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The Camshaft Control Hawkers (Series H1, H2, H3 and H4)

H-1 Schematic

Click on the diagram to see a full outline and plan

Text by James Bow and Robert Lubinski.

See Also:

Montreal Locomotive Works, with their successful series of subway cars, showed that subway car production in Canada was feasible. Canadian Car & Foundry (CC&F) had bid unsuccessfully on the contract to build the first subway cars in Canada, but for the second order, CC&F -- now part of the Hawker-Siddeley group of companies -- looked to improve on the pioneering MLW cars to secure the winning bid. Hawker-Siddeley conducted tests using a pair of M-1 cars (5330-31) and proposed several new features in their bid for the 164 new cars for the Bloor-Danforth Subway which was to open in early 1966. In 1964, Hawker-Siddeley was awarded the contract and thus began a long-standing relationship between it and the TTC's subway system.

The H1 class trains were the first of a long line of models to be built by Hawker-Siddeley manufacturer for Toronto. The first cars were delivered to the system in May 1965, and entered service on July 30, 1965 on the Yonge-University subway so that the cars could be broken in and crews could be trained on them prior to the opening of the Bloor-Danforth line. As more H1 cars came into service, some Gloucester and M1 cars were rotated into storage at the Greenwood Yard until the Bloor-Danforth line opened on February 25, 1966. When the new subway opened, a train of H1 cars was used for the official opening ceremonies. From that day on, the H1 cars were put to work carrying passengers day in and day out for the next 30 years. For some years they were sometimes referred to as "The Pride of the Fleet". The H1 cars' fleet numbers carried on from where the M1s left off; they were numbered from 5336-5499.

The H1 series cars were similar, in many ways, to their Montreal series predecessors. They were of the same length and general look, with similar seating and window arrangements and mechanisms, although some exterior features and the interior colour scheme made them noticeably different. The door windows on the H1s were squared-off at the top and bottom, unlike the rounded windows on the M1 cars. The H1s had a distinctive contoured look on the car ends compared to the M1 cars and they also had a more subdued interior colour scheme, with dark blue and silver seats and light sandy-brown doors and ceilings.

Internally, there were several improvements on the M1 cars. The H1 series cars were the first Toronto subway cars that utilized the single handle controller concept where all of the braking and acceleration were controlled by one rotary mechanism. Other improvements on the M1 cars included a more spacious operator's cab, backlit interior advertising lights which provided a somewhat softer interior light and electrically-operated doors, which avoided the problems that occurred in the winter when cold weather could freeze air lines rendering doors inoperative.

While the H-1 cars were purchased to provide the additional service required with the opening of the Bloor-Danforth subway, they often operated on the Yonge-University line, as about one-quarter of the service was operated with M or H class cars. With the opening of the Spadina Subway in 1978, the H-1 cars were assigned to Wilson Carhouse and provided base service on the expanded line. However, the heavy daily use on the hills and curves of the Yonge-University Spadina subway took its toll on the cars, and they were overhauled one last time in the early 1990s to improve their reliability. Due to the fact that the TTC had relied upon them so heavily they wore out faster than the older M1 series cars, which had been relegated to rush-hour-only service in the early 1980s and then again from 1991 onwards. The H-1 class cars began to be retired in 1996 as the T1 series of cars entered service. The last few cars were transferred back to the Bloor-Danforth subway in 1999 and were retired later that year. However, a number of H1 class cars would live on as work cars.

Early in 1970, the TTC ordered another batch of 76 cars to handle the increased demands brought about by a steady increase in ridership and in anticipation of the opening of the North Yonge subway extension. Pleased with the H1 design, the TTC returned to Hawker-Siddeley and asked for more of the same. That was what it got with the H2 class series. The only differences between the H1s and the H2s were to a different interior colour scheme (consisting of the then-popular orange and tan seating and fake woodgrain panels) and minor improvements to the cab controls and more reliable traction motors. The H2 series cars were numbered from 5500-5575 and were delivered beginning in June 1971.

As the H2 cars were being delivered, however, the TTC decided to do some experimenting with the design after all. Cars 5500 through 5505 of the H2 series were equipped with Hitachi chopper controls and evaluated by the TTC in 1973. These cars were reclassified as the H3 series, and were reclassified back to H2s in 1984 after the chopper controls were removed. The chopper control experiment proved successful and this feature was incorporated into the later H5 class. Unlike the later chopper-control cars, however, the experimental H3s issued a loud buzz whenever they were in motion, not just when accelerating or braking.

