The Canadian Light Rail Vehicles (The CLRVs)

CLRV Diagram

Click on the diagram to see a full plan and diagram

Text by James Bow.


Picture this:

It's 1972, and you're the Toronto Transit Commission. After following the thirty-year-old trend of other North American cities and gradually eliminating your streetcar fleet, you've come up against a hastily but effectively organized group of concerned Toronto citizens, inspired by the successes of other activists against the Spadina Expressway. They want you to keep the streetcars running into the next century. Wisely, you agree, bucking the longstanding trend, and you abandon your streetcar abandonment policy. However, being so progressive, you suddenly find yourself with an aging streetcar fleet in need of replacement amongst a continent that has largely given up its streetcars. You need a new fleet, and there's no off-the-shelf model available. What do you do?

This is precisely what happened to the TTC in the early 1970s when it was convinced by concerned citizens to kill its policy of abandoning its streetcars by 1980. The venerable PCCs where now well over 30 years old, in need of replacement, but there was no easy answer as to what that replacement would be. So, the TTC abandoned one more line, Rogers Road (replaced by trolley buses in 1974) to ensure that they had enough PCCs to stock the system while they embarked on an extensive rebuilding campaign. In the meantime, the search was on for the new generation of streetcar, that would trundle along Toronto's streets into the next century.

Enter the Ontario government, who had already acted in support of Toronto citizens by killing the southern portion of the Spadina Expressway. The government created a crown corporation named the Ontario Transit Development Corporation (OTDC - later renamed Urban Transit Development Corporation or UTDC for short). The TTC, with Hawker-Siddeley, had embarked on a project to design a new car in 1972. The car, named the "Municipal Surface Car" was fully documented but when OTDC came on the scene, the TTC, beholden to the Ontario government for 75% of its capital funding, was told to support OTDC in its design program.

In August 1973, the TTC placed an initial order for 200 new vehicles from OTDC, ten prototypes of which would be designed and built by a manufacturer in Switzerland, before design and manufacturing was transferred to Thunder Bay, Ontario. The ten Swiss models were cut down to six (which is why there are no CLRVs numbered 4006-4009) in order to experiment on an articulated version of the design (see the ALRV page), and the new SIG cars started to arrive in 1977 and 1978, with the H-5 cars starting in 1979.

Revenue service began on September 30, 1979 on the Long Branch route. As deliveries continued, this was followed by Bathurst (February 29, 1980), St Clair (including Earlscourt, April 16, 1980), Kingston Road (June 9, 1980), Downtowner (August 7, 1980), Queen (January 4, 1981), King (July 20, 1981), and finally Dundas and Carlton (October 23, 1981).

The CLRVs' European styling was quite different from the Art Deco subtleties of the PCCs, and they didn't arrive without their teething problems. Passengers complained about the inability to open windows (a design feature to enhance possible future air conditioning) and the seating arrangements (angled front seating in the first six cars was modified to the standard seating style of the remaining cars in 1981). There were concerns about wheel noise (fixed by changing from Bochum wheels (rubber in compression) to SAB wheels (rubber in shear, as on PCCS)), fears about the couplers snagging pedestrians unlucky to be hit by the cars ("safety shields" skirts installed in 1984, and couplers removed by 1988) and complaints that the new single rollsign system needlessly eliminated the traditional route names from the streetcars' fronts, turning them into route numbers. Still, the public gradually got used to the new vehicles, and they now comprise the bulk of the TTC's streetcar fleet. The TTC kept its promise, and found the streetcar that will take the fleet well into the next century.

Principal Specifications:

  • Fleet numbers: L1 Class - 4000-4005 (Swiss built), L2 Class - 4010-4199 (Canadian built)
  • Seating: 46
  • Normal service usage: 102 passengers - 29,685 kg
  • 'Crush' load capacity: 132 passengers - 31,735 kg
  • Empty streetcar weight: 22,685 kg (50,000 lbs)
  • Minimum horizontal curve radius: 10,973 mm (36'0")
  • Minimum vertical curve radius - convex: 122 m
  • Minimum vernicle curve radius - concave: 244 m
  • Motor rating: 2 x 185 HP continuous, 245 HP in acceleration, 370 HP in braking
  • Initial acceleration rate: 1.47 m/s/s (3.3 MPHPS)
  • Braking rate: 1.6 m/s/s (3.6 MPHPS) in service, 3.46 m/s/s (7.7 MPHPS) in emergency


CLRV Image Archive

CLRV entering Gunns Loop at night; photo by Robert King

Robert King caught this photograph of a CLRV entering Gunns Loop at night. Note the promotion for the residential developments in the Slaughterhouse lands featured in the background.

