by Peter C. Kohler
- A History of Toronto's Presidents' Conference Committee Cars (the PCCs)
- The Pre-War Air-Electric PCC Cars (Classes A1-A5), by James Bow
- The Post-War All-Electric PCC Cars (Classes A6-A8), by P.C. Kohler
- Red Rocket Renaissance: The A15 Class PCC Cars, by P.C. Kohler
A Need for Good Equipment at Inexpensive Prices
Although it is a well known and celebrated fact that Toronto operated the largest fleet of PCC Cars in the Free World, it is worth recalling, too, that of the 745 units, 205 came secondhand from other cities to whom the "Silent Saviour" of street railways came too late and too little. Here then is a survey of these recycled Red Rockets which helped make Toronto such a fascinating place for the buff in the 1950s and 1960s.
Even with the addition of 200 new all-electric PCCs in 1946-48, the TTC still needed 86 ex-TRC Class BB cars to fulfil its peak hour requirements. With inflated post-war costs for additional new PCCs, the used car market was first tested in spring 1949 when Vancouver put its 36-car PCC fleet up for sale, all but four of which were wartime-built cars built alongside TTC's A-4 and A-5s PCCs. Although mechanically identical to Toronto's PCCs, TTC passed them up because of deficient maintenance and wartime construction. In the end (1955), the whole fleet was scrapped, but the TTC did obtain all of the traction motors as spares.
Having turned down the Vancouver cars, the TTC made its final commitment to new PCCs on 2 March 1950 with the order of the A-8s, nos. 4500-4549, which raised the PCC fleet up to 539 units, third after Chicago and Pittsburgh, but still insufficient to pension off all of the remaining BB class cars. Once again, TTC browsed used cars at a time when many properties had already committed to all-bus systems, soon flooding the market with nearly new PCC cars at precisely the time when costs for new cars had become prohibitive.
Cincinnati's Loss is Toronto's Gain
On 28 July 1950 the TTC announced its US$750,000 purchase of 52 PCCs from the Cincinnati Street Railway (CSR), comprising 26 air-cars nos. 1100-1126 (St. Louis Car, 1939-40) and 25 all-electrics, nos. 1150-1174, built by St. Louis Car in 1947. Both types of cars were distinguished by the twin trolley poles peculiar to the Queen City and the air-electrics, with their unusual windows and rear ends, were unique among pre-war St. Louis-built PCCs. No. 1100, the 1939-built demonstrator car, was even more unusual with its distinctive trolley cowling and rear windows. Cincinnati's PCCs had been well maintained and the all-electrics were nearly new and like the TTC PCC fleet, all Westinghouse equipped.
The first two Cincinnati PCCs, nos. 1122 and 1151, one of each type, arrived at Hillcrest on 12 September 1950. To facilitate moving the cars until they were regauged, a considerable amount of standard gauge trackage had to be temporarily laid at the back of Hillcrest Shops. After sending three of the air-electrics (nos. 1122, 1109 and 1123), Cincinnati thereafter dispatched all the all-electrics followed by the balance of the air cars, the last reaching Toronto on 7 December. The all-electrics were renumbered 4550-4574 as class A-9s and pre-war air-cars became nos. 4575-4601 as A-10s.
Modifying for Operation
Both sets of Cincinnati PCCs underwent refurbishment and alterations before entering service. Trucks were regauged and the double trolley poles and retrievers replaced by one of each, although the wider pole base and cowling remained. Back-up controls and rear truck sanders were removed. All cars were fitted with TTC's characteristic front bumper, roof-mounted advance light and exterior stanchion between the centre door leafs while the front door control changed from independent to one-switch to open both sets simultaneously. Finally, two-piece destination signs were installed, although some A-9s initially had temporary single curtains.