The H2 cars provided service on the Yonge-University Subway initially, but were a mainstay on the Bloor-Danforth line after the Spadina Subway opened in 1978. As Gloucester cars were retired through 1989 and 1990, about half of the H2 fleet was transferred to Wilson Carhouse and operated on the Yonge-University-Spadina line until the arrival of the T1 cars pushed them back to the Bloor-Danforth line in 1998. As T1 cars were introduced to the Bloor-Danforth Subway in late 1999, the H-2 cars were gradually withdrawn starting in 2000, with the last cars retired in 2001. No H2 cars were retained for any work car conversions.

With steadily increasing subway ridership in the early 1970s and the opening of the North Yonge extension, the subway fleet was pushed to its limits. Trains on the Yonge Subway were often crowded by the time they reached Eglinton Station, even though they had only serviced two stops from York Mills. Passengers waiting at Bloor often had to let trains pass before they could board. Complaints about overcrowding led the TTC to act quickly to ease the car shortage, and deal with even more riders expected following the extension of the Yonge Subway to Finch.

Because the TTC needed new cars now, rather than increase the order of Chopper-controlled cars that had already been placed in anticipation for the Spadina subway, the TTC opted instead to order a set of cars almost identical to the H2 class, which could be built less expensively and quickly. The 88 H4 class cars (numbered 5576-5663), ordered in 1973 were, mechanically speaking, almost the same as the H2s, but featured a slight modification in the cars' interior design. The reduced seating (three-space cross-seats reduced to two-space cross-seats) allowed for more standing room and freer movement through each car. Different lighting arrangements and ambidextrous horn buttons also differentiated this series from the earlier cars.

The H-4 cars first entered service in late 1974 and operated on both the Yonge-University and Bloor-Danforth lines. Their arrival greatly eased the crowding situation on the subway as they added capacity of more than 14 trains, which was especially needed after the opening of the Yonge Subway to Finch earlier in the year. Following the opening of the Spadina Subway in 1978 they too were operated primarily on the Bloor-Danforth Subway, except for rare situations of car shortages on the Yonge-University-Spadina line.

The H4 Class Cars were the last of the early model Hawker-Siddeley cars to be delivered to the TTC. In 1976, the first of the chopper-control equipped H5 series were delivered. The H5 cars did not have the contoured "eyebrow" end caps of the early Hawker-Siddeley cars so they did not look the same, and they had different equipment, leaving the H1, H2 and H4 series cars as a similar-looking and generally homogeneous fleet of cars.

Interior car wide shot

H1 5496 awaits delivery to the scrap heap.

With the order of an additional 156 T1 cars in 1998, there would be more than enough T1s to replace the H2s and even some of the H4s. While the H2 cars were nearly thirty years old, the H4 cars were only approaching 25 years of age and still had a few years of useful service left, however. So, in 2001, when the delivery of T1 cars allowed more than 30 H4 class cars to be withdrawn, the TTC decided that the cars should not be retired and scrapped, but rather kept aside as extras should Toronto be successful in its bid to host the 2008 summer Olympic Games. The stored H4 cars waited in Wilson Yard until 2007 when, after Toronto's bid was turned down, most of them were removed for scrap.

In 2000 and 2001, 50 of the H4 class cars were overhauled at Greenwood Shops for continued reliable service. Six of these cars were later converted to work cars, leaving exactly half of the H-4 class in service on the Bloor-Danforth line, mostly, but not exclusively, for rush hour service. With the delivery of the new TR trains commencing in 2011, the H4 cars will be displaced by T1 cars shifting from the Yonge-University-Spadina line onto the Bloor Danforth, and will finally be retired. As of May 2011, the H4 class became the longest-serving class of subway cars operated in Toronto, serving for more than 36 and-a-half years, surpassing the M1 cars and the Gloucesters.

The class wasn't able to bask in this honour for long. At the end of 2011, the TTC decided that the last of the H4 series of cars should be retired and, on January 27, 2012, the last official run was held quietly. The train, consisting of pairs 5623/5622, 5650/5651 and 5611/5610, pulled into Kennedy station as scheduled at 7:27 a.m. before retiring to Greenwood, an end to an era. (see an article on the last run, here)

Work Cars

Unlike the Montreal series cars, a number of H1 and H4 series cars were reserved for use in the TTC's revamped work car fleet and several were converted for non-revenue service, replacing the Gloucester garbage train and RT-10 Tokyo Rose. Converted cars were also used in asbestos abatement in the North Yonge subway tunnels, and as general purpose work cars towing flat cars. A fire in December 2000 put an end to the use of garbage trains as one converted H1 car was completely destroyed. It was replaced by a stored spare H1 car, but these cars are now used as general purpose work cars. The H1s may no longer be accepting passengers, but they continue to have a part to play in subway operations well into the 21st century. In 2011, we started saying good-bye to the H4 cars as passengers, but they too will continue to provide service as work cars for several years yet.