CLRVs resting outside Roncesvalles Carhouse, by James Bow

CLRVs resting outside Roncesvalles Carhouse. Photo by James Bow.

CLRVs through the window of PCC 4500

CLRVs as seen through the back window of PCC 4500. Photo by James Bow.

View of service CLRV through PCC window

A CLRV on Spadina northbound from Bremner Boulevard, shot through the back window of PCC 4500. Photo by James Bow.

Bicentennial scheme

CLRV 4000 shows off a special paint scheme to celebrate Ontario's bicentennial in this 1984 shot. The car was one of six prototypes built by SIG in Switzerland before production on the remaining 190 moved to UTDC in Ontario.

First CLRV Charter

Though he was 5 at this time, Rob Hutch remembers this charter vividly. It was supposed to be the first CLRV charter, but the CLRVs had not yet been cleared to haul passengers. However, the chartered PCC drove up to Wychwood and the charter patrons were given a ride on CLRV 4004 around the carhouse.

CLRV 4004

CLRV 4004 rounds the southwestern corner of Wychwood, around two Peter Witt cars (including 2424) still in the TTC's possession. At this time (1978), Wychwood was still a working carbarn.

CLRV 4013 during the Storm of 99

CLRV 4013 at the foot of Spadina during the Storm of 99. Photo by Brad O'Brien.


CLRV 4017 boards passengers at Queen and Victoria on a winter evening in 2012. Photo by Eliot Rossi.

CLRV 4021 facing eastbound at King and Yonge

CLRV 4021 faces eastbound at King and Yonge. This August 1999 photo by Rob Hutch.

CLRV 4029

CLRV 4029 was one of three Toronto units to be sent to Boston for evaluation. Here it is seen coupled to its comrade for testing on Boston's Green Line. Boston did not prove interested, however. Photo by Bob Redden.


As cherry blossoms bloomed in High Park, Benny Cheung headed south to the Queensway where he caught CLRV 4029 heading west at dusk on May 6, 2013. A TTC Wheel Trans bus can be seen driving away in the background.

CLRVs 4033 and comrade awaiting service at Connaught

CLRVs 4033 and its comrade wait for service to begin at Connaught Carhouse. This 1999 photo by James Bow.

CLRV 4037 waiting at Exhibition East Loop

CLRV 4037 waits to depart Exhibition East Loop in one of the final runs of the King-Exhibition Car. This August 1999 shot was taken by Rob Hutch.

CLRVs 4043 and 4058 resting at Connaught

CLRVs 4043 and 4058 rest at Connaught Carhouse in this June 1998 scene. Photo by James Bow.


CLRV 4044 turns north onto Bathurst street from College on a sunny winter afternoon in 2012. The car is ending its run at Bathurst Station, a common short-turn for Carlton streetcars. Photo by Eliot Rossi.

CLRV 4046

CLRV 4046 westbound on College approaching Clinton right behind 4173. Photo by David Cavlovic.

Four Corners Streetcar

CLRV 4057 passes from Roncesvalles Avenue onto King Street, crossing the Queen streetcar tracks in the process in this sunset shot by 416 Style. This photograph is used in accordance to his Creative Commons license.

CLRVs in Hillcrest

Brett Lamb caught CLRVs 4060 and 4052 out for a summer evening stroll at Dundas and Sorauren.

CLRV 4061 picking up passengers at King and Bay

CLRV 4061 picks up grateful passengers at King and Bay during the Storm of 99. Photo by Brad O'Brien.

CLRV cutting through winter storm on King Street

CLRV 4063 cuts through a winter storm on King Street. Photo by Brad O'Brien.

CLRV 4065 sitting at Connaught during the winter of 1999

CLRV 4065 amongst friends at Connaught Carhouse during the winter of 1999. Photo by Brad O'Brien.

CLRV 4076 in on Victoria Street

CLRV 4076 on Victoria Street during Labour Day weekend 2000 service disruptions. Photo by James Bow.

CLRVs in Hillcrest

CLRVs 4081, 4170 and 4097 receiving heavy-duty maintenance at Hillcrest Shops. Photo by George Davidson.

CLRV 4089 in front of PCC 4500 on Lansdowne Avenue

CLRV 4085 on a 504 KING run at the northern end of Broadview Station loop. Since only two cars can fit into this station, the loop has a tendency to get crowded. Photo by David Cavlovic.