On the air-cars, the window shades were removed and dash ventilator installed. These were unique among PCCs by not having rear stoplights and TTC took the opportunity to install these. Dash-mounted electric windscreen wipers replaced the original air-operated ones. The first three A-10s to enter TTC service, nos. 4584, 4597 and 4598, did so with their original "blinker" style doors. These quickly proved too drafty for use in Toronto and were replaced by TTC pattern outward folding accordion doors. These three initial rebuilds also retained the original chromium-plated anti-climber. Subsequent cars 4579, 4583, 4586, 4591 and 4600 (I), outshopped 20th, 23rd, 13th, 18th and 4th respectively retained their chrome anti-climber on the front while 4596, outshopped 6th, retained chrome on the rear and 4588, outshopped 7th, had chrome front and rear. Other cars had their chrome painted over, and these cars had their chrome painted over when they returned to the shops to have minor dings repaired. All chrome was painted over by 1954, with 4596 being the last to retain chrome.
On the all-electrics, the centre doors had originally not been fitted with door engines but were pushed open and closed by spring-actioned and electrically locked. Both these and the front blinker doors and centre posts were replaced by conventional accordion doors and treadles installed for the centre doors.
All cars received body work and were repainted in TTC livery. The air-electrics additionally all got new interior paint, but many of the all-electrics were in such good shape that they only received "touch ups" in their original CSR interior colours initially.
The Cincinnati Cars Enter Service
The first of ex-Cincinnati cars to enter TTC service was no. 4597, former CSR no. 1122, which made its first trip chartered to the Upper Canada Railway Society on 15 October 1950. No. 4597's first revenue assignment was on Kingston Road trippers 12 days later and on the 27th it joined what would be the A-10s' regular assignment, Queen Street, based from Russell Division. By 13 November five of the class were in service and the last to enter service was no. 4575, ex-1100, on 26 February 1951, by which time the 27 A-10s were operating out of Russell, sharing Queen base service with the A-1s and a few other air-car classes as well. Some A-10s went out on early runs on the Kingston Road Tripper and, starting with the trailer withdrawal in 1952 from Kingston Road, a few went to that service as well.
The A-9s were assigned to St. Clair and as they were that division's first all-electric cars, the first refitted car, no. 4551, was sent there operator training. Revenue service on St. Clair with nos. 4550, 4551 and 4556 commenced on 23 October 1950. Additionally the A-9s were employed on the Dupont route and Yonge night car service.
The advent of these 52 PCCs permitted the scrapping of 40 BB-class cars with the remainder scheduled for withdrawal upon receipt of TTC's last new PCC order.
A Need for More Equipment
The TTC had decided in late 1951 to convert the remaining 123 two-man Witts, nos. 2450-2478 (less 2524, fire damaged - 2450-2498 were initially not considered, but added later) and nos. 2900-3018 (less 2956, destroyed in 1935) to one-man operation for continued tripper service upon the completion of Canada's first underground, Toronto's Yonge Street Subway, in 1954. The Brill-built models would be scrapped. This last investment in the enduring Witts would have proved shortsighted and short-lived and after only 10 cars (2932, the pilot for the conversion, plus 2504, 2516, 2518, 2538, 2550, 2556, 2564, 2566 and 2568) had been fitted with centre door treadles (not hooked up), door mirrors, red stop lights behind the centre doors, deadman pilot valves on the controllers, self-lapping brake valves, and rearrangement of equipment in the controllers control compartment, the TTC instead took advantage of two more American cities' newfound preference for diesel buses.
In 1952 TTC staff again went "south of the border" to nearby Cleveland, Ohio, and further afield to Birmingham, Alabama, to inspect two unwanted PCC fleets. Instead of investing money to update 30-year-old Witts, the TTC paid bargain prices for nearly new all-electric PCCs. Outbidding Philadelphia Transportation Co., TTC contracted on 7 August with Cleveland Transit System in August for its entire PCC fleet at a cost of US$17,500 per car. As with the Cincinnati purchase, this comprised two distinct groups of cars. The 50-strong Pullman-Standard built 4200-4249 series entered service in Cleveland in autumn 1946. The other 25 cars, nos. 4250-4274, were taking on their third set of owners in less than six years. Originally contracted from St. Louis Car by the Louisville Railway Co. in 1946, they never entered service and were acquired by Cleveland before most had even been shipped to their erstwhile owner.
