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The Fourth Generation: The Edmonton GM-Brown Boveri Buses (1989-1993)

Text by James Bow.

In the late 1980s, the TTC's rebuilt Western Flyer trolley coaches were beginning to show their age. This coincided with an era of declining revenues and subsidies at the Commission, and the TTC started giving serious consideration to replacing the trolley bus fleet. However, studies suggested that the earliest that new trolleybuses could arrive would be 1993, and the TTC's current fleet was unlikely to last that long.

In Edmonton, plans to extend their trolley bus system had slowed, and as many as 50 trolleybuses were sitting surplus. So, the TTC and the Edmonton Transit System negotiated a deal. On December 12, 1989, ETS coaches 192 and 197 were delivered to the TTC's Hillcrest shops for evaluation in service conditions. They were in operation at Lansdowne Division by January 1990.

The New Kids on the Block

The Edmonton buses were extremely new, compared to other Toronto trolleybuses. They had been built in the early 1980s using "fishbowl" bodies supplied by General Motors, and motors and controls supplied by a Swiss electrical engineering company named Brown Boveri (Founded as Brown, Boveri & Compagnie in 1891). When the