The Articulated Light Rail Vehicles (the ALRVs)

ALRV Diagram

Click on the diagram to see a full plan and diagram

Text by James Bow

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Toronto’s First Bendable Streetcar

When the TTC made the decision to continue operating its streetcars into the next century, they searched for a streetcar to replace the venerable PCCs. They settled upon the CLRV. The Ontario Government-owned Ontario Transit Development Corporation (of 1973) commisioned SIG (Switzerland) in 1975 to design the vehicle, and soon the new models were trundling Toronto’s streets. It was UTDC, successor to the OTDC, who decided to produce a longer, articulated version. Articulated vehicles were common in Europe; indeed SIG had already developed an articulated version when designing the CLRV, and it was felt that utilizing this concept would be attractive to transit companies thinking of getting into the LRT business.

With this in mind, the original order for 200 CLRVs was cut by UTDC to 196, so that SIG would have components enough to have two ALRV prototypes produced. Only one prototype was constructed, but by UTDC, not SIG. The prototype was painted in a modified version of TTC colours (orange instead of red) and numbered 4900, and was tested in revenue service along the Queen route, starting on August 10, 1982. 4900 was moved to Exhibition Place on August 15 of that year and displayed during the Canadian National Exhibition until September 6, after which it was placed back in service until its withdrawal on February 25, 1983.

The Prototype Arrives

Car 4900, as originally built, featured a pantograph instead of a trolley pole, hand controls instead of foot controls, Brown Boveri propulsion components, WABCO brakes, was gauged at standard rather than TTC gauge (4 feet, 10 and 7/8 inches), and tested an electronic rollsign. For operation on the TTC, the vehicle had to be regauged (the TTC furnished replacement trucks) and the pantograph was replaced by a trolley pole. The hand controls remained, and the TTC decided to test the effectiveness of the electronic rollsign (although electronic rollsigns are the norm now for TTC buses, the TTC has never replaced the streetcar ‘linens’, likely because the sign cavity is too small for an effective electronic sign). Revenue service proved effective, and the TTC agreed to purchase 52 modified ALRVs at $1.369 million per vehicle, with an option for 11 more, should they be needed on the proposed Harbourfront and Spadina LRT lines.

After its successful testing testing, ALRV 4900 was stored at St. Clair Carhouse, venturing out only occasionally for demonstration trips (for transit visitors and railfans). The car was loaded onto a flatbed trailer on March 7, 1987 and removed from TTC property the next day. Returned to the UTDC’s Kingston test facility, the car was used as a test and tow car for the TTC ALRV contract which produced ALRVs 4200-4251. On March 24, 1988, while it was parked at the end of the UTDC test track in total darkness it was rear ended, at about 13mph, by TTC ALRV 4211, which had suffered an electric brake failure during a high-speed test run for ‘electric-brake-only’ evaluation. In 1997 car 4900 was sold for scrap to, and removed by, Kimco Refuse Systems of Kingston, Ontario.

Other than their extra long bodies and the bend in the middle, ALRVs have another feature which distinguishes it from its CLRV cousins, that of a large box that sits on the roof near the front of both sections of the vehicle. This box houses the larger ventilating air intake, for the larger volume of the ALRV. The ALRVs also never had any couplers, and the ‘safety shield’ skirt came already installed on the front of the vehicle, rather than being added later as in the case of the CLRVs.

Deliveries Commence

Car 4200, the first of the current class of ALRVs, operated under its own power at the UTDC facilities on April 27, 1987 and was shipped to the TTC on June 11, 1987. After a static display at Toronto’s City Hall, plus further tests and modifications, revenue service began with car 4204 on the Long Branch route on January 19, 1988. With further deliveries, revenue service began on the Bathurst route on July 17, 1988 and the Queen route on January 23, 1989.

Although ALRVs can travel throughout the system, they have rarely placed in regular service on any other route (510 Spadina operated with ALRVs for the summer of 1999, and ALRV extras are now seen on King street during peak hours).

Principal Specifications:

  • Fleet numbers: 4200-4251
  • Seating: 61
  • Normal service usage: 155 passengers - 47,655 kg
  • ‘Crush’ load capacity: 205 passengers - 51,165 kg
  • Empty streetcar weight: 36,745 kg (81,000 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 87 HP (65KW) continuous, 4 x 123 HP (92KW) one hour.
  • Initial acceleration rate: 1.2 m/s/s (2.65 MPHPS)
  • Braking rate: 1.6 m/s/s (3.6 MPHPS) in service, 3.13 m/s/s (7.0 MPHPS) in emergency


ALRV prototype 4900 Image Archive

streetcar-4504-07.jpg

This photograph shows ALRV prototype 4900 undergoing tests at UTDC's Millhaven facility. Although it has a similar colour scheme to the TTC's ALRVs, note that an orange base colour is used instead of red. Note the electronic destination sign.