Holding back its Pullman-Standard cars until replacement buses could be obtained, Cleveland first shipped the ex-Louisville cars between 28 October and 24 December 1952. Following conversion, including cutting away the front skirting to facilitate later installation of MU couplers and re-wiring for MU operation, the cars were renumbered nos. 4675-4699 as class A-12s. Revenue operation commenced on 28 November with no. 4693 and by 6 February 1953 all A-12s were in service, mostly on Kingston Road and a few on Queen.
The Birmingham Purchase
At the same time it bought the 75 Cleveland cars, the TTC purchased another 48 PCCs from the Birmingham Transit Company. Delivered in 1946, these only post-war Pullman-Standard cars shared the characteristic of the Chicago Transit Authority's 4062-4371 series of being built without roof monitors. Now they were destined for much longer service in rather different climes. The first cars reached Toronto on 26 November 1952 and the last on 5 August 1953 and were shopped after the A-12s. These cars were not refitted for MU operation and were renumbered nos. 4700-4747 (class A-13). Of all TTC's 'boomer' PCCs, these required the fewest alterations having the front bumper and front outward folding according doors. Their centre push-open doors were replaced with treadle operated ones and the opening lower section of the right windscreen was replaced by a fixed windscreen. Two holes on the top of each of the rearmost seat frames remained as souvenirs of signs the TTC removed. The Birmingham signs indicated, archaically, whether a seat was "For Colored" or for whites, an unfortunate symbol of Birmingham's racially segregated transit operation during unenlightened times before the civil rights movement.
The lead three A-13s (no. 4729 was the first) entered service on Long Branch on 28 April 1953 and by 3 June provided all base service on the route. Others ran on Dundas and all the A-13s remained Roncesvalles-based throughout their TTC careers. These ex-Birmingham cars quickly earned the reputation as being the smoothest running of any of Toronto's PCCs.
The Cleveland Cars Arrive
The 50 Pullman-Standard Cleveland PCCs were delivered to Toronto between 28 October 1952 and 5 August 1953 and were assigned nos. 4625-4674 as class A-11s. Half were shopped with the ex-Birmingham cars and on 15 February 1953, no. 4657 was the first Pullman-built PCC to operate in Toronto when she was chartered by the Upper Canada Railway Society for a fan trip and three days later, entered revenue service on the Harbord line. Twenty-five of the ex-Cleveland cars were commissioned by 18 August 1953 and the others by 11 November, initially serving on the Harbord and Carlton lines. Like the ex-Louisville cars, the distinctive roof monitor ventilation system was made inoperative and the Sturtevant ceiling fans removed.
It had been intended that all of the former Cleveland cars be fitted for MU operation. The A-11s had been MU wired at the factory and had cut-away front skirting and only lacked couplers whilst the ex-Louisville cars would need rewiring, cutting away the front skirting and couplers. But owing to a delay in securing MU equipment, all of the A-12s and but two of the A-11s left Hillcrest after their initial refit as single units. Two A-11s, nos. 4627 and 4656, received couplers when first overhauled. In late 1953 the A-12s were shopped for conversion to MU operation followed in January 1954 by the remaining A-11s. The first ex-Cleveland cars intended for train operation were dispatched from Hillcrest to Danforth Division on 29 April 1954.
