

Large Witt 2424

Despite the signs, large Witt 2424 is on Adelaide Street, during a 1970s charter. Photo donated from the collection of Brad O'Brien.

Large Witt 2424

Large Witt 2424 on King Street. Photo donated from the collection of Brad O'Brien.

Large Witt 2454, by Julian Bernard

Large Witt 2454 in Wychwood Carhouse in 1952. Photo by Julian Bernard, donated by Curt Frey.

Large Witt 2458, by Julian Bernard

TTC Large Witt #2458 is seen here operating on BAY service on Bay Street south of Union Station in 1953. Photo by Julian Bernard, donated by Curt Frey.

Large Witt 2494, by Julian Bernard

Large Witt 2494 trundles northbound on the BAY route. Photo by Julian Bernard, donated by Curt Frey.

ttc-2556-wychwood-1953.jpg

TTC Large Witt #2556 waits to enter service at St. Clair (Wychwood) carhouse, bearing a BAY route sign exposure, in this winter scene circa 1953. Photo by Julian Bernard, donated by Pat Lavallee.

Witt 2574, by Julian Bernard

Witt Train led by Witt 2574, done up for the 'Last Car' run of the YONGE Line, prepares to leave Eglinton Carhouse for service on March 30, 1954, the date of the opening of the Yonge Subway. Photo by Julian Bernard, donated by Curt Frey.

Witt 2578, by Julian Bernard

TTC Large Witt #2578 proceeds south on Bay Street towards the Ferry Docks. Old City Hall (then the current City Hall) stands in the background. Photo by Julian Bernard, donated by Curt Frey.

ttc-2590.jpg

Brill-made TTC Peter Witt car #2590 operates through Avon Loop, about to make a run back to Mount Pleasant and Eglinton in service on ST. CLAIR on September 27, 1953. Photo donated by Martin Proctor.

Witt 2626, by Julian Bernard

TTC Brill-built Peter Witt car #2626 heads south on Bay through Toronto's downtown, in service on the BAY route circa 1953. The presence of the Union Jacks suggests that Victoria Day is around the corner. Photo by Julian Bernard, donated by Curt Frey.

Witt 2640, by Julian Bernard

Witt Car # 2640 heads west on St Clair in 1953 in service on the BAY route, where today the ramp to St. Clair West Station is now located. Photo by Julian Bernard, donated by Curt Frey.

Witt 2668, by Julian Bernard

Brill Witt 2668 is seen here at Long Branch loop on a fan charter. Photo by Julian Bernard, donated by Curt Frey.

Small Witt 2720

Small Witt #2720 turns from Bedford Loop on the site of St. George Station, likely on a fan charter. The bus terminal, under construction, can just be seen behind and on the streetcar's right. Photo donated from the collection of Curt Frey.

Witt 2736, by Peter Lambert

Small Witt #2736 operates on Queen Street westbound in QUEEN service. Note the all-electric and air-electric PCCs behind it. Photo by Peter Lambert, donated by Curt Frey.

ttc-2822-mccaul-1955.jpg

TTC Ottawa Car Company Small Peter Witt #2822 heads north on McCaul Street past Baldwin, on a CARLTON short turn, circa 1963. The photographer is unknown.

streetcar-4700-34.jpg

Ottawa Car Company Small Witt 2834 rests at Wychwood Carhouse in this 1958 scene. Photo by Peter Lambert, donated by Curt Frey.

Witt 2852, by Peter Lambert

Small Witt 2852 (one of 50 built by the Ottawa Car Company) rests with comrade 2892 and others at Wychwood Carhouse in 1958. Photo by Peter Lambert, donated by Curt Frey.

ttc-2868-pape-1963.jpg

Ottawa-built Small Peter Witt car 2868 heads east on Riverdale Street, about to turn north onto Pape Avenue in this October 1963 shot. This fantrip was snapped by Harvey Naylor, and is courtesy the John Knight collection.

