By James Bow
with additional information from John F. Bromley and Dave Imrie.
- The Air-Electric PCC Cars (Classes A-1 - A-5)
- The All-Electric PCC Cars (Classes A-6, A-7 & A-8), by P.C. Kohler
- The Post-War Used PCC Fleet (Classes A-9 - A-14), by P.C. Kohler
- Red Rocket Renaissance: The A-15 PCC Cars, by P.C. Kohler
- The PCC Rail Grinders
- PCC Shape, CLRV Colours
- The PCC Afterlife
Toronto’s Iconic Red Rocket
Ask somebody born in the 1960s or the 1970s what a “red rocket” is, chances are that they will point you to a TTC PCC streetcar. From the moment in 1938 when the Toronto Transportation Commission took delivery of PCC 4000, to the day in 1996 when PCC 4611 rolled off of revenue service for the last time, they were the heart and soul of Toronto’s streetcar network. The TTC has had streetcars before and after the PCCs, but they never owned more cars of any class other than the PCCs and, indeed, they had the largest fleet of these types of cars in the world (745), and they served Torontonians over millions of miles. Their influence echoes still today, and can be heard in transportation museums across North America.
This section of the website, including this page and the pages at the listed listed above, seeks to provide as comprehensive a history as possible of these iconic streetcars, and the impact they had on the city of Toronto.
The Streetcar Fights Back
PCC is an acronym for Presidents’ Conference Committee, and the design of the PCC car dates back to the 1930s. At the time, the effects of the automobile were being felt by public transportation companies across North America. Already, many of the electric interurban lines had been abandoned, and ridership was down at many city streetcar companies.
Wishing to reverse this trend, the presidents of a number of transportation companies across the United States, including Omaha, New York and Chicago, formed a committee to try and find a solution. They wanted to design a streetcar that was fast, modern, lightweight and inexpensive to build. A standard design for streetcar companies across North America could help produce a cheaper vehicle. One that was fast, attractive and comfortable could entice customers back to public transit. The vehicle they designed was soon named the Presidents’ Conference Committee car. The first production PCCs began operation in 1936 in Pittsburg, Brooklyn and Boston.
The sleek and elegant PCC car took the public by storm, and was soon the standard streetcar for transit agencies across North America. It was in 1938 when the Toronto Transportation Commission came calling, looking to replace their aging fleet of ex-Toronto Railway Company wood frame cars.
A Varied and Variable Fleet
We begin our detailed history of the TTC PCC fleet with a discussion of the first PCCs to arrive on Commission property. For more on the TTC’s pre-war, air-electric PCC cars, click here.
PCC Fleet Numbers:
- 4000-4139 - A-1 air electric single units;
- 4150-4199 - A-2 air electric single units;
- 4200-4259 - A-3 air electric single units;
- 4260-4274 - A-4 air electric single units;
- 4275-4299 - A-5 air electric single units;
- 4300-4399 - A-6 all electric single units;
- 4400-4499 - A-7 all electric units - featuring MU couplers for train operation;
- 4500-4549 - A-8 all electric single units - all A-15 rebuilds came from this class;
- 4550-4574 - A-9 Ex-Cincinnati (1150-1174) all electric single units;
- 4575-4601 - A-10 Ex-Cincinnati (1100-1126) air electric single units;
- 4600-4618 - A-15 all electric rebuilt single-units (all ex Toronto A-8 units); Two of the cars — 4604 and 4605 — are restored to their 1951 “as delivered” apperance and retain the original numbers, 4500 and 4545; they are officially in class A-15H)
- 4625-4674 - A-11 Ex-Cleveland (4200-4249) all electric units featuring MU couplers for train operation;.
- 4675-4699 - A-12 Ex-Louisville (525,501-524); later ex-Cleveland (4250-4274) all-electric units featuring MU couplers for train operation;
- 4700-4747 - A-13 Ex-Birmingham (800-847) all electric single units;
- 4750-4779 - A-14 Ex-Kansas City (various) all electric single units
Principal Specifications (Classes A-6/7/8 as rebuilt)
- Seating: 46
- Normal service usage: 103 passengers - 53,000 lbs
- ‘Crush’ load capacity: 134 passengers - 57,650 lbs
- Empty streetcar weight: 37,400 lbs
- Minimum horizontal curve radius: 10,973 mm (36’0”)
- Minimum verticle curve radius - convex: 122 m
- Minimum verticle curve radius - concave: 244 m
- Motor rating: 4 x 48 HP continuous, 4 x 55 HP one hour. 100 HP in acceleration, 225 HP in braking
- Initial acceleration rate: 4.3 MPHPS
- Braking rate: 1.6 m/s/s (3.6 MPHPS) in service, (9.0 MPHPS) in emergency
PCC Car Inauguration Dates
The list taken below was based off of information taken from John F. Bromley’s Fifty Years of Progressive Transit. Since writing that book in 1971, Mr. Bromley has continued his research and has come up with several revisions to this list. John was kind enough to offer up a number of corrections based upon TTC Route Summary/Car Assignment Pages from January 1924 to July 1954. In the list below, when it is stated that service began before a date, the date shown is the first date that PCC operation is noted on the assignment summaries. Service likely began on the board period commencing a day or two earlier.
