PCC 1950 Memories - The June 28, 1998 Charter

Photos and Text by: James Bow

Of the 750+ PCC cars to have operated on Toronto's streets, the TTC retain four. Two of these cars operate as the system's soon to be scrapped rail grinders while the other two, 4500 and 4549, were restored to their 1950s look and operate primarily as charter vehicles. Just ten years ago, the TTC had eighteen rebuilt PCC streetcars operating throughout the system, but service cuts rendered these cars surplus, and they were sold off to other systems.

It was a warm, sunny June day when about twenty railfans ranging in ages from 12 to 60 arrived at Russell Carhouse to ride on one of the last PCC cars operating on the TTC. The ride was to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the last PCC operated in Chicago, whose streetcar system wasn't as lucky as Toronto. The charter boasted railfans from many places across the United States, a railfan from Germany, and some local people. A number came because they had never ridden on a PCC before; others were returning to an old friend they hadn't visited in a while. Whatever the reason, a good time was had by all, and residents walking the streets of Toronto got a rare look of a streetcar that wasn't so rare just ten years ago.

Charter begins

The charter began at around 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 28, 1998. The TTC kindly allowed us to (safely) explore Russell Carhouse while car 4500 was prepared. Russell Carhouse at the time was the sight of some unusual activity, with Queen Cars short turning here due to construction at Coxwell. We departed late, at around 11 p.m., but made good time, proceeding west along Queen Street, north along Broadview and west along Dundas to our first photo stop...

McCaul Street

We stopped the car in the middle of McCaul Street and ran out to take pictures in front of Silversteen's bakery. The reason for this photo shoot, I was told, was due to the fact that a Chicago streetcar line stopped close to a famous bakery. Whatever the case, I appreciated that I was able to take a picture of this PCC very close to my childhood home. I doubt the cars caught behind the streetcar appreciated this as much, but we waved them past safely, and nobody was delayed.

Streetcar and CN Tower

McCaul Street is a good street on which to take a picture of the CN Tower. As for the 'Harbord' rollsign -- McCaul Street only rarely saw regular service during its life, but one of those cars was Harbord, in 1928. Although PCCs were not running at the time, Harbord cars did route onto McCaul Street frequently, due to delays or track construction on Spadina. My father can remember, in the late 1950s, boarding the Harbord car at Baldwin and McCaul in order to attend Harbord Collegiate. I would have loved such a direct service when I was attending Harbord Collegiate, thirty years later.

Reflection on McCaul

This is me trying to be artistic with my camera, attempting to take a picture of the streetcar's reflection off the wall of the Toronto Board of Education building at College and McCaul. I'll leave it up to you as to how successful I was...

Spadina Station

The Spadina line appears to be one of the most popular railfan spots these days, so, after leaving McCaul Street, it's no surprise that we headed straight for Spadina Station. Being careful not to impede regular service, we were able to take these shots... Incidentally, PCCs never ran on the old Spadina route, as there weren't any loops at either end for PCCs to turn back on. The 'Spadina' rollsign is actually a reproduction sewn onto the roll, and not an original.

Inside the Loop-the-Loop track

One of the neat things about streetcar charters is that you get to ride to places within the system where you wouldn't normally go in revenue service. This shot in the loop-the-loop tunnel at Spadina Station is a case in point. Heading into the recently opened storage track, we were allowed out under the strict admonition that we stay clear of the mainline tracks. The driver of the CLRV now heading into the station platform behind these railfans was surprised to see us, but appeared to take it in stride.

Inside the Loop-the-Loop Track

Unfortunately, I was using an automatic camera and ISO100 film, and so my indoor shots did not turn out as well as I had liked. This shot of the PCC in the loop-the-loop tunnel was taken by Steve Booth on his neat digital camera, and is used here with permission. Thanks, Steve!

Spadina and Sussex

After running through Spadina Station again (as a CLRV had been in before us, we didn't see any surprised passengers seeing us for the second time), we emerged onto Sussex Avenue, and had a lightning (and I do mean, *lightning*) photo shoot of the PCC on Spadina's private right-of-way. We were back in the streetcar within two minutes so as not to delay the line. Note the rooster and the dog (?) on top of the poles here as Sussex; this is an example of the community artwork the TTC installed to spruce up the line. After Sussex Avenue, we ran the length of the Spadina route, stopping briefly in Union Station before heading back, and turning west onto King Street.

Exhibition Loop

After King Street, we turned south on Bathurst and followed that route into Exhibition East loop. After running on the lesser used storage tracks, we parked briefly on one of the crossovers, and took pictures like this.

PCC and ALRV 4216

The driver of ALRV 4216 was happy to pose with PCC 4500 for this group photo. Although the images the PCC invokes here is of the old Exhibition East loop (now buried by the World Trade Centre south of here), the new Exhibition East loop boasts some fine backdrops and action for streetcar and railroad photography. The CNR tracks are just north of here, and GO Trains pass twice an hour.