Witt 2894

Small Witt 2894 operates in service on King Street through Parkdale. Photo donated from the Brad O'Brien collection.

Witt 2894

Small Witt 2894 during its BELT LINE tour tram days (mid 1970s) is seen here at Wychwood carhouse. Photo donated from the Brad O'Brien collection.

Small Witt 2894 at the Museum, by James Bow

At the Halton County Railway Museum, Small Witt 2894 poses while waiting for passengers. This autumn 1989 scene was shot by James Bow.

2894_July_1984.jpg

Snapped by Robert Newhouser, Peter Witt #2894 turns into Gunns Loop from St.Clair Avenue West. Chartered in July 1984, the car is followed by PCC #4545 in its 'Old Blue' livery and ALRV #4900. Photo courtesy Yury Maller.

ttc-2916-yonge-1953.jpg

TTC CC&F-built large Witt #2916 leads a trailer train southbound on Yonge near Wellington in this winter scene. This circa 1953 photo is by Julian Bernard, donated by Pat Lavallee.

Large Witt 2932, by Julian Bernard

Large Witt 2932 trundles east along Front Street. Photo by Julian Bernard, donated by Curt Frey.

ttc-2940-yonge-1953-2.jpg

TTC CC&F-built large Witt 2940 leads a trailer southbound on Yonge past Mount Pleasant Cemetary. The TTC's Davisville subway yard is under construction in this circa 1952 shot. Photo by Julian Bernard, donated by Pat Lavallee.

Large Witt 2954, by Julian Bernard

Witt 2954 leads a trailer train through a downtown sidestreet during a temporary diversion caused by Yonge subway construction. Photo by Julian Bernard, donated by Curt Frey.

ttc-2962-witt-1953.jpg

TTC Peter Witt car #2962 departs Glen Echo terminal on weekend service on the YONGE route (daylight and no trailers). This photograph is by Julian Bernard and was donated by Pat Lavallee.

ttc-2967-trailer.jpg

An interior view of TTC Peter Witt 3-Door trailer 2967 in the late 1940s, early 1950s. The photographer is unknown.

ttc-2970-yonge-1953.jpg

TTC CC&F-built large Witt 2970 leads a trailer southbound on Yonge Street, approaching Davisville, in this circa 1953 shot. This photo was donated by Pat Lavallee.

ttc-2974-yonge-eglinton.jpg

TTC Peter Witt car #2974 leads a trailer to pick up passengers at Eglinton carhouse for a shortened run to Union Station in this March 1954 shot. Photo by Julian Bernard, from the Pat Lavallee collection.

ttc-2992-eglinton-1954.jpg

TTC Peter Witt car #2992 leads a trailer through Eglinton carhouse loop to pick up passengers for a shortened trip south to Union Station in this March 1954 shot. Photo by Julian Bernard, from the Curt Frey Collection.

ttc-3013-eglinton-trailers.jpg

TTC Peter Witt 3-door trailer #3013 rests at Eglinton carhouse among other trailers in this early 1950s shot. The photographer is unknown. The photo is from the Dave Shaw collection.

Witts at the HCRY, by James Bow

Two of the HCRY's Witts pass each other at the western entrance to the Museum in this Autumn 1989 shot. Picture by James Bow.

Witt 2766 After Repair.

Witt 2766 was shot at Hillcrest, after the latest round of rehabilitation, on June 18, 2003, before it and 4500 and 4116 headed out to the King Edward Hotel's 100th birthday celebration.


Special thanks to John Bromley and Ray Corley for correcting the information on this web page.


References

  • Bromley, John F., and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders’ Association, New York (New York), 1978.
  • Corley, Ray F., The Witt Car: Peter Witt Design, The Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto (Ontario), February 1988.
  • Partridge, Larry, Mind the Doors, Please, The Boston Mills Press, Erin ON, 1983.

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