streetcar-4504-08.jpg

Note also the pantograph.

streetcar-4504-09.jpg

A rear shot of ALRV 4900 with a better shot of the pantograph

streetcar-4504-10.jpg

John Calnan was visiting St. Clair carhouse (off Wychwood Avenue) in 1985 when a TTC Instructor opened up the carhouse and brought ALRV prototype 4900 out for a viewing and a trip around the yard.

streetcar-4504-12.jpg

After initial testing in Toronto, ALRV 4900 was stored at Wychwood carhouse until its return to UTDC facilities. It was occasionally brought out for inspection and fan tours, however. Photo courtesy John F. Calnan.

streetcar-4504-13.jpg

During these tours, the vehicle would make a loop around the otherwise vacant St. Clair carhouse, occasionally venturing out to St. Clair West station. Photo courtesy John F. Calnan.

streetcar-4504-14.jpg

Here's another shot of the rear of ALRV 4900, showing the trolley pole that was installed for use on Toronto's system.

streetcar-4504-11.jpg

Another angle of ALRV prototype 4900 at Wychwood carhouse. Photo by John Calnan.

streetcar-4504-15.jpg

Ian Folkard caught this rare photo of ALRV 4900 in revenue service. The car is operating westbound on Queen in front of City Hall. The date is September 1982. This photograph is courtesy New York City Subway Resources

4900_1984_July.jpg

This photograph, taken by Robert Newhouser, shows chartered ALRV 4900 running northbound along Bay Street in July 1984. Photo courtesy Yury Maller.

4900_cab.jpg

Looking through the cab of 4900 you can see PCC streetcar 4545 and Western Flyer rebuilt trolley bus on 6 BAY service waiting for green light at Gerrard and Bay Streets. Comparing to the prototype, both cab and control panel have changed significantly in the current class of ALRV. This rear shot was photographed by Robert Newhouser and sent to us by Yury Maller.

4900_cab1.jpg

Robert Newhouser snapped another photo of ALRV 4900 interior. This picture is courtesy Yury Maller.

4900_1984_July_Oakwod.jpg

ALRV 4900 sits in Oakwood Loop. This photograph by Robert Newhouser is from the collection of Yury Maller.

ttc-4900-humber-1983.jpg

TTC ALRV demonstrator #4900 turns through Humber Loop in test service on 501 QUEEN on February 11, 1983. Photo by Arthur H. Peterson.


ALRV Image Archive

ALRV 4204 on Connaught, by Brad O'Brien

ALRV 4204 rumbles onto the single-track section of Connaught Avenue, on its way to Russell Carhouse. Photo by Brad O'Brien.

ALRV 4205 turns off of Queen Street and onto Connaught

ALRV 4205 turns off of Queen Street onto Connaught in this June 1998 scene. Photo by James Bow.

ALRV at Bathurst and Queen's Quay

ALRV 4205 turns from Bathurst onto Queen's Quay during the opening ceremonies for the 509 Harbourfront streetcar. Photo by James Bow.

ALRV at Richmond and York

ALRV 4220 is seen here rounding the curve from Richmond Street West to York Street. This 2000 photo was taken by Rob Hutch.

ALRV 4224 at Connaught Carhouse

Portrait of ALRV 4224 at Connaught Carhouse, May 30, 1999. Photo by James Bow.

ALRV 4232 at Exhibition

ALRV 4232 and others in the Exhibition Loop storage tracks. Photo by Rob Hutch.

ALRVs at Exhibition

More ALRVs in the Exhibition Loop storage tracks, viewed from the Exhibition GO Train station platform. Photo by Rob Hutch.

ALRV 4234 at Long Branch Loop

ALRV 4234 completing its looping on the westernmost bit of track on the system in Long Branch loop. 4234 is already signed for its return trip to Neville Park loop. Photo by David Cavlovic.

ALRV 4232 at Exhibition

Another shot of ALRV 4232 in the Exhibition Loop storage tracks. Photo by Rob Hutch.

ALRV 4241 turning from York onto Queen

ALRV 4241 turns from York onto Queen Street during trackwork diversions. Photo by Rob Hutch.

ALRV 4248 waiting at Connaught Carhouse

ALRV 4248 displays 509 Harbourfront signs early as it waits to enter service at Russell Carhouse. Photo by Derek Chen.

ttc-4251-2013.jpg

TTC ALRV #4251, taken on King Street West, heading westbound towards Spadina Avenue, on a detour for 501 QUEEN. This photo, taken on July 24, 2013, is by Mark David.

501 ALRV at CP Underpass

A Queen ALRV passes under the CP tracks near Dufferin Street. Photo by David Cavlovic.


References

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

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