CLRV 4089 in front of PCC 4500 on Lansdowne Avenue

CLRV 4089 blocks the progress of PCC 4500 on Lansdowne Avenue just north of Dundas Street. Photo by James Bow.


CLRV 4095 pauses beneath the Gardiner Expressway as it heads southbound on Spadina Avenue towards Queen's Quay. Photo by Mike.

CLRV leaving service, turning from Connaught onto Eastern Avenue

CLRV 4098 leaves service and turns from Connaught onto Eastern Avenue during the Storm of 99. Photo by Brad O'Brien.

CLRV 4099 on Queen service at Jamieson and King

CLRV 4099 pauses at Jamieson and King during a diversion to the Queen car. Photo by Rob Hutch.

CLRV 4120 preparing to leave High Park Loop

CLRV 4120 prepares to leave the shelter at High Park Loop. Photo by James Bow.

503 on Parliament

Due to work on the Queen Street bridge over the Don River, CLRV 4120 is about to divert off of King onto Parliament in this 2001 shot. Parliament loop is in the background. Photo by Rob Hutch.

Cars at Roncesvalles

CLRV 4122 and others stored at Roncesvalles Carhouse. Photo by James Bow.

CLRV 4125

A railfan photographs an oncoming streetcar as CLRV 4125 passes the other way. Photo by James Bow.

CLRV 4131 at Spadina Loop, showing off 509 rollsigns.

Richard Hooles caught this picture of CLRV 4131 at Spadina Loop, trying out its 509 rollsigns, a few months before the line was to open.

CLRV 4133 at Richmond and Adelaide.

As part of the 2000 Queen Street track reconstruction, westbound 502 Downtowner cars were diverted along Church, Richmond and York. Here is CLRV 4133 turning from westbound Richmond onto northbound York for a short jog to Queen Street. Photo by Rob Hutch.

CLRV 4138 at St. Clair Station.

CLRV 4138 at the unloading platform at St. Clair station. Photo by David Cavlovic.

CLRV 4138 at St. Clair Station.

CLRV 4138 pulls into the loading platform at St. Clair station. Photo by David Cavlovic.

CLRV crossing Yonge Street, westbound on King

CLRV 4142 crosses Yonge Street westbound on King. Chris Packman took this photograph in 1998 and donated it to the archive.

CLRV 4149 detrains passengers at Spadina Station

CLRV 4149 detrains passengers at Spadina Station. This 1999 photo by James Bow.

CLRV 4149 waits while passenger rushes to board

CLRV 4149 waits while a passenger rushes to board. This 1999 photo by Brad O'Brien.

CLRV 4159

CLRV 4159 departs Connaught Carhouse to enter service on Dundas, Sunday February 15, 1998 at 11 a.m.

CLRV 4160 at Main Station

CLRV 4160 at Main Station Loop. Photo by Brad O'Brien.


CLRV 4161 turns off of St. Clair Avenue into St. Clair station. Photo by Greg Northcott.


CLRV 4165 stares down the camera eastbound on route 504 King at Church street on a cold March evening in 2011. Photo by Eliot Rossi.

CLRV 4181 at Long Branch Loop

CLRV 4168 speeds north across College on Spadina. Photo by David Cavlovic.


CLRV 4177 is seen here just leaving St. Clair station and heading west towards Yonge Street. Photo by Greg Northcott.

CLRV 4181 at Long Branch Loop

Passengers wait to board CLRV 4181 at Long Branch Loop. Photo by James Bow.

CLRV preparing to leave Woodbine Loop

CLRV 4185 prepares to leave Woodbine Loop in Queen service. Photo by James Bow.

CLRV at Charlotte Loop

CLRV 4186 prepares to leave Charlotte Loop in Spadina service. Photo by James Bow.

4188 in Hillcrest

CLRV 4188 poses with its fresh paint job at Hillcrest Shops. Photo by George Davidson.


CLRV 4197 pauses at Dundas and Yonge, facing westbound. The streetcar is operating on a 506 Carlton diversion in the summer of 2004. Photo by Mike.

Passenger detraining CLRV at Queens Quay

A passenger blurs past the camera during a long-exposure shot of a CLRV in Queens Quay station. This summer 1999 photo is by James Bow.


  • Corley, Ray F., CLRV: Canadian Light Rail Vehicle, The Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto (Ontario), October 1996.

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