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The Montreal Series (M-1) Cars (1963-1999)

Side exterior Shot of 5317

Side exterior shot of 5300 as it prepares to leave Greenwood Yards.

Text by Aaron Adel and James Bow, revised by Robert Lubinski, Photos by Aaron Adel and Brad O’Brien.

See Also

A Canadian First

There were only thirty-six cars of the Montreal Locomotive Works (designated the M-1 class, numbered 5300-5335) series, and they comprised 6 six-car trains. Despite their small numbers, they were a significant addition to the TTC’s subway fleet for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that they were the first ever subway cars to be designed and built in Canada.

The design of lightweight rapid transit cars had advanced considerably in the late 1950s and with the successful operation of experimental features on some Gloucester cars, the TTC was eager to reap the results of this research. The M-1s were built by the Alco subsidiary Montreal Locomotive Works in 1962. Made entirely of aluminum, they weighed only 59,000 pounds, several tons lighter than the shorter Gloucester cars. They were designed for higher performance and to reduce maintenance costs and energy consumption. As a result, they were the lightest subway cars in the world (per foot of length) and, at the time, the longest. The M-1 cars were finished in plain aluminum with black painted roofs and black trucks and undercarriage.

Although the Gloucesters had a “rate” switch (low - medium - high), designed to be adjusted by the operator to compensate for passenger loading to maintain performance, the excessive empty car weights meant the cars were always kept in high rate, at an acceleration of 1.9 mphps (miles per hour per second). The M-1s introduced two features: (a) a dual rate switch with two settings: low performance to match the G cars in mixed service and high performance at 2.5 mphps when operated independently. The operator would be instructed how to set the switch if not already done by the carhouse as cars entered service. (b) Load weighing (with air bag suspension that automatically adjusted the motor current with varying passenger loads to maintain the selected (LP or HP) rate.

The Montrealers Arrive in Toronto

The purchase of the M-1s was approved in December 1960 at an estimated tender cost of $4 million. As with the TTC’s first subway cars, a mock-up car was constructed, this one with different lighting and colour schemes inside to evaluate various alternatives and to contrast them with those of the Gloucester cars. They were bought to expand the TTC’s subway fleet in order to provide the additional service required when the University subway line started operation. The first cars arrived on the system on February 5, 1962 and were introduced to the press in April 1962 where their bright roomy interiors were shown off.

In contrast to the dark red and green of the Gloucesters, the MLW cars were finished in gray, blue and yellow arborite, with light blue seats and a plain aluminum finish on the insides of the doors. The lighting was also much brighter than that of the Gloucesters, comprised two continuous strips of fluorescent lights near the roof of the car.

The balance of the cars arrived by July 1962, and they were thoroughly tested. The first day of service for the MLW cars was September 30, 1962. As they were introduced into service, an equivalent number of Gloucester cars were rotated into temporary storage until the University Subway opened on February 28, 1963. The MLWs and Gloucesters operated side by side until September 1966, after the opening of the Bloor-Danforth subway and the trial period of interlining with the Yonge-University subway.

When the TTC tendered its next order of subway cars for the Bloor-Danforth subway, two MLW cars (nos. 5330 and 5331) were “borrowed” by Canadian Car & Foundry to test features later incorporated into their successful bid for the next series of cars, purchased to serve the Bloor-Danforth subway.

Service on the Bloor-Danforth Subway Line

Following the end of integrated operation between the Bloor-Danforth and Yonge-University subway lines, the MLW and Gloucester cars mingled only on the Yonge-University subway line, where the Gloucesters were confined, allowing the faster M-1 and H-1 cars to strut their stuff on the Bloor-Danforth line. This procedure allowed the TTC to speed up service on the Bloor-Danforth subway, thus lowering the number of trainsets required to provide service for the line. In total, 58 extra cars were no longer needed, and the Bloor-Danforth extensions to Islington and Warden opened in 1968 without any new trainsets required. As some trains for the Yonge-University line were dispatched from the Greenwood Yard, where the MLW cars were stored, M-1 series cars could be seen in service on both lines until the mid-1970s.

