Search Transit Toronto

Powered by GOOGLE.

December 8, 1995: Toronto's last PCC car
retires from TTC service



Thanks to Robert Lubinski for suggesting this post.

ttc-4182-mccaulelm-19650906.jpg

TTC air-electric PCC 4182 heads southbound on McCaul, about to cross Elm Street on September 6, 1965. The car is on a diversion of the HARBORD streetcar route — HARBORD cars usually operated on Dundas Street. This photograph was taken by John F. Bromley and comes to us courtesy the Howard Wayt collection.

This week we’ve already highlighted what the TTC describes as “the end an era” — the last Orion V bus — and the continuation of a new one — the arrival of another Flexity streetcar.

But, twenty years ago today, Friday, December 8, 1995, transit fans, politicians and passengers marked what truly was the end of a transit era as the last PCC streetcar dropped off and picked up passengers in regular service along a TTC route.

At the time, Globe and Mail columnist, John Barber noted, “

“Toronto will be the poorer without its famous red rockets…”

He added,

“During [the] last week of service, the survivors [traveled] both the 504 King and 505 Dundas routes. A vintage car [left] either Broadview or Dundas West Stations every half hour from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. The last trip [along the 501 Queen route] is Friday.”

Elsewhere on this website, P.C. Kohler writes about the final days:

“At the 23 November 1995 [Toronto Transit] Commission meeting the momentous decision was made to retire the entire PCC fleet except for nos. 4500 and 4549 which would be retained for tour and charter use and nos. W30 and W31, the rail grinding train. The reasons for the sudden demise of the PCC Car in Toronto after 57 years were; 1) declining ridership, 2) sufficient CLRVs and ALRVs to maintain existing routes and the new Spadina Ave. line and 3) economy of having a standardised fleet without maintaining a separate spare parts inventory for just 19 cars.

So it’s time to say FAREWELL to an old friend. One who has proved us all with work. One who has served us well for almost sixty years. One who has brought a smile to many a young face and a few older ones. One who has taken us to the Ex, the Island ferries and more when were kids ourselves. One who has taken us all to our grandparents for Sunday dinner. One who will be never matched in style, charm or service. THANK YOU for the memories, the service and so much more. GOOD BYE.
— The Rocket Report, December 1995

“Capping five days of nostalgic farewells, specially decorated nos. 4601 and 4600 made the ceremonial last run on 7 December 1995 along Queen St. from Russell Carhouse to Roncesvalles under police motorcycle escort and back to Russell via King St. Later no. 4600 made a final charter trip from Russell to Bingham, St. Clair, Bathurst, King and Harbourfront. The next day, with the announcement ‘Queen, Queensway, Roncesvalles, final stop for PCCs’, operator Frank Hood concluded the last scheduled PCC run in Toronto when he guided Carlton line short-turn car 4611 into Roncesvalles depot at 9:31 p.m. On 29 January 1996 most of the cars were shifted to Wychwood Carhouse; a few inoperable cars remained at Roncesvalles.”

Toronto Star reporter Donovan Vincent also detailed the final trips:

“…a group of about 50 students, TTC staff and a politician — TTC chair and Metro Councillor Paul Christie… rode one of two final runs on Queen St.

“TTC driver Frank Hood, 34, who drove the lead car — number 4549 — out of the ‘carhouse’ at Queen and Connaught Ave. to Roncesvalles Ave. said wistfully that Toronto is losing a piece of its history.

“‘I grew up in the city. I remember seeing these cars as a kid.’

“‘I’m going to miss seeing them in regular service’, he added, ringing the streetcar’s bell as curious pedestrians stood in the brisk winter air, watching the car glide along the tracks.

“The car was decorated with ribbons and on the front and side carried signs that read, ‘Goodbye to the Original Red Rocket’. Christie called the occasion a ‘bittersweet moment’.”

streetcar-4705-31.jpg

TTC A15-class rebuilt PCC #4602, seen here in its former life as A8-class all-electric PCC #4537 running southbound on Yonge Street, during a day in 1952 when the ST. CLAIR streetcar was on diversion due the construction of the Yonge subway. Photo by J. Bernard, donated by Curt Frey.

The Presidents’ Conference Committee (or PCC) cars are the original, iconic Toronto Red Rocket streetcars. In the late 1940s and early 1950s they dominated the street scene of downtown and central Toronto — and many other major cities in North America. Transit Toronto’s webmaster and editor-in-chief, James Bow, explains:

“…the design of the PCC car dates back to the 1930s. At the time, the effects of the automobile were being felt by public transportation companies across North America. Already, many of the electric interurban lines had been abandoned, and ridership was down at many city streetcar companies.

