A visual history of Toronto streetcars
A visual history of Toronto streetcars struck me as the perfect choice for my Friday archive dive after getting a chance to ride around on a Toronto Rocket subway yesterday. While these subways may be the pinnacle of modern TTC technology, streetcars are the foundation upon which the system was built, starting all the way back in the 1870s with horse-drawn cars.
Those weren't operated by the TTC, which was founded in 1920 as the Toronto Transportation Commission ("transportation" would change to "transit" in 1954). Prior to the advent of our current transit commission, Toronto was serviced by a variety of other companies, including (but not limited to) the Toronto Street Railways (1861-91), the Toronto Railway Company (1891-1921), and the Toronto Suburban Railway Company (1894-1911).
With the introduction of the Peter Witt cars in 1921, our streetcar history becomes somewhat easier to follow. In 1938 Toronto's original red rockets, the Presidents' Conference Committee (PCC) streetcars are introduced, to stay officially on the rails until 1995. In and around the middle of that period, the Witts are decommissioned (1963) and, with the rise of subway transportation in the city, a plan to abandon Toronto's streetcar program is hatched, only to be cancelled in 1972. Post PCC streetcars, the Canadian Light Rail Vehicle (CLRV) is introduced in 1977 and the Articulated Light Rail Vehicle (ALRV) in 1987.
Despite the putatively straightforward timeline, there's a wealth of nuanced and fascinating information about the city's streetcars to be found from a number of sources. Here are a few of the more noteworthy ones.
- Transit Toronto's Brief History of Transit in Toronto
- The Things that Move television documentary series
- Mike Filey's The TTC Story: The First 75 Years
Two-horse car at old North Toronto Station
Seaton village single-horse car
Installation of streetcar tracks at King and Yonge streets
Toronto Railway Company (TCR) car No. 316
TCR car amidst Boer War celebrations on Yonge Street
TCR car at Yonge and Queen
Laying track near Queen and Bay
TRC car (via Chuckmans' postcard collection)
Toronto Civic Railway car at the Halton County Radial Railway (via the Wikimedia Commons)
Peter Witt car near Queen and Woodbine
Peter Witt car at Queen and Bay
Peter Witt and Queen and James streets
Peter Witt car at Yonge and Bloor
Peter Witt cars at Union Station
Interior of a Presidents' Conference Committee (PCC) car in 1942
A snowy Peter Witt car
Peter Witt Interior (1963, post modification to remove conductor)
Opposite angle to above
PCC car 4310
A PCC at the Humber Loop in 1967
PCC cars on Bloor prior to the construction of the subway (postcard)
CLRV (Canadian Light Rail Vehicle) on Queen (via the New York City Subway Resource)
504 Streetcar (via the Wikimedia Commons)
PCC at the Halton County Radial Railway (via bigdaddyhame)
CLRV 4059 (via the Wikimedia Commons)
ARLV (Articulated Light Rail Vehicle)
CRLV 4152 and PCC 4500 (via the Wikimedia Commons)
Other posts in the series:
- When the subway system was shiny and new
- What TTC buses used to look like
- Toronto in photos from the 1850s to the 1990s
Photos from the Toronto Archives unless otherwise marked.