The M-1 cars were given their first complete overhaul at the Greenwood Shops in 1973-74, after a decade of reliable performance. Following the opening of the Spadina Subway in January 1978, the MLW cars were primarily assigned to the Bloor-Danforth subway. By 1981, the MLW cars were marshaled into pure trains, separate from the Hawker-Siddeley cars and confined to rush hour service. In the mid-1980s, the cars were overhauled again, and allowed back into mixed consists at any time of the day. At this time, most of the cars had the interior of the side and end doors painted a light grey. By 1991, subway operations again changed so that most trains were comprised of vehicles of a single class. The M-1 cars were once again assigned to rush-hour duty.

Final Days and Retirement

By 1993 the TTC had placed its order for new T-1 subway cars with Bombardier. With the M-1 cars slated for retirement, it was decided not to retrofit these cars with the new automatic door-chime system. As a result, the M-1 trains continued to use the traditional two-whistle system to indicate that the doors were closing. But as the M-1 series cars had been used for peak service only for most of the 1980s and early 1990s, they were in remarkably good condition, compared to the H-1 workhorses. As a result, when the new T-1s were delivered starting in 1996 and started service on the Yonge-University-Spadina line, it was the H-1s operating on that line that were withdrawn first. The Montreal series cars only started to be retired in October 1998 when the new T-1s started to displace H-2 series cars onto the Bloor-Danforth subway.

Realizing the Montrealers would not be in operation for much longer, the Toronto Transportation Society organized a retirement charter held on February 28, 1999. The last M-1 series train operated on May 3, 1999 and remained at Greenwood for several weeks before being loaned out to a film shoot, dressed up as a New York subway train.

The withdrawn M-1 series cars were stored at the then-inactive Davisville Yard and, over time, were picked up and removed by the scrap dealers. The last M-1 series car on TTC property, 5307, was hauled away in September 1999. All but the first two cars of the series, 5300 and 5301, were scrapped. No cars were considered as additions to the TTC’s work car fleet as there were plenty of H-1 class cars available.

Special Features and Final Disposition

The Montreal cars had a number of distinctive features separating them from all classes of subway vehicles commissioned before or since. They were longer than the Gloucesters, standing at 75 feet long, and had eight passenger doorways instead of the Gloucesters’ six. A six-car MLW train took up as much space on the platform as an eight-car Gloucester train. This increase in length was an extension of the original Gloucester concept of longer cars requiring less equipment and therefore being more cost-effective. The M-1s’ arrangement in this respect would be followed by the subsequent Hawker Siddeley cars. The M-1s were the first to use fluorescent lighting and electro-dynamic braking as standard features which had been tested previously on the Gloucesters. The first 10 M-1 cars had the light strips placed outside of the handholds, so near the ad panels that they slightly blocked the view of them. On the remaining 26 M-1 cars, the lights were moved inside the handholds. The M-1s’ distinctive door windows and interior colour scheme would never be copied on subsequent vehicles.

A common complaint by individuals who operated the M-1s was the cramped cab. In the 1980s overhaul, the cabs were finally enlarged by sacrificing one passenger seat. Originally there was a sideways triple seat directly behind the cab, giving a total seating capacity of 84. This was reduced to a one-and-a-half seat, matching the configuration of the H-1 through H-4 cars.

The Halton County Radial Railway Museum has preserved the surviving M-1 pair and has spare parts salvaged from scrapped cars 5308 and 5309. The two cars are stored on a track near the front of the museum but are not yet modified to operate from the overhead wire system. When the M-1s are modified, these pioneering Canadian subway cars will once again be taking passengers down the main line.

Montrealers Image Archive

Now click here for the H-1 series.


  • Bromley, John F., and Jack May. Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders’ Association, New York (New York), 1978.
  • Corley, Ray F., Subway Car: 75 Foot Aluminum Class M & H cars (Camshaft Control), The Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto (Ontario), October 1996.

Thanks to Mark Brader and Ray Corley for correcting this web page and offering additional information.

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