Article by James Bow
with additional information from John F. Bromley and Dave Imrie.
- The Air-Electric PCC Photo Gallery (Classes A-1 - A-5)
- The Canadian All-Electric PCC Cars (Classes A-6, A-7 & A-8), by P.C. Kohler
- A History of Toronto’s 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
- PCC resources on the web.
- Click here for a proper history of the PCC across North America.
- William Miller’s page on the historical operations of the Toronto Transportation Commission; this page features several more photographs of the various classes of PCCs in operation…
The effects of the automobile were being felt by the public transit companies as early as the 1930s. Already, the Interurbans were largely abandoned, and ridership was down across the board. Wishing to reverse this trend, the presidents of various transportation companies across the United States (such as Omaha, New York, etc) formed a committee to examine the problem and find a solution. The solution they came up with was a modern, lightweight, inexpensive streetcar design that would be available to transportation agencies across North America. The new streetcar would be fast, comfortable and attractive and would entice customers back to transit. The name of this new vehicle was the Presidents Conference Committee Car (PCC). Design work began in the mid 1930s, and the first production PCCs began operation in 1936 in Pittsburgh, Brooklyn and Boston.
The car was an unqualified success. Sleek and elegant, it took the public by storm and it became THE standard streetcar for cities across North America. Nowhere was this more true, however, than in the city of Toronto. Toronto embraced the PCC in 1938, and by the 1950s, it boasted the largest PCC fleet in the world.
There are several classes of PCC, conforming to two basic designs. The earliest PCCs in Toronto were ‘air-electric’, meaning that they used air pressure for their brakes, their doors and other equipment. They’re look was noticably different from the PCCs you might be used to: less streamlined than their later counterparts (12 degree windshield slope), with separate rollsign windows for route and destination signs, wide side windows and no standee windows, among other things. These vehicles were retired in the late 1960s and early 70s. The remaining classes were referred to as ‘all-electric’, meaning that all of their functions were electrically handled. The appearance of these newer vehicles was sleeker (30 degree windshield slope) and featured standee windows. Purchased after the Second World War, these were the last PCCs to be retired from Toronto’s streets.
Even among the all-electrics, there are considerable variations in appearance. This is because, after the 1950s, the TTC got its PCCs from different sources. Finding the price tag of new PCCs too expensive, the TTC decided to obtain its vehicles second hand, from American systems that were being abandoned. Many of the TTC’s PCCs hail from such places as Cincinnati, Cleveland, Birmingham and Kansas City. As the TTC itself began the process of abandoning its streetcars, some of its own took an even longer journey, shipped off in batches between 1966 and 1968 to service Alexandria, Egypt. Those that survived the 1967 Arab-Israeli war operated for up to seventeen years before they were retired. The last Alexandria PCCs were withdrawn from service in 1984.
Toronto’s air-electrics (pre-war PCCs) (4000-4299) were based on the 1930s St. Louis Car Company design and were built mainly by Canadian Car & Foundry using body shells built by St. Louis Car Company. The later air-electrics (4575-4601), which came from Cincinnati, were built by St. Louis Car Company itself, as were the other Cincinnati cars that were numbered 4550-4574 (housed initially at Wychwood and later at Danforth and Roncesvalles). The latter were of the more improved Postwar “all electric” design. Although Toronto’s front windshields had deeper curves, they were very similar to Philadelphia’s cars.
The original 4600s were built by two different firms: Pullman-Standard, the big U.S. rail car manufacturer, and StLCC. The original Louisville, KY. cars were built by StLCC before going to Cleveland then Toronto. The Louisville cars arrived between late 1952 and the end of 1953 and were initially without couplers and used one-piece route linens. These cars initially operated out of Russell Carhouse on the Kingston Road route, with some forays onto the Queen line and Kingston Road-Coxwell. After modifications to install couplers, they were moved onto the Bloor-Danforth and Danforth Tripper routes.
The KC 4750s were built specifically for that city’s transit system, with the request that the cars feature pre-war windows with the postwar design. These cars, with featured a one-piece route linen were based exclusively at Wychwood carhouse and used on the Earlscourt and St. Clair routes. There is only one case where a car stepped off of St. Clair in service. Car 4779 made a single round trip on Carlton, using a blank sign.
The Birmingham 4700s were also Pullman products and were based in Roncesvalles carhouse. Dave Imrie recalls a story relayed to him by a retired TTC maintenance man who worked at the Hillcrest shops in the 1950s when those cars came in. He recalled removing the “Colored Section” signs from the rear of the cars.
When the TTC decided to abandon its streetcar abandonment policy in 1971, the system embarked on a massive rebuilding campaign to keep its PCCs operating well into the 1980s, until a replacement could be found. Once the CLRVs appeared, many of the PCCs were finally retired (click here for a web page on their streetcar-4005- site), while others were rebuilt to operate on the newly constructed Harbourfront LRT. However, budget cuts led to a surplus of vehicles, and noise complaints knocked the remaining A-15 class PCCs off Harbourfront. All but two were sold off to other museums and systems. These remaining two, restored to their 1950s appearance, remain on the TTC for charter service.
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.
A6 Class Car at Connaught in the late 1970s. One hundred of these cars were purchased new from the Canadian Car & Foundary of Montreal back in 1948. They were among the last new PCCs to be bought by the TTC (the 4500s were the last); the Commission would go on to purchase second-hand PCCs from cities such as Birmingham, Cleveland and Kansas City who were shedding their systems. Photo donated from the Brad O'Brien collection.
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.