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The Articulated Light Rail Vehicles (the ALRVs)

ALRV Diagram

Click on the diagram to see a full plan and diagram

Text by James Bow


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Toronto’s First Bendable Streetcar

When the TTC made the decision to continue operating its streetcars into the next century, they searched for a streetcar to replace the venerable PCCs. They settled upon the CLRV. The Ontario Government-owned Ontario Transit Development Corporation (of 1973) commisioned SIG (Switzerland) in 1975 to design the vehicle, and soon the new models were trundling Toronto’s streets. It was UTDC, successor to the OTDC, who decided to produce a longer, articulated version. Articulated vehicles were common in Europe; indeed SIG had already developed an articulated version when designing the CLRV, and it was felt that utilizing this concept would be attractive to transit companies thinking of getting into the LRT business.

With this in mind, the original order for 200 CLRVs was cut by UTDC to 196, so that SIG would have components enough to have two ALRV prototypes produced. Only one prototype was constructed, but by UTDC, not SIG. The prototype was painted in a modified version of TTC colours (orange instead of red) and numbered 4900, and was tested in revenue service along the Queen route, starting on August 10, 1982. 4900 was moved to Exhibition Place on August 15 of that year and displayed during the Canadian National Exhibition until September 6, after which it was placed back in service until its withdrawal on February 25, 1983.

The Prototype Arrives

Car 4900, as originally built, featured a pantograph instead of a trolley pole, hand controls instead of foot controls, Brown Boveri propulsion components, WABCO brakes, was gauged at standard rather than TTC gauge (4 feet, 10 and 7/8 inches), and tested an electronic rollsign. For operation on the TTC, the vehicle had to be regauged (the TTC furnished replacement trucks) and the pantograph was replaced by a trolley pole. The hand controls remained, and the TTC decided to test the effectiveness of the electronic rollsign (although electronic rollsigns are the norm now for TTC buses, the TTC has never replaced the streetcar ‘linens’, likely because the sign cavity is too small for an effective electronic sign). Revenue service proved effective, and the TTC agreed to purchase 52 modified ALRVs at $1.369 million per vehicle, with an option for 11 more, should they be needed on the proposed Harbourfront and Spadina LRT lines.

After its successful testing testing, ALRV 4900 was stored at St. Clair Carhouse, venturing out only occasionally for demonstration trips (for transit visitors and railfans). The car was loaded onto a flatbed trailer on March 7, 1987 and removed from TTC property the next day. Returned to the UTDC’s Kingston test facility, the car was used as a test and tow car for the TTC ALRV contract which produced ALRVs 4200-4251. On March 24, 1988, while it was parked at the end of the UTDC test track in total darkness it was rear ended, at about 13mph, by TTC ALRV 4211, which had suffered an electric brake failure during a high-speed test run for ‘electric-brake-only’ evaluation. In 1997 car 4900 was sold for scrap to, and removed by, Kimco Refuse Systems of Kingston, Ontario.

Other than their extra long bodies and the bend in the middle, ALRVs have another feature which distinguishes it from its CLRV cousins, that of a large box that sits on the roof near the front of both sections of the vehicle. This box houses the larger ventilating air intake, for the larger volume of the ALRV. The ALRVs also never had any couplers, and the ‘safety shield’ skirt came already installed on the front of the vehicle, rather than being added later as in the case of the CLRVs.

Deliveries Commence

Car 4200, the first of the current class of ALRVs, operated under its own power at the UTDC facilities on April 27, 1987 and was shipped to the TTC on June 11, 1987. After a static display at Toronto’s City Hall, plus further tests and modifications, revenue service began with car 4204 on the Long Branch route on January 19, 1988. With further deliveries, revenue service began on the Bathurst route on July 17, 1988 and the 501 QUEEN route on January 23, 1989.