Fleet Loop

After Exhibition Loop, we went to Fleet Loop, where Fleet Street meets and runs parallel to Lakeshore Boulevard. This distinctive loop so near the Exhibition gets more traffic than you think. For all of the storage capacity at the Exhibition Loop, neither it, nor its predecessor had loop-the-loop capabilities; cars could not drop off passengers and head directly into the storage tracks without first heading to Fleet loop and turning back. Fleet Loop is, essentially, the loop-the-loop track for Exhibition Loop.

Fleet Loop's Lighthouse

What makes Fleet Loop so distinctive is this lighthouse. It was originally located at the northwest corner of Bathurst Street and Lakeshore Boulevard, built in 1861 to oversee the old Western Channel. The shoreline has since moved several metres south, and the lighthouse ceased to be of any use, but it was deemed worthy of being saved from demolition in 1929, when individuals using horses and wooden rollers moved it to its present site.

McCaul Loop

After leaving Fleet Loop, we headed north on Bathurst, turned back through Wolesley Loop (without a photo-stop, unfortunately), and then turned east on Queen and ran into McCaul Loop so we could break for lunch. McCaul Loop used to run around a restaurant that provided some interesting streetcar viewing, but it looks like all of the Village by the Grange is being changed into a condo development. Oh, well. Harvey's was down the street, so we ate there.

St. Clair West Station

After lunch, we left McCaul loop and ran along Queen and Bathurst (through Bathurst Station) to St. Clair West Station. We didn't stop by at the Hillcrest Shops, but we will someday when we make an appointment.

St. Clair and Bathurst

Leaving St. Clair West Station, we made a brief stop just before the Bathurst intersection, and took photographs on the private right-of-way, while some waiting passengers probably stared at us like we were nuts. It was here that we bid adieu to our German companion. We did not run along St. Clair, for fear that spontaneous World Cup celebrations might hold us up, although I tried to point out that, with Nigeria playing Denmark, and France playing Paraguay, there was little chance of a celebration as big as if the Italians were playing.

College and Lansdowne

Resolving to get to Humber loop, we retraced our steps along the Carlton route to Lansdowne Loop, where we turned back, only to find a parked CLRV waiting to return to service on Dundas. Fortunately, we didn't have to wait long for the driver to return, and I managed to get this shot. Given that tracks on Lansdowne don't extend north of College or south of Dundas, I'm wondering what the woman in this picture is waiting for, and if she is hoping to take a streetcar...

Humber Loop

Returning along Howard Park Avenue, we turned south onto Roncesvalles and then west onto the Queensway. Here, we were given the treat of seeing the fresh rails laid down over the past two months, and we made good time to Humber loop. We parked in the spare track and got out for this photo shoot.

Streetcar on Shaw Street

We had hoped to head west onto Lake Shore Boulevard, but unfortunately, streetcars weren't running on Lake Shore, and the tracks were unpowered and off limits. So we turned back, ran along the Queensway and King Street, and then onto the non-revenue trackage of Shaw Street, where I was able to take this shot.

Dufferin and Springhurst

We had turned onto Shaw Street so that we could turn west along Queen and ride the length of the tracks of Dufferin Street. This brought us down to scenic Dufferin Loop. As the car turned from Dufferin onto Springhurst Avenue, I was able to jump out and capture this shot.

Dufferin Loop

Dufferin Loop is a popular spot for charters. Where else can you stop and take a long break while snapping interesting pictures such as this? Dufferin Loop is being used, as you can see by this Dufferin bus, but unfortunately streetcars rarely visit...

Reflection on Wellington Street

Here's another artistic shot, taken off of the reflective glass of one of the downtown towers on Wellington Street. After leaving Dufferin Loop, we ran along King Street and made another brief visit to Union Station, returning to Queen Street and turning south on Church to get to Wellington. As this was a charter, we were looking to ride some of the non-revenue track, but with the Gay Pride Day Parade, we decided not to turn north on to Church and risk being mistaken for a float. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

King and Church

Looping around Wellington Avenue and turning back onto King Street, the streetcar started to head back to Connaught Carhouse for the end of the trip. As I had to meet someone for dinner, I got out at King and Church and took this final shot of PCC 4500 with St. James Cathedral as a backdrop. There is some question about the future of charters such as these, as the TTC is finding that the funds received from these charters aren't making up for the cost of maintaining the TTC's two PCCs. To compensate for this, more charters may be run next year, and I hope to be on some of them. Unfortunately, I had to miss the Toronto Transportation Society's PCC Charter of September 6, 1998, but I certainly hope that another charter will be along shortly.

All in all, everyone had a great time and I myself am looking forward to the next streetcar charter...

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