Cars from Kansas City
Toronto Transit Commission's last used PCC purchase was announced in November 1957 when it bought 30 Kansas City Public Service all-electric PCCs, five months after street car service ended in that city. As it was, Toronto was fourth in line for the cars and after Brussels (trucks and electrical equipment only) and Philadelphia and Tampico had their pick of the best cars, the TTC had only 31 cars to pick through. The remaining vehicle was shipped to Swope Park in Kansas City for static display. Three of the thirty dated from 1947 (526, 535, 551 becoming 4750-4752) and the others from 1946 and all were built by St. Louis Car Co. These were unique among post-war PCCs in having full length windows and no standee windows. They reached Toronto between 25 November and 19 December 1957.
The Kansas City cars had their non-conforming blinker doors and centre posts removed and replaced by folding doors and backup controllers sealed off. Additionally the unique blue tinted glass panels fitted to the inside upper quarter of the windows were removed. During their conversion they were fitted with intended temporary single roll signs for the St. Clair and Earlscourt routes only which in fact remained in place throughout their Toronto service. With the repainting of these newcomers, TTC revised its livery by deleting the yellow-gold striping between the black border of the belt rail. Replacing St. Clair Division's A-3s and some A-2s (which were re-assigned to Danforth Division), the new A-14 class nos. 4750-4779 entered service between 20 January-6 June 1958, but all except nos. 4751 and 4752 were operational by 5 May. Thirty K-2 Witts were consigned to the scrappers and TTC's PCC fleet had now reached its apogee at 744 cars; the largest number ever operated by a single North American operator.
TTC "Boomer" PCC Car Assignments
It was reported in October 1959 that TTC had inspected for possible purchase the Johnstown Traction Co.'s 16-car all-electric (St. Louis, 1947) PCC fleet and Philadelphia's 40 ex-Kansas City PCCs; in the event, none were purchased and this was believed the last time Toronto made overtures to increase or update its PCC fleet.
The A-14s, whilst TTC's "newest" PCCs, had five more years service with their original Kansas City operators and diminished maintenance in the waning years had taken its toll, making these TTC's least reliable cars. Consequently, by January 1966 the A-14s were confined to weekday service on St. Clair with other cars replacing them on weekends.
Used Cars For Sale
To augment its aging PCC fleet until new cars were on hand by 1970, Boston's MBTA announced on 6 March 1967 its intention to purchase either 20 of TTC's ex-Cleveland Pullman-Standard PCCs or 25 Pittsburgh St. Louis-built models. These would be employed on the Mattapan-Ashmont line and permit re-assignment of MBTA's former Dallas PCCs to the subway routes to Boston and Northeastern universities. In the event, MBTA failed in its intention, the Toronto PCCs rejected because of TTC's asking price of $8,000 per car.
Following the decision by the TTC to retain its streetcars, an accelerated PCC rebuild programme was announced on 21 November 1972 with 75 instead of 50 cars to be refitted a year beginning in 1973. This would involve only the A-6, 7 and 8 classes and it was planned to retire all the "boomer" cars by 1976. Ironically, third homes would be found for many of the cars as electric traction began a modest renaissance in North America.
TTC announced on 28 March 1973 the sale of 11 of A-14 cars to San Francisco which needed more cars due to subway construction re-routings. Shipment of nos. 4752, 4754, 4757, 4758, 4763, 4764, 4769, 4770, 4771, 4775 and 4777 commenced in late June and the last left Toronto in November.
Disaster struck the already hard-pressed SEPTA (Philadelphia) system when 60 PCCs were lost in the Woodland Depot fire in October 1975. This led to immediate negotiations with TTC which concluded a sale of 30 PCCs in March 1976. These comprised all but two of the remaining A-14s, nos. 4750-4751, 4756, 4759, 4761-4762, 4765, 4767, 4772-4773 and 4779, and 19 of the A-13s, nos. 4706-4707, 4709-4711, 4718, 4724, 4726-4732, 4734, 4740-4741, 4744 and 4746. The terms were far more lucrative than the San Francisco sale three years previously, SEPTA having to pay $12,500 each for units already due for retirement plus another $15,000 for each of the 15 cars TTC would regauge before they were shipped to Philadelphia. The first cars were shipped on 15 March 1976: nos. 4731, 4750 and 4762. So desperate were their new owners that these three cars were pressed into service within days of their arrival in Philadelphia on the 25th. Three cars were to be loaded every other week thereafter until November of that year, using special flat cars with dummy trucks that had to be cycled back and forth between the two cities.