Although ALRVs could travel throughout the system, they were rarely played in regular service on any route other than 501 QUEEN or, initially, 511 BATHURST. The TTC initially favoured these cars on crowded routes with short headways, where the longer, higher-capacity cars could allow the TTC to reduce the number of cars in service, but still keep the same number of seats passing a stop each hour. This led to criticism from some that the longer ALRVs gave the TTC the excuse to reduce service levels. While, in theory, reducing the number of cars in service on a high frequency route can increase reliability, in practise, it often made the delays longer.

In any event, the bulk of the ALRV fleet remained on 501 QUEEN, even as other routes became more congested, or had higher ridership. ALRVs did ply the 510 SPADINA route in the summer of 1999, and ALRV extras were assigned to tripper service on 504 KING soon after. With rush hour frequencies on 504 KING now pushing every two minutes, calls have been made to move the ALRVs to King Street, and return more frequent CLRV operation to Queen, but the TTC resisted such a move. Instead, a select number of rush hour KING trippers were scheduled with ALRVs, and CLRVs ruled the roost until the arrival of the new, even longer Flexity LRV models.

A Stay of Execution

By 2014, as the next generation of Toronto streetcars started to arrive, the TTC drafted a fleet replacement plan that called for ALRVs to be retired almost as soon as the new LRVs arrived. Although the CLRVs were older, the ALRVs had proven themselves more prone to breakdowns, and were thus were planned to be scrapped by 2015.

However, delays to the deliveries of the LRVs, as well as increasing crowding on Toronto’s streetcar network forced the TTC to rethink things. In November 2014, TTC CEO Andy Byford suggested that the ALRVs might be refurbished instead, to give them a few years of additional life. Not only would this allow them to serve until the delayed LRVs arrived, the retained vehicles could add to the capacity of the streetcar network.

In June 2015, the TTC launched a $24 million program to refurbish 30 ALRVs. These streetcars would be overhauled inside and out, repairing corrosion damage and repainting the exterior of the body, repairing interior sub-flooring and door step-wells, refurbishing pneumatic air systems, propulsion motors and braking systems as well as cleaning the electrical systems and replacing suspension components.

Frozen Out

The first ALRV to enter service after this refurbishing program was #4217, entering service on 501 QUEEN on Thursday, October 15. The remaining 29 vehicles would pass through the program until the end of 2017, while the remaining 22 vehicles would not be rebuilt, and be retired by the end of 2019, as the last of the low-floor Flexity streetcars entered service. Cars 4200, 4203, 4204, 4207, 4208, 4210, 5326, 4221, 4225, 4226, 4228, 4229, 4230, 4236, 4239, 4240, 4242, 4243, and 4249 were sent through the refurbishing program. Unfortunateely, in November 2018, the TTC reported that the program had not been successful in substantially increasing the lifespan of these vehicles. Their age, their dated technology and their extra moving parts compared the CLRV models made them too much of a challenge given the funds provided.

On January 20, 2019, an extreme cold spell froze the pneumatics on the CLRVs and ALRVs, forcing the TTC to pull the vehicles from service. The last ALRV recorded to be in service, according to the Transsee tracking website was car 4204 on 501 QUEEN on the afternoon of January 19. Although the TTC returned the CLRV to service later in the month, the ALRVs remained offline. By this point, over 120 Flexities had arrived, and with routes like 505 DUNDAS, 502/503 KINGSTON ROAD, and 511 BATHURST temporarily substituted with buses, enabling the TTC to maintain service without using the ALRVs. While a pool of workable ALRVs remained on the TTC property into the spring of 2019, it looked as though the remaining ALRVs may have been suddenly retired.

While this would be an ignominious end to the ALRVs, it doesn’t detract from the many years and many kilometres of service these vehicles gave to the City of Toronto, carrying billions of passengers. The ALRVs were the backbone of Queen Street, and the chariots to the CNE. They will not soon be forgotten.

