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


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

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