- Bathurst - February 3, 1942
- Bay - May 21, 1950 (Sunday and holiday), July 8, 1952 (rush hours), August 10, 1953 (base service)
- Bloor - September 15, 1938 (training), October 24, 1938 (rush hours), December 1, 1938 (base service)
- Bloor Shuttle - February 26, 1966
- Carlton - November 7, 1938 (training), June 18, 1939 (base service)
- Church - June 8, 1948
- Church Tripper - before April 9, 1946 (limited rush hour only)
- Coxwell - July 11, 1944 (limited rush hour), May 25, 1948
- Danforth Tripper - March 30, 1954 (crosstown version; PCCs occasionally operated on downtown version from before January 8, 1946)
- Danforth Shuttle - February 26, 1966
- Dovercourt - October 1, 1942 (night cars), before October 16, 1945 (rush hours on runs destined to remain out as night cars)
- Dundas - November 7, 1938 (training), November 9, 1938 (rush hours), December 1, 1938 (base service)
- Dupont - October 1, 1942 (night cars), April 1, 1945
- Earlscourt - March 30, 1954
- Fort - May 25, 1948
- Harbord - February 1, 1942 (Sunday/holiday), February 3, 1942 (started with occasional base service, 8 cars by February 8, 1942, and full base service from March 2, 1942)
- Harbourfront (604) - June 22, 1990 (fare-paying service began June 24, 1990)
- King - Training runs briefly in revenue service from September 27, 1938; up to five cars until withdrawn on November 30, 1938 and moved to Bloor and Dundas. Regular base service from September 24, 1940.
- Kingston Road - January 17, 1942 (night cars), December 2, 1952 (rush hours), May 19, 1953 (base service)
- Kingston Road Tripper - May 27, 1948
- Lansdowne - October 1, 1942 (night cars only), before April 9, 1946 (Occasional rush hours)
- Long Branch - October 1, 1942 (night cars), October 5, 1943 (Occasional rush hours), May 23, 1948 (base service)
- Mount Pleasant - March 30, 1975 (base service)
- Oakwood - September 7, 1952
- Parliament - June 8, 1948
- Queen - September 15, 1940 (rush hours), October 3, 1940 (night cars), May 1, 1941 (base service)
- Rogers - September 7, 1952
- St Clair - September 8, 1938 (training), September 23, 1938 (promotional free rides), September 24, 1938 (base service)
- Yonge - November 1, 1940 (night cars only)
- Routes Which Never Operated PCCs - Beach Tripper, Davenport, Lake Shore, North Yonge, Sherbourne, Spadina, Weston.
Note that although the Lake Shore route died in 1937, a year before the PCCs arrived in Toronto, the first PCCs had signs for the route on their linens.
PCC - Field Guide Image Archive
R. Hill captured this shot of a Long Branch PCC pulling past a Queen car in their respective loops. A train of CN heavyweights passes overhead. Photo donated from the Rob Hutch collection.
An all-electric PCC heads westbound on College at University in service on the CARLTON route. The date is December 30, 1966 and the photographer is R. McMann. The photo is from the John Knight Collection.
A close-up of a dashboard of a rebuilt all-electric PCC. The switches are, from left to right: NA activation (unlabeled black button in top left corner. It activates track switches), gong, sander (releases sand for better traction), signal bell, front doors open, M-G set (power system), treadle switch (allows passengers to open back doors by standing on steps), EM reset, headlight, defrost fan, center entrance (opens back doors outright), cab heat, advance lights (green light up top and other non-headlight lights in front), lights (interior), lights (interior, second set).
A view of the cab of PCC #4549 car and its control panel. Photo by Roman Fomin on September 10, 2011.
A11 Car 4668 is a good example of the used PCCs the TTC purchased in the 1950s. This car's original home was Cleveland, and it was amongst 50 others in its class bought by the TTC when Cleveland cut back on its streetcars. These PCCs were built by Pullman, rather than the Canadian Car & Foundary, and you can tell the difference between this vehicle, and the A6 class shown above.
A-15 Class Rebuilt PCCs on Harbourfront. These are the last PCC streetcars operating on the TTC system. Numbering 18 strong at one point, the TTC is now down to two. Noise complaints forced the replacement of the PCCs by CLRVs, and most of these models were sold off to museums and other transit companies. Click here for a page showcasing the Harbourfront LRT opening festivities.
PCC 4500, as seen on a PCC Charter was also rebuilt along with the Harbourfront cars, but it and 4549 were rebuilt to their 1950s condition. Here's how the back end looks on the inside...
...and here's the front. The restoration was well received by railfans, nostalgic for the 1950s 'classic' look.
A blue PCC in Toronto sounds as odd as a blue caboose to the untrained ear, but here's a shot of a PCC in a memorable paint scheme. In 1984, to celebrate its 150th birthday, the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario commissioned special paint schemes for two PCCs and two CLRVs. This was one of those streetcars. This shot was taken at Bingham Loop by Rob Hutch.
Starting around 2010, to keep its two remaining PCC cars active, the Toronto Transit Commission started operating PCCs 4500 and 4549 in revenue service on the 509 Harbourfront streetcar line. The cars were repainted and a permanent roll sign exposure affixed. Paul Schroeder captured PCC 4500 on a training run on King Street in April 2012.
A shot of PCC 4500 from the rear, repainted for holiday weekend revenue operation on 509 HARBOURFRONT, on a training run on King Street in April 2012. Photo by Paul Schroeder.
R. McMann caught this picture of PCC 4478 operating on DUNDAS-EXHIBITION service, eastbound on King, approaching Bathurst. The day is September 5, 1966, Labour Day, and the DUNDAS-EXHIBITION service has been diverted off of Dufferin by the Labour Day Parade. Photo from the John Knight Collection.
- Bromley, John F., and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders’ Association, New York (New York), 1978.
- Bromley, John F., and Raymond F. Corley TTC Data Base, Currently unpublished, copyrighted 2000.
- Corley, Ray F., The PCC Car: Presidents’ Conference Committee Car, The Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto (Ontario), February 1988.
- Partridge, Larry, Mind the Doors, Please, The Boston Mills Press, Erin (Ontario), 1983.