ALRV Trivia

  • In February 2016, as ALRV 4249 came out of the refurbishing program, the car was rented out to the Nike Shoe Company for use as a moving pop-up store promoting the Michael Jordan SNKRS EXPRESS shoe. The seats were removed and shelving and store displays were added, and the streetcar wrapped to promote the product. The car travelled between Wolseley and McCaul loops via Bathurst, Queen, and McCaul, stopping to pick up shoppers.
  • ALRV #4204 was packed up by the TTC and donated to the Halton County Railway Museum on October 23, 2019. It was unloaded and travelled under its own power to a storage track outside Barn 2. It was joined weeks later by retired CLRVs #4003, 4010, and 4039.

Principal Specifications:

  • Fleet numbers: 4200-4251
  • Seating: 61
  • Normal service usage: 155 passengers - 47,655 kg
  • ‘Crush’ load capacity: 205 passengers - 51,165 kg
  • Empty streetcar weight: 36,745 kg (81,000 lbs)
  • Minimum horizontal curve radius: 10,973 mm (36’0”)
  • Minimum verticle curve radius - convex: 122 m
  • Minimum verticle curve radius - concave: 244 m
  • Motor rating: 4 x 87 HP (65KW) continuous, 4 x 123 HP (92KW) one hour.
  • Initial acceleration rate: 1.2 m/s/s (2.65 MPHPS)
  • Braking rate: 1.6 m/s/s (3.6 MPHPS) in service, 3.13 m/s/s (7.0 MPHPS) in emergency

ALRVs Final Disposition

After TTC CLRV #4063 became the first of its class to be scrapped on March 12, 2009, the days slowly began to count down on these vehicles. As the new generation of Flexities were slowly delivered, more were pulled off the line. A lucky few were set aside sent off to museums for preservation, but the rest were stripped for useful parts, and sent off to the scrap heap.

Andre Truffi, after digging through the CPTDB forums, Facebook and Twitter posts, private messages and his own experience, compiled this list of the final disposition of all ALRVs to have operated on the TTC. Those vehicles not listed were still on TTC property as of April 15, 2020:

  • 4200: removed for scrap May 9, 2019
  • 4203: removed for scrap May 22, 2019
  • 4204: removed for preservation October 22, 2019 (Halton County)
  • 4205: removed for scrap April 18, 2018
  • 4208: removed for scrap week of May 27, 2019
  • 4210: removed for scrap on May 13, 2019
  • 4211: last served on 501 September 6/7, 2015
  • 4213: removed for scrap September 6, 2018
  • 4214: removed for scrap May 29, 2019
  • 4215: removed for scrap May 2019
  • 4217: removed for scrap week of May 27, 2019
  • 4219: removed for scrap April 18, 2018
  • 4220: removed for scrap September 6, 2018
  • 4221: removed for scrap November 21, 2019; “A” section left at 11:01, “B” section at 11:40
  • 4225: removed for scrap June 2019
  • 4226: “A” section removed for scrap June 12, 2019
  • 4227: last served March 2, 2016
  • 4227: removed for scrap May 2, 2018
  • 4228: removed for scrap November 21, 2019; “A” section left at approx. 12:51, “B” section left at 13:56
  • 4229: removed for scrap June 8, 2019
  • 4230: removed for scrap November 20, 2019, “B” section left at 13:39
  • 4231: removed for scrap week of May 4, 2015
  • 4232: removed for scrap early October 2018
  • 4233: removed for scrap May 2, 2018
  • 4234: loaded onto truck December 14, 2015
  • 4236: removed for scrap June 17, 2019
  • 4237: removed for scrap May 22, 2019
  • 4238: “A” section removed for scrap August 24, 2018, “B” section removed for scrap August 23, 2018
  • 4239: removed for scrap week of May 27, 2019
  • 4240: removed for scrap May 15, 2019
  • 4242: removed for scrap May 9, 2019
  • 4243: “A” section removed for scrap May 17, 2019
  • 4244: removed for scrap June 20, 2018
  • 4247: removed for scrap May 15, 2019
  • 4249: removed for scrap November 20 (?), 2019
  • 4251: removed for scrap on May 13, 2019

ALRV prototype 4900 Image Archive

ALRV Image Archive


  • Corley, Ray F., ALRV: Articulated Canadian Light Rail Vehicle, The Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto (Ontario), October 1996.
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