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What TTC buses used to look like

Posted by Derek Flack / May 13, 2011

Vintage TTC Buses TorontoAlthough the TTC streetcar takes the cake as far as Toronto transit icons go, our buses hold a particular place in my heart. Sure, buses are a common form of transportation in any North American city (which streetcars are not), but watching them change shapes and styles over the years is the type of nostalgia tripping I'm always up for.

Perhaps surprisingly, bus transit in Toronto dates back to the early 1920s, when the city was serviced by a diverse fleet (see below) operated by the Toronto Transportation Commission. In fact, we even had a few double-deckers cruising around town back then. And it's fascinating to see that even by the end of the decade, there are hints of the exterior styling to come in the 50 years that followed.

Also interesting is the history of the New Look GM "Fishbowl" type bus, which was introduced into the TTC fleet in 1959 and purchased up until their discontinuation in 1983. Although well on their way to being phased out now, there are still about 45 remaining in service. These were popular buses across North America, but no more so than in Toronto.

One caveat. This is not an authoritative guide to TTC buses. Having compiled these photographs, I'm quite sure that such project is beyond my scope. Even captioning these images proved challenging, so do leave a comment if I've misidentified something. Should one be interested in this subject beyond the visual level, the best place for information is the Transit Toronto archives and photo galleries, which have plenty more over and above what's presented below.


Fifth Avenue Double-decker bus

AEC 404 Double-decker (I think)

Trolley bus by J Packard

Fifth Avenue J-type

Fifth Avenue single deck model

Fifth Avenue single-deck variation

Humberside bus 1923

Orange Day celebrations on a double-decker (1926)

Yellow Coach model Z

Yellow Coach model X

Fifth Avenue Coach

Studebaker Bus No. 29

Mack Bus


Tommy Holmes, TTC Conducter (in a convertible!)

Driver trainee


Brill Trolley Coach on Ossington

Brill Coach at Yonge and College

Crowds board buses

Christmas bus (1957)

Getting painted (1958)

Brand new in 1958


GM Fishbowl at Rosedale Station



New Look GM at Bathurst Station 1970


Toronto Flyer Trolley Bus (via the Wikimedia Commons)

Ditto (via the Wikimedia Commons)

And one more


Articulated bus (via Transit Toronto)
2011513-TTC-articulated-320-yonge.jpgAll photos from the Toronto Archives unless otherwise noted.



Jeff / May 13, 2011 at 01:02 pm
2997 was one of a group of 35 foot GM New Looks. They often found themselves on the Eaton's interstore service pre-Eaton's center days. I do believe one became a ambulance bus back in the 1970's.
Snowman / May 13, 2011 at 01:04 pm
Such a long history in transit but you wouldn't know it today. Have any of those buses been preserved?

I rode the articulated buses on Islington in the 90s. I thought they were so modern at the time, but they look like crap now (and apparently they were crap).

I think they still run some of the Fishbowls on Bay Street.
Chris / May 13, 2011 at 01:24 pm
wow, those photos bring back memories of taking the bus to school. Snowman, I also remember taking those articulated buses on Islington. Never sure why, because I don't ever really remember the normal buses being over-full.
MrDanMofo / May 13, 2011 at 02:08 pm
I also remember riding one on Islington in the 1990's. Those articulates were shoddy foreign-built buses purchased through Ontario/Orion Bus Industries that developed some serious issues with the articulated joints and frames. For the few that survived that long, World Youth Day 2002 was their last hurrah; most were pulled within a year after.
the lemur replying to a comment from Snowman / May 13, 2011 at 02:28 pm
The Halton County museum has a fishbowl and a trolley bus, but so much of the older material was scrapped before it could even be acquired from the TTC.
Tuffy / May 13, 2011 at 03:14 pm
Orange Day celebrations on a double-decker (1926)

It's nice to know the TTC help celebrate Bigotry.
David replying to a comment from Tuffy / May 13, 2011 at 04:07 pm
That was 85 years ago. You can relax now, Tuffy.
the lemur replying to a comment from Tuffy / May 13, 2011 at 04:37 pm
You might just as well claim that the Season's Greetings on the bus in 1957 was an early bit of PC.
W. K. Lis / May 13, 2011 at 06:51 pm
The first automatic transmission for buses gradually started appearing in North America between 1937 and 1950. That was one reason for trolley buses, no transmission to worry about.
Hmm / May 13, 2011 at 08:18 pm
I doubt anyone would dare to disagree that the drivers of the 40s and 50s had a hell of a better attitude than those of today.

