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The Post-War All-Electric PCC Cars (Classes A6-A8)


A blueprint of an A-7 Class PCC streetcar. Image courtesy The New York City Subway Resources website.

by Peter C. Kohler

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A Proven Success

Having proved itself during the Second World War, the PCC Car entered the post-war era redesigned and improved, this time to do battle with the automobile. Although it proved in most cities a futile struggle, the PCC reigned happy and glorious in Toronto which fielded the second largest (250) number of the new all-electric PCCs in North America, after Chicago. These post-war Red Rockets, numbered 4300-4549, rendered more than 40 years service, a splendid record that is celebrated today by the continued operation of TTC's historic cars nos. 4500 and 4549.

War Recovery

Unlike other properties, TTC experienced post-war ridership increases with a three per cent jump recorded between 1945 and 1949. This and the desire to replace the 195 remaining former Toronto Railway wooden cars, prompted continued additional purchases of PCCs.

On 2 May 1946 the TTC placed its first order (St. Louis Car Co. order no. 1665/Canadian Car & Foundry Co. no. 1732) for 100 (nos. 4300-4399, A-6) of the new all-electric PCCs which incorporated many improvements over the original air-electric design. These included replacement of air-operated brakes and doors with electric operation, all-steel roof, smaller main windows giving every seated passenger a view, standee windows and a 30' slope to the windscreen to eliminate glare.

As with pre-war cars, the body shells were constructed by St. Louis Car Co. in the United States and then shipped to Canada for completion to avoid heavy duties on the import of finished rail equipment.

Car 4300 Arrives

To acquaint staff with all-electric operation, no. 4300 arrived at Hillcrest Shops on 22 December 1947, well in advance of her sisters. The car was sent to Danforth Division on 9 January 1948 to begin crew instruction and entered revenue service on Bloor on 1 February 1948. The balance of the order was shipped to Toronto between 18 February and 25 May save for two experimentally fitted cars which arrived in June. Nos. 4398 and 4399 had a roof-monitor with forced-draught ventilation fans and no. 4399 was additionally provided with fluorescent lighting. None of these enhancements was adopted fleetwide and the special equipment was removed from both cars by late 1949. When all the 4300s were on hand by June they provided all the base service on Bloor as well as augmenting the Harbord and Carlton routes.

In an effort to brighten cars' interiors, TTC experimentally modified number 4300 on November 20, 1948 with mottled blue bulkheads, pale blue ceilings and red seat upholstery. Car 4301 followed soon thereafter. Car 4302 was modified in 1950 with the same blue scheme but with darker red seats and stainless steel seat backs. Cars 4280 and 4294 were similarly modified in July 1950. Once satisfied with the new scheme, the TTC incorporated it for the TTC's next new PCC order, the A8 class.

A Need to Pull Together

Toronto's next 100-car contract (nos. 4400-4499, A-7), on 25 May 1948 (St. Louis Car Co. order no. 1671/Canadian Car & Foundry Co. order no. 1830), broke new ground. The 10-mile long crosstown Bloor line was TTC's busiest, maintaining a two-minute rush hour headway. Traffic congestion, however, was becoming acute, exacerbated by 56 traffic signals encountered on a roundtrip. The Traffic Dept. recommended train operation on the theory that two cars could pass through a single light cycle more efficiently than single units. Thus, the A-7s were one of the first all-electric PCCs to be MU (multiple-unit) operated (Shaker Heights 71-95 established MU operation a year before) and the only all street-running PCCs so fitted.

Car 4400 was delivered on 27 July 1949. Following a test MU operation on Bloor St. west of Lansdowne on 1 August, nos. 4400 and 4401 were displayed at the Canadian National Exhibition that August and September. The final unit of the order, no. 4499, arrived at Hillcrest on 24 November. The first four A-7s started running as single units on Bloor on 25 August. Nos. 4408 and 4409 operated for the first time as a train in revenue service for a one-day test in the rush hour on the 30th. Meanwhile, track switches were altered to accommodate two-car trains and a new loop was put in at Danforth and Hillingdon which was made operational on 9 February 1950 and permitted off street coupling and uncoupling of the MU cars. All was set for the commencement of revenue train operation, but not until an agreement could be hammered out with the carmen's union over pay scales for the crews. This was achieved on 17 February when the TTC upped the hourly rate for one-man cars to $1.24 and $1.19 for two-man cars.

Regular train service on Bloor with the 4400s commenced on 13 March 1950 with morning rush hour. Multiple unit operation, initially confined to peak hours only, was expanded to 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on 5 October 1953 and then to all day Saturdays on 10 October. With the A-7s settled down on Bloor, the A-6s were shifted to the Carlton, Harbord, Church, Parliament and Coxwell routes.

