Toronto Streetcar History TTC

This is what streetcars used to look like in Toronto

With a history that dates all the way back to the horse-drawn cars of the 1860s, the streetcar is the foundation upon which Toronto's transit system is built. There might not be as many routes as there once were, but they're still a crucial element of the modern TTC.

The earliest streetcars 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 agency, 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. The tremendous durability of these vehicles has meant that only a few different vehicle models have run along our rails for the last century.

Following the introduction of the Peter Witt cars, Toronto first batch of Presidents' Conference Committee (PCC) streetcars are introduced in 1938. They would stay in service until 1995, which is remarkable when you think about it. 

In and around the middle of that period, the Witt cars were retired in 1965. With the rise of subway transportation in the city, a plan to abandon Toronto's streetcar program was hatched in the 1960s, but it was ultimately cancelled in 1972.

Following the PCC cars, the Canadian Light Rail Vehicle (CLRV) was introduced in 1977 and the Articulated Light Rail Vehicle (ALRV) in 1987.

The streetcars of today barely resemble those of the late 19th century, but they share a common history that's defined Toronto has one of North America's lasting trolley towns. 

Behold, what Toronto streetcars looked like back in the day. 

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Horse-drawn streetcar in the 1880s. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

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Two-horse car at old North Toronto Station in the 1880s. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

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A single-horse car cuts through the snow in the 1890s. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto streetcar history

Toronto Railway Company (TCR) car No. 316 in the 1890s. Photo via the Toronto Archives. 

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TCR car amidst Boer War celebrations on Yonge Street. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto streetcar historyCar 375 heads down Dovercourt Rd. in 1904. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

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TCR car at Yonge and Queen in the 1910s. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

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Peter Witt car near Queen and Woodbine in the 1920s. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

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Peter Witt car at Queen and Bay before the rise of New City Hall. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

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Peter Witt and Queen and James streets in the 1920s. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto streetcar historyA parade of old and new streetcars in 1925. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

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Peter Witt car at Yonge and Bloor in the 1930s. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

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Peter Witt cars on Front St. beside Union Station in the 1940s. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

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Interior of a Presidents' Conference Committee (PCC) car in 1942. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

toronto streetcar history

A Peter Witt car on Bloor St. in the 1950s. Photo via Chuckman's Nostalgia.

Toronto 1950s

A streetcar passes Mt. Pleasant Cemetery on Yonge St. pre-subway. Photo via Chuckman's Nostalgia.

Toronto 1950s

A Peter Witt streetcar near Yonge and Lawton. Photo via Chuckman's Nostalgia.

toronto streetcar history

A PCC streetcar at James and Albert in the 1950s. Photo via Chuckman's Nostalgia.

Toronto 1960s

Looking east on Bloor at Dovercourt in the 1960s. Photo via John Bromley's archives.

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A PCC at the Humber Loop in 1967. Photo via Chuckman's Nostalgia.

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Queen and Parliament. Photo via John Bromley's Archives.

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PCC cars on Bloor prior to the construction of the subway (postcard).

toronto streetcar historyA PCC streetcar patrols King St. in front of the old Toronto Star Building. Photo via Chuckman's Nostalgia.

CLRV streetcarOne of the fist Swiss-built Canadian Light Rail Vehicles. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

Toronto 1980s

A CRLV passes through King and Spadina. Photo via Chuckman's Nostalgia.

alrv ttc streetcarAn early version of the Articulated Light Rail Vehicle (ALRV). Photo via the Toronto Archives.

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ALRV (Articulated Light Rail Vehicle) on Queen St. Photo via the New York City Subway Resource.

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The 504 Streetcar hits the Queen St. bridge in 1999. Photo by Charles Voogd via the Wikimedia Commons.

Lead photo by

Toronto Archives


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