Interesting Early Hawker Facts

Aftermath of Christie station subway fire.

The H-1 car above was destroyed by an arsonist's blaze at Christie station in 1976. Its partner (below) was rebuilt into work car RT-23.

RT-23, former H1 passenger car.
  • H-1 cars 5388-5391 were retired due to a vandal fire at Christie station that occurred on October 15, 1976. The fire was started while the train was making one of the last runs on the line for the night. When the fire was detected, the train was stopped at Christie and the station evacuated. The fire also caused extensive damage to the station, and shut down the Bloor-Danforth line between Ossington and St. George for two days. Survivor 5391 was converted to a non-motored ultra-sonic rail inspection and utility car on March 26, 1984 and was renumbered as RT-23. RT-23 was later used for asbestos removal, and was retired in 2009.
  • 5482 was used in the 1998 made-for-TV version of "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three", cosmetically altered to look like a New York subway car. This was one of many subway cars to be chartered for a movie shoot, but it's one of the few we know of off the top of our head. Someday we will research a complete list of movie shoots on Toronto subways. The movie aired on an American network on February 1, 1998.
  • 5496 and 5497 were both painted, each differently. 5496's upper body and roof end was experimentally painted in standard subway red enamel, with gold numerals added. 5497 additionally featured striping at the top and bottom of the red area. The cars were viewed at Greenwood Shops by officialdom on August 11, 1967, however they were never placed in service. The paint was removed shortly after, although the gold numerals survived for a few years.
  • In the August 11, 1995 Russell Hill crash, the stationary train that was rear-ended consisted of six H-1 cars: 5497(lead)-5496 (28 years to the day of these two cars' repainting) 5370-5371-5342-5343. 5343 was scrapped in May 1999.
  • In 1991 two H-4 cars were equipped with AEG-Westinghouse "E-CAMS", which allowed for greater control and maintainability.
  • In 1991 6 H-4 cars were modified for the prototype "Chime Test Train" to evaluate the use of automated chimes instead of the two whistle blasts to alert passengers to the subway doors closing. The prototype train had the chimes ring inside the train instead of through speakers to the outside of the train. The cars used for the prototype train were 5578-79, 5582-83 and 5650-51.
  • H-1 car 5375 (converted to RT9), part of the garbage train, was destroyed in a fire at Old Mill station on December 8, 2000. It is believed that the fire started in the garbage on board the car. Following this fire, the TTC ceased the practice of using subway cars to collect the garbage from stations. 5375 was replaced by car 5351, which was later renumbered as a replacement RT10. The other garbage train, RT38-RT39 (ex-5422-23) was also used for general purpose work following the end of the garbage trains.

Principal Specifications

Fleet Class



(& H-3*)


Fleet Numbers



(& 5500-05)*


Date acquired






(formerly 84)




Length over anti-climber

<-------------- 74' 5 5/8" -------------->

Width over side sheets

<-------------- 10' 3 7/16" -------------->

Height to top of roof

<-------------- 11' 11 1/2" -------------->

Truck centres

<-------------- 54' 0" -------------->

Truck wheelbase

<-------------- 6' 10" -------------->

Wheel diameter

<-------------- 28" -------------->

Track gauge

<-------------- 4' 10 7/8" -------------->

(Average of A & B car):

W1 (tare)

59,900 lbs

56,515 lbw

56,425 lbs

57,724 lbw

W4 (service)

93,800 lbs
(225 psgrs)

90,415 lbw

90,325 lbw

91,775 lbs
(226 psgrs)

W5 (crush)

105,200 lbs
(301 psgrs)

101,815 lbs

101,725 lbs

103,925 lbs
(307 psgrs)







Motors (4)

- Type





-HP (1 hour rating)





Gear Ratio





Initial Acceleration Rate:

1.9 MPHPS to 20 MPH (Low rate)
2.5 MPHPS to 25 MPH (High rate)

Maximum Speed:

55 MPH

Braking Rate:

Service: 2.8 MPHPS
Emergency: 3.0 MPHPS

* - Class H-3 - 5500-5505 had Hitachi chopper control;
W-1 weight 65,240 lbs. Re-converted to H-2 in 1984 & 1985

Early Hawkers Image Archive

Related Topics

Now click here for the H-5 and H-6 series.

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


  • Bromley, John F., "Toronto's New Subway Cars", UCRS Newsletter, June 1965
  • 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.
  • Minutes of TTC Commission meetings: various meetings from 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973.
  • UCRS Newsletter June 1971: "Traction Topics"
  • Toronto Star articles - July 22, 1972 and January 24, 1974.
  • Globe and Mail article - April 3, 1973.
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