The advent of the 4400s also permitted replacement on 21 May 1950 of two-man Witts on Bay St. on Sundays and holidays with PCCs.

The Last of the New PCCs

The TTC made its final commitment to new PCCs when in February 1950 it asked for tenders for either 75 single PCCs or 75 MU-equipped ones. Suffering from "sticker shock", the Commission economised and instead took bids for 50 cars (single or MU) with some minor spec changes. On 2 March the TTC ordered 50 single PCCs, nos. 4500-4549, assigned class A-8, (St. Louis Car Co. order no. 1674/Canadian Car & Foundry Co. order no. 1912). This latest order would bring TTC's PCC fleet up to 539 units, third after Chicago and Pittsburgh, but still insufficient to pension off all of the remaining BB class cars.

On 7 November 1950 St. Louis Car commenced shipment of the 4500 body shells to Canadian Car for completion. When the last body left St. Louis on 9 February 1951, it remained only for the final Boston (Pullman-Standard) and San Francisco orders to be completed before the last PCC was built in North America.

Originally, it was planned to fit five cars with 20 British-made Crompton Parkinson C93A1 motors which would be comparable to the Canadian Westinghouse 1432J motors used on the balance of the order. However, a delay in receipt of the motors from Britain resulted in all of the A-8 cars getting Canadian Westinghouse equipment. On arrival, the twenty motors were spread out in the fleet on motor changeouts. At least one A-8 was ultimately fitted with the British-made motors. The "Canadian content" of the 4500s was estimated at 62 per cent.

Unique among the 4500s was the provision of Clark B2-B trucks; the only other PCCs so-fitted were Pittsburgh's nos. 1725-1774 of 1949. On this derivative of the B2 truck, the bolster rested on rubber which isolated motor vibrations from the car body and did away with the need to lubricate the bolster bearings. In Toronto practice, the B2-B was not successful and the trucks were gradually converted to B2 standard.

Also emulating the Pittsburgh 1700s, the 4500s had distinctive interior fittings. Reflecting TTC's desire to achieve a lower cost per car, the more austere interior introduced by the 1700s, which discarded the decorative steel panels framing the standee windows and the auto-style window cranks and mechanisms, was adopted. The standee windows were flush fitted in the body shell as were the lift-up main windows which, uniquely for PCCs, could be fully raised and lacking window guards, gave the 4500s a "semi-convertible" character much appreciated on warm days.

The A-8s had different windscreens than the A-6s and A-7s by not having the pronounced curve on the doorside section and the glass was set in rubber instead of stainless steel framing. Additionally, the moulding strip between the standee and main windows was relocated to just above the main windows.

After the prototypes 4302, 42890 and 4294, these were the first new TTC PCCs to have fluted stainless steel seat backs, although the former Cincinnati A-9s were so fitted upon arrival. Like the A-6s and A-7s, the A-8s had a 52-seat capacity with double seats except for seven single seats forward on the door side, the first one behind the front door facing the aisle. Another single seat was located just behind the motorman. Interior colours were the same as the A-7s (two-tone blue and red seats) but with the side bulkheads painted an unusual mottled blue pattern.

The first two A-8s, no. 4500 and 4501, arrived at Hillcrest Shops on 31 January 1951 from Canadian Car. Revenue operation on the Bathurst route began with four cars on 19 February. Thirty of the cars were in service by 14 March and the remaining 20 were commissioned by 30 April. When the last PCC was shipped from Montreal on 10 April, it was the last street car to be built in the Dominion for a quarter of a century. The new equipment, based at St. Clair Division, was initially used on the Bathurst, Fort, Bay (Sundays and holidays), St. Clair and Yonge (night service only).

Operation through the Fifties and the Sixties

With the A-8s on hand, the last of the old TRC BB-class cars could be finally retired. On 30 March 1951 a special farewell parade through the city centre was organised with BB-class no. 1326 followed by brand-new A-8 class no. 4501.

The A-8s, which had always operated from St. Clair Division, had a brief diversion 29 May-1 June 1964 when eight cars were shifted to Roncesvalles Division to provide a shuttle service from Exhibition Loop to Wolseley Loop just above Queen St. during subway construction at Bloor; buses ran between St. Clair and Queen St. during this period.