The A-14 class became operationally extinct on 25 October 1976 when no. 4779 concluded its last Earlscourt run. This was also the last car to be shipped to Philadelphia on 22 November. The only A-14s remaining on the property were nos. 4766 and 4774 which were derelict and due for scrapping.
The last TTC PCCs sold for further transit service were nine A-11s, nos. 4630, 4648, 4651-4652, 4655-4656, 4662-4663 and 4665, which, ironically went back to their former city, Cleveland, when on 21 April 1978 the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) purchased them for $20,000 each for interim use on the Shaker Heights line pending delivery of new Breda cars. Although the cars were regauged and fitted with backup controllers, they retained their TTC livery and numbers. The first car, no. 4651, was shipped from Toronto on 7 July. Two of them, nos. 4652 and 4658, suitably dressed with Canadian and U.S. flags and bearing Welcome Home banners, participated in an official "handing over" ceremony at Shaker Square on 20 October.
The Twilight Years
The long twilight for Toronto PCCs began on 30 September 1979 when the first of 196 CLRVs entered service, reducing the PCC roster to 340 by 1 January 1980. That year saw the first large-scale scrapping of all-electric cars when 33 were sent to the breakers, mostly "second hand" cars and unrebuilt Canadian-built ones. Maintenance of the remaining unrebuilt and "boomer" PCCs ceased and they were henceforth withdrawn as failures occurred.
By the end of 1980, the boomer PCC fleet had been pruned to the following:
- A-9 class: 15 in service, 7 stored
- A-11 class: 15 in service, 15 stored
- A-12 class: 13 in service, 11 stored
- A-13 class: 1 in service, 5 stored
With the arrival of the last CLRV in November 1981, a further 54 PCCs went to the scrappers that year and another 50 were stored, pending disposal. Three PCC classes were deleted from the TTC roster in 1982: A-9 (last car, no. 4558), A-11 (last car, no. 4666) and A-12, last car. no. 4697.
As of 17 March 1982 TTC's PCC fleet totalled 196 units (172 rebuilt and 24 unrebuilt cars) or exactly the number of new CLRVs. However, a milestone was reached two days later when no. 4696 was stricken from the roster and from then onwards, the new CLRVs would increasingly outnumber the ever dwindling PCC fleet. The final serviceable unrebuilt PCC was retired on 30 April 1982 and the last one, A-13 no. 4703, left the property in 1983, leaving TTC with an entirely Canadian-built fleet save for the initial six Swiss-built CLRVs.
The TTC's Used PCC Car Roster
Last Car Operated
1982, no. 4558
1975, no. 4578
1982, no. 4666
1982, no. 4697
1983, no. 4704
1977, no. 4766
STL: St. Louis Car Co.
PCC - A9-A14 Image Archive
- Bromley, John F., and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders' Association, New York (New York), 1978.
- Bromley, John F., 'Toronto Streetcar & Radial Loop History', Transfer Points, March 1999, p4-10, Toronto Transportation Society, Toronto (Ontario).
- Carlson, Steven B., and Fred W. Schneider III PCC: The Car that Fought Back, Glendale: Interurban Press, 1980.
- Corley, Raymond F., Vehicle Handbook, Toronto: Toronto Transit Commission, 1988.
- Kashin, Seymour and Harre Demero. An American Original: The PCC Car, Glendale: Interurban Press, 1980.
- Partridge, Larry, Mind the Doors, Please, The Boston Mills Press, Erin (Ontario), 1983.
- Schneider, Fred W. III, and Stephen P. Carlson PCC From Coast to Coast, Glendale: Interurban Press, 1986.