“Wishing to reverse this trend, the presidents of a number of transportation companies across the United States, including Omaha, New York and Chicago, formed a committee to try and find a solution. They wanted to design a streetcar that was fast, modern, lightweight and inexpensive to build. A standard design for streetcar companies across North America could help produce a cheaper vehicle. One that was fast, attractive and comfortable could entice customers back to public transit. The vehicle they designed was soon named the Presidents’ Conference Committee car. The first production PCCs began operation in 1936 in Pittsburgh, Brooklyn and Boston.

“The sleek and elegant PCC car took the public by storm, and was soon the standard streetcar for transit agencies across North America. It was in 1938 when the Toronto Transportation Commission came calling, looking to replace their aging fleet of ex-Toronto Railway Company wood frame cars.”

Toronto’s first PCC cars went into service on St. Clair Avenue in September 1938 and by December they provided all service along the busy Bloor, Dundas and St. Clair routes.

By the early 1950s, the TTC operated 744 of the cars — the largest fleet of PCCs in the world.

Today, some of those are still operating elsewhere — many of them in Kenosha, Wisconsin, just north of Chicago.

P. C. Kohler writes:

“The largest number of these cars currently operate in Kenosha… Cars 4606, 4609, 4610, 4615 and 4616 were purchased on behalf of the city around the year 2000, rebuilt and put in service on a new downtown circulator route connecting the [commuter rail] station with the shore of Lake Michigan. Unrebuilt TTC PCC 4529 was also purchased for parts salvage. To celebrate the heritage of the PCC across North America, Kenosha refurbished and repainted its cars in a number of classic liveries, including Chicago’s “Green Hornet” for 4606, Pittsburgh’s livery for 4609, Johnstown for 4615 and Cincinnati for 4616. The TTC livery was maintained and spruced up for 4610.

“Kenosha’s ex-TTC cars are still in operation, and were joined by two more PCCs in 2012. In August 2011, the East Troy Electric Railway museum decided to shed TTC 4617 and SEPTA 2185 from its collection. Member (at the time) John DeLamater purchased both PCC cars and donated them to Kenosha. TTC 4617 entered service in the spring of 2012, still in its TTC livery. In late 2013, it was taken out of service for body service and restoration, and re-entered service on September 12, 2015, repainted into San Francisco Municipal Railway colours.

“Today, these… cars and most importantly, nos. 4500 and 4549 still on TTC metals, remind us of the almost 60 years when Red Rockets signed JANE BLOOR and NEVILLE QUEEN ruled the streets of North America’s most livable city.”

ttc-4610-kenosha-201008.jpg

TTC A15-class rebuilt PCC 4610 operates in Kenosha. Andrew Barton snapped this picture in the summer of 2010, and it is used in accordance with his Creative Commons License.

And, back in 1995, Barber concluded,

“The Canadian Light Rail Vehicles (CLRV)s that replaced the PCC cars are more distinctive, if only because the TTC was the only transit agency forced to buy them. The CLRV is ‘the Edsel of streetcars’, according to former TTC chief Al Leach.

“That’s the only thing that Al Leach and Steve Munro ever agreed upon.

“But Edsels have character and, more important, the streetcar system as a whole is alive and well. All over North America, transit authorities are reinventing streetcar systems and with the [then soon-to-open] Spadina line, Toronto is creating a showpiece.”


From the Transit Toronto archives:

  • A History of Toronto’s Presidents’ Conference Committee Cars (the PCCs) by James Bow, here.
  • The All-Electric PCC Cars (Classes A6-A8) by P.C. Kohler, here.
  • The Pre-War, Air-Electric PCC Cars (Classes A1-A5 and A10) by James Bow, here.
  • The Post-War Used PCC Fleet (Classes A9 to A14) by P.C. Kohler, here.
  • Red Rocket Renaissance: The A15 Class PCC Cars by P.C. Kohler, here.

streetcar-4002-00.jpg

Canada’s first PCC, 4000, rounds Halton County Railway Museum’s east loop in fall 2000. Photo by Robert King.

Support us on Patreon Button

Welcome to Transit Toronto! This is an information site dedicated to public transportation in Toronto, maintained by transit enthusiasts for transit enthuasiasts. This is NOT the official website of the Toronto Transit Commission, Metrolinx or any other transit provider or government agency. To access the official websites of these agencies, consult this page here.