The biggest change to Toronto's street car system since 1954 occurred on 26 February 1966 with the opening of the crosstown Bloor-Danforth subway which not only closed the Harbord, Parliament, Fort and Coxwell lines and reduced the once supreme Bloor trunk line to temporary shuttle connecting the outer fringes of the new subway until west and east extensions were completed. North America's busiest carline, Bloor, had been a marvel of PCC operation, capable of carrying 9,000 passengers per hour with weekday ridership topping 200,000 passengers (more than many rapid transit lines) and requiring as many as 160 PCCs in peak hours. It all ended early on the morning of 26 February when no. 4428 swung out of Luttrell Loop at 4:55 a.m. and, proving a veritable red rocket, she raced crosstown at an average 40 to 50 mph in time to leave Jane Loop at 5:40 a.m. and pulled into to Landsdowne Carhouse 13 minutes later. Thus ended, for awhile at least, MU PCC operation in Toronto.

The Seventies Rebuild

Toronto's PCCs had always been elegantly attired in a rich, wine red and yellow-cream lined in black. On 22 July 1970 A-6 no. 4322 emerged from Hillcrest Shops repainted in a brighter "subway red" which became standard for the fleet.

Although it had been planned in November 1966 to phase out street cars by 1980, there was doubt that TTC's PCC fleet would last that long and even with more bus conversions, 223 cars would still be needed by 1976. PCC car miles per defect had risen from 3,194 in 1964 to 1,326 in 1970 and harsh Toronto winters had severely corroded structural members. In a test, A-6 no. 4362 entered Hillcrest Shops for a comprehensive rebuilding on 2 September 1971. The car was essentially stripped to the frame and so extensive was the salt corrosion, that TTC decided that a core number of PCCs would have to be similarly refitted if they were to continue in service until new cars were delivered.

On 23 November 1971 TTC announced a $800,000 Heavy Rebuild Programme of an initial 50 Canadian-built PCCs (20 A-6s, 20 A-7s and 10 A-8s). The project would truly get underway in July 1972 when Hillcrest completed rebuilding the trolley bus fleet. It was estimated that the process would take 36 days and that 12 cars at a time could be rebuilt. The comprehensive work included electrical (70 per cent of the wiring was replaced), mechanical and structural overhauls. A new brown and cream interior livery was introduced while externally the rebuilt cars were distinguished by smaller dash lights and, eventually, water bumpers on the A-6s and A-8s. To make room for more standees, three double seats opposite the centre door were removed. It was estimated that the rebuilt cars had another "5 to 10 years" of service left. The pilot "rebuild", no. 4362, made her first run, a railfan trip, on 20 February 1972.

In a watershed decision, the plan to abandon street cars was reversed on 7 November 1972 when TTC stated that the street car lines "carry from 4,000 to 9,000 passengers per day in one direction in the rush hour and the commission's experience has been in Toronto's traffic conditions and street layout, street cars can handle these heavy traffic volumes more efficiently that either buses or trolley buses."

The decision to retain street cars immediately focused TTC's attention towards the immediate renewal of the fleet and development of a PCC replacement. On 21 November 1972 an accelerated PCC rebuild programme was announced with 75 instead of 50 cars to be refitted a year beginning in 1973. This would involve only the A-6, 7 and 8 classes and it was planned to retire all the "boomer" cars by 1976. Ultimately, 44 cars were rebuilt in 1972, 78 in 1973, 26 in 1974 and a final 25 in 1975, making for a total of 173 cars of the A-6 (79 rebuilds), 7 (45 rebuilds) and 8 (49 rebuilds) classes at a total cost of $3.1 million.

In 1973 the first A-8, damaged no. 4513 which had been stored since 1971, was scrapped and this was the only one of the class not rebuilt.

The PCCs' Twilight Years

As part of the development of the new CLRV cars, field tests of some concepts and equipment were made with PCCs. In June 1976 no. 4360 was fitted with Bochum resilient wheels whilst no. 4537 was given a vehicle idenification system enabling central control to keep track of her location. The previous year, no. 4504 emerged on 3 March 1975 with experimental angled, molded plastic style seats forward of the centre door.

Faced with a sudden dip in ridership after a fare increase, TTC decided to end MU operation on Queen Street on 4 February 1977 rather than lengthen the existing 4 minute 17 second peak hour headway. Instead, single units would operate on a 2 minute 18 second interval with every other car through routed to Long Branch via Humber Loop. In June 1981, to save weight and maintenance costs, the TTC began removing the couplers from A-7 cars as they became damaged or were shopped for electrical work.

The long twilight for Toronto PCCs began on 30 September 1979 when the first of 196 CLRVs entered service, reducing the PCC roster to 340 by 1 January 1980. That year saw the first large-scale scrapping of all-electric cars when 33 were sent to the breakers. Maintenance of the remaining unrebuilt and "boomer" PCCs ceased and they were henceforth withdrawn as failures occurred.

