A Simcoe Day Treat from the TTC

The TTC gave residents and waterfront tourists  a rare treat today — they ran both remaining restored Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) Streetcars on the 509 Harbourfront Line for Simcoe Day. Cars 4500 and 4549 were in operation on the busy route, delighting riders and turning heads of passing pedestrians and motorists.

As mentioned earlier on the Wire, after the devastating 1996 cuts to the TTC after the Conservative government cut all subsidies to municipal transit, all but two PCCs were disposed of. Five went to Kenosha WI, others to various museums. The ones retained were the first and last cars in a 50-car order in 1951, the last new PCCs purchased by the TTC (it did buy second-hand cars from several US cities later). These cars were restored to their original look, inside and out and fully rebuilt at Harvey Shops. The interior aqua and blue-green colours are almost as attractive as the original maroon-and-cream exterior.

This is certainly something the TTC should do more often when it can. This year, the PCCs were also out for Canada Day, so it might be something we see more often. Certainly San Francisco and Kenosha have used historic streetcars to draw tourists and develop their waterfronts. It should be natural for Toronto.


  1. I saw this today! There were all sorts of cute touches, like an old Nestle ad on the rear bumper of one of them.

  2. The old PCCs are beautiful! And I think the interiors are even more beautiful than the exteriors. Compare the PCCs interiors to the prison-cell-like interiors of the new buses that have come into service. It seems that, with the PCCs, they actually cared about how the interiors looked, and thought they should be pleasant for riders. Now, well, who could have possibly thought that grey and black were nice colours for the inside of a bus?

  3. I was lucky enough to have one come by the stop I was waiting at. Certainly not as smooth as our contemporary streetcars, but it was surprisingly roomy.

  4. Ha, prison cell buses, I agree. Though I like the current streetcar interiors as well as these old PCCs. All that cool steel…

  5. Wow, just look at the difference an ad-free interior makes…

  6. Nice link Sean. It is cool to see that you can charter a whole articulated streetcar.

    I saw one of these cruise by as I was doing laps at the Exhibition grounds. It was pretty cool. I saw an even older one go up Spadina in a convoy of old street cars earlier this summer. Does anyone know what the deal is there?

  7. You can see what sadly used to be Toronto’s PCCs in Kenosha here (http://world.nycsubway.org/us/kenosha/), where they basically do nothing but shuttle a small number of tourists and residents to a 400-unit waterfront development on a single-track loop. It’s quite pathetic that Toronto couldn’t do the same with a much larger population base. Hopefully the city will one day get the chance to buy them back. I also wrote to the TTC in 2001 to ask them to consider buying Newark’s old PCCs, which were then being cleared out at a very good price, but they either ignored it or never got anywhere with them. Toronto has a massive streetcar heritage, and it is bizarre to watch it get underused while other cities build networks from scratch. Does it make any sense that Denver or Dallas will have more LRT mileage than Toronto? Or that SF can run old PCCs on a formerly abandoned downtown line while Toronto can’t? Eventually you just throw up your hands in disgust at the lack of vision at the TTC.

  8. Just checked on DART to make sure I had my facts straight. They have 45 miles of LRT now and 46.2 miles under construction, for a total of about 145 km of route. The TTC likes to throw around a route length of 305 km for the streetcars, but I think this includes a lot of double coverage and possibly tracks maintained but not part of normal routes. I’ll bet that Dallas will pass Toronto in terms of the real size of LRT trackage when they finish construction. More pain: one of their expansions will go to DFW airport. Imagine, car-loving Dallas connecting its airport by rail while supposedly sophisticated, urban Toronto survives on cars and buses. Even more pain: Current fare for DART is $1.25, AND you can use that however you like for 90 minute AND you can use it on their version of GO Trains inside city limits. Wake up Toronto, you’re being surpassed.

  9. AND they have two of the old Toronto Harbourfront-line PCCs in Dallas, waiting to be reused on their heritage streetcar line. Which brings us back to the original topic of this post.

  10. Adding to uSkyscraper’s comments on DART in Dallas, a big problem with Toronto is a general belief in two myths: 1) Rapid transit means subways, and 2) LRT is just streetcars.

    It is unfortunate that many people in Toronto have not had the opportunity to see what “real” LRT operations can do, for it can be implemented in less time, for one-fifth the cost, and serve far more people than subway construction.

    I am fortunate in that my work takes me to other cities and to get a chance to see for myself what LRT can do, and it has converted me to the pro-LRT side. I even put together a website (http://lrt.daxack.ca) to show what is done in other cities and point out how some of their features can benefit Toronto. I even received a comment from TTC chair Giambrone saying that one of the common responses to the Transit City plan was that “we don’t need more streetcars”.

    As uSkyscraper says above, “Wake up Toronto, you’re being surpassed.”

  11. i was just about to bring up the idea of using classic streetcars to draw tourists, until i read the last paragraph.
    i think it’s a subtle yet powerful way to draw tourists.

  12. Well these are not ral old now! I remember as a child taking the Kingston Rd. Streetcars from Downtown shopping trip at Eatons and getting on the old streetcars that they took out of service in early 1960`s. I remember the doors would open and a step would be lowered down. I also can remember the driver having to open up the seat right behind him and grab a shovel and they kept dirt/sand under that seat and the driver would put on the tracks at icy spots in the winter. Oh such Good Old Memories. That is all I have left. I just love looking at the old pictures.

  13. I, like Fred have such pleasant momories of the TTC and recall going up Yonge Street on a car that had a stove in the center. This was when Yoronto had the PCC without the upper window and with the flat front window. I feel that the TTC was the key to Toronto. It took us everywhere,west from Broadview and Gerrard Street to High Park and east to Danforth ave and Kingston Road. I do miss the old street cars.

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