Speculation as to the reason for this is encouraged.
iSkyscraper / May 13, 2011 at 08:49 pm
Toronto has a funny way of creating city transit icons. It's called the "let others figure it out, then buy it cheap, used if you can get em, then be too broke to ever replace them, and eventually people will think it's cool that you are driving something other cities traded in 30 years ago." That's how the PCC streetcar became a Toronto icon, how the CLRV (a 1970s PCC knockoff) became a Toronto icon once they got ancient enough, and how the New Flyer buses became a T.O. icon. It's shocking that the subway cars have actually been replaced and upgraded so that we aren't considering boxy steel subways with orange felt seats a Toronto icon too...

Toronto's current buses have no sex appeal. Montreal, however...
Adam Sobolak / May 13, 2011 at 09:22 pm
The "driver trainee" image: I assume that was during WWII, when wartime labour shortage led to the TTC briefly employing women as drivers--something they did not do again until the 70s...
Ralph Evans / May 13, 2011 at 10:55 pm
What about those water-filled fron bumpers that got added to the fleet - perhaps in the mid 1970's?
Drain Man / May 14, 2011 at 12:50 am
The same iconic PCC streetcars ran in San Francisco in great numbers until the early 1980s and were brought back in 1995 and the fleet has since been expanded. Cars that were supposed to last 10 years and then get junked were built well enough to be rebuilt repeatedly and still run reliably 60 years later - no wonder they're an icon.
We do have a Toronto subway icon - the red Gloucester trains, they were far more interesting than the tin cans being introduced today.
Ben Smith replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / May 14, 2011 at 11:31 am
Those Nova buses are similar to ones used in York Region, Brampton, Durham Region, and several other transit systems across North America. If anything, the Orion VII is the new 'cheap knock off' of the far more successful New Flyer D40LFR.
MrDanMofo replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / May 14, 2011 at 02:08 pm
It's not a matter of TTC not picking the Nova buses because of styling: The Nova buses didn't meet the TTC's more stringent specifications and/or came at a higher price than the Orion VII.

Your tax dollars at work folks.

Do you expect the TTC to design their own vehicles with their own unique styling, when they could buy an off-the-shelf model already developed that is already proven to be reliable at a lower cost?
realityCheck / May 14, 2011 at 02:23 pm
Amazing that at one time, not that long ago, TTC buses actually had room for passengers... as opposed to the more recent models which seem to be one step up from your basic church van.
B Coleman / May 14, 2011 at 10:10 pm
The frame of this bus still exists at the Halton County Radial Railway museum in north Halton Region at the museum. It could easily be restored to its former glory fron the '20's if there was someone to take the lead and a rasonable amount of financing (donations) to preserve and restore history.
Tony / May 16, 2011 at 07:21 am
Reminiscing about the trolley buses when I was just a kid living at Davenport and Ossington. I remember my brother and I, only 4 and 6 years old at the time, used to call them EEEEEE buses. The Fishbowls we called AAAWWWWW buses. We named them based on the sound they made as they passed. Sorta!
Sasha / May 17, 2011 at 12:47 pm
Bathurst Street station looks spanking clean!
Gerry Byrne / August 26, 2011 at 12:29 pm
How old fashioned to think that mass transit is for the masses! It only takes 2.5 Orion VII's to seat as many passengers as 1 Orion V. (This does not allow for any VII's that Abrams may be towing at the time). Something to reflect upon when you are standing leaving VP station at 1:30 am.
Tonnes Gundersen / October 4, 2011 at 05:58 pm
Is there anybody who can help?
I'm trying to find pictures of the following Mexican expressbuses from around 1960-1963:
Autobusas (or –buses) Blancos Flecha Roja,
and Transportes del Norte.
Specifically I want to find out how the company logos were displayed on the buses, and how the buses were decordated – colours and all.
Any help and information would be greatly appreciated.
austin / November 16, 2011 at 11:06 pm
i seem to see lots of fishbowls around etobicoke, and i mean a lot, like two or three in a row isn't uncommon, it's really cool though, especially when they stop in the older areas of the city, kinda nostalgic
phlover replying to a comment from Hmm / December 6, 2011 at 08:21 pm
Maybe they were not being spit on and abused at the rate they are today. I see the way passengers treat bus drivers in this city, they have a reason to be disgruntled.
Gerry Byrne / December 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm
All remaining TTC fishbowls now operate out of St Dennis Garage.
David replying to a comment from Snowman / January 25, 2012 at 11:50 pm
According to amateur TTC Historian John Bromley (former Operator, author "TTC '28), all non-diesel buses were removed from TTC properties by 1970. While the buses have never been as iconic as PCC or Peter Witt streetcars, or the red Subway G-cars, the Brill, Twin Coach and early GM buses were either scrapped or sold to smaller transit systems (eg. Brampton).
zencytina / February 11, 2012 at 02:59 pm
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COBRADERUS / February 15, 2012 at 08:34 am
Excelente material, sou fã de vocês!
otnorot / April 17, 2012 at 09:41 pm
Thanks Hmm,I start driving for the TTC in 1950 and retired in 1989.I drove every bus after the young lady except trolly buses and the slinkys.there's also other buses not pictured that we drove.I also drove streetcars-Wooden cars,Peter.Witts,PCCs.Your right about now and 1950,for one thing we were better dressed,the public was very different then from the public now and you could buy tickets 4 for .25 cents This is a wooden car.
TKWizard replying to a comment from otnorot / April 26, 2012 at 02:05 pm
A replica of that Wooden TRC streetcar still exists at the HCRY in its original 1921 look. Too bad they don't operate it often. It only operates during special events. The car number in question is 1326.

Since you said you started in 1950, I read books that they were retired one after another around then to 1951.

If they could had repainted it to TRC Colours (if they had the schematics) it would be even better.
otnorot / April 26, 2012 at 09:59 pm
TKWizard I drove them out of Danforth division,they held a lot of people because of the one seat that ran the length of the car with two breaks in it,one for the coal stove and right opposite the rear exit doors,everyone faced inwards and there was more standing room.
You won't find any reference in the TTC archives about the wooden cars because they came from the TRC so the TTC only recognizes streetcars that they bought (Peter Witts).The wooden cars were manufactured downtown Toronto.
Adam J Cross / July 15, 2013 at 09:29 am
The 1990s Orion III is an Ikarus, from Hungary xd from my country... Strange to see an Ikarus over the Ocean xD
Mr.bob / October 7, 2013 at 04:46 pm
We should start the practice of making subway lines in York and Peel regions.Half should be open cut,so we can make suburban style subways!
Mr.bob / October 7, 2013 at 04:48 pm
And...We should merge Zum,Miway,Yrt,Brampton transit,and Viva into One System
Mr.bob replying to a comment from Adam J Cross / December 2, 2013 at 05:52 pm
the Orion III was sold in London, Paris, Prague, Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Budapest, Moscow, St.Pete(RUS), and NY. Not only Toronto
glen / December 7, 2013 at 02:41 pm
gm fishbowls (from San Francisco I think but could be wrong) were famously featured in the artwork for the sex pistols' single 'pretty vacant'
Adam replying to a comment from Chris / April 21, 2015 at 11:44 pm
Wow you were lucky taking the bus to school. We had to walk, On Weston Rd. From the 401 to King Street. I went to H.j.Alexander Public School. Rain or shine, and throughout the winter..
Unclebuck001 / September 5, 2015 at 08:10 pm
Painting those huge buses without any type of mask.I wonder how many died of some type of cancer. What a shame....
AntontheGreek / September 6, 2015 at 10:17 pm
Mr.bob: Brampton Transit merge with YRT? Won't happen until YRT or Mississauga Transit gets absorbed into the TTC. Getting York Region and Peel Region to cooperate on a single transit system is pretty hard to expect when Mississauga won't merge with Brampton to form a Peel Regional Transit Authority.
Stefano / September 25, 2015 at 02:36 pm
i have never been so disgusted in my life as i was with this riepce! Actually not the riepce but rather #8. What kind of mother has a mouth like that! Every child deserves better than that! As a teacher, it is normally easy to tell which children have paremts that use such deplorable language! i woukd not talk to a dog like that! Please consider what example you are settng. You know they often take children from homes where they are abused. i long for the day they take them from homes where they remove children who are emotionally & mentally abused!
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