With the arrival of the last CLRV in November 1981, a further 53 PCCs went to the scrappers the following year and another 50 were stored, pending disposal. Just 33 unrebuilt cars remained in service.

Two A-8s, nos. 4536 and 4545, were repainted in a special blue and grey livery with a "Happy Birthday Toronto" theme for the city's Sesquicentennial in 1984. No. 4545 was the first to emerge from the paintshop on 31 May followed by no. 4536 which was sponsored by Radio CJCL. The PCCs reverted to their regular livery in October 1985 and as such were among the last of their type to be completely repainted. Starting at that time, TTC began to apply oversized yellow numeral decals to the PCCs which superficially marred their dignity. The water bumpers which were found to cause serious corrosion were progressively removed and became rare by this time.

Retirements and a Reprieve

The advent of the first 52 new ALRVs in 1988 was supposed to herald the end of the PCC Era in Toronto. By then, just 60 A-6, 7 and 8s were left operable, mostly in rush hour tripper service on the King, Dundas, Carlton and Kingston Road lines. Hard use and the rigours of Toronto winters had rendered these "Rusty Rockets." Between 1986-92, 18 A-8s were completely rebuilt into A-15s (detailed in a separate section). Meanwhile, a dwindling number of rather woebegone unrebuilt A-6s, 7s and 8s continued in rush hour service. As of April 1989, these comprised:

A-6s nos. 4308, 4310, 4320, 4332, 4336, 4339-4341, 4348, 4352, 4359, 4367-4368, 4381, 4381, 4383, 4393-4394, 4397-4399

A-7s nos. 4404, 4407, 4417, 4421, 4428, 4442, 4456, 4460, 4466, 4468, 4472-4473, 4478, 4481, 4491-4492, 4494-4495.

A-8s nos. 4501, 4503, 4509, 4515, 4518, 4524, 4526, 4528-4530, 4539-4546

Early in 1990, TTC largely cleared Wychwood of unwanted PCCs. Cars 4301, 4306, 4308, 4310, 4313, 4323, 4326, 4328, 4332, 4335, 4340, 4344, 4348, 4364-4366, 4377, 4383, 4393-4395, 4397, 4398, 4407, 4421, 4442, 4458-4459, 4463, 4466, 4474, 4485, 4492 and 4507 were generally shipped off for scrap. By the summer of 1990, there were just 10 of these PCCs in operation, including 4399 (the last operational A-6), 4545 (the last operational A-8) and cars 4417, 4428, 4460, 4473, 4491, 4494, and 4495 (the last operational A-7s). These battered survivors were fitted with the new CIS vehicle identification equipment, suggesting that these cars might operate for a few more years. However, by the end of 1990, 4399 and 4468 were retired, followed by 4545 in January 1991.

Faced with suddenly declining ridership and reduced subsidies, TTC announced severe service reductions on 12 May 1991 which had the immediate effect of condemning the remaining seven PCCs. The last two, nos. 4460 and 4494, ended 42 years of service when they pulled in on route 503 Kingston Road Tripper after the morning rush on 31 May 1991. These were soon joined 26 other PCCs stored at the former St. Clair Carhouse pending disposal which came in summer 1992 when they were sold for scrap. (Click here for a photo essay on the Wychwood PCC Graveyard.)

After more than four decades of sterling service, the Canadian All-Electric PCCs had earned their place in Toronto's heart and history.

NEXT: The Post-War Used PCC Fleet (Classes A9-A14).

PCC - A6, A7, A8 Image Archive


  • Bromley, John F., and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders' Association, New York (New York), 1978.
  • Bromley, John F., 'Toronto Streetcar & Radial Loop History', Transfer Points, March 1999, p4-10, Toronto Transportation Society, Toronto (Ontario).
  • Carlson, Steven B., and Fred W. Schneider III PCC: The Car that Fought Back, Glendale: Interurban Press, 1980.
  • Corley, Raymond F., Vehicle Handbook, Toronto: Toronto Transit Commission, 1988.
  • Kashin, Seymour and Harre Demero. An American Original: The PCC Car, Glendale: Interurban Press, 1980.
  • Partridge, Larry, Mind the Doors, Please, The Boston Mills Press, Erin (Ontario), 1983.
  • Schneider, Fred W. III, and Stephen P. Carlson PCC From Coast to Coast, Glendale: Interurban Press, 1986.

The author wishes to thank John Bromley, Raymond F. Corley and James Hogan for their kind assistance in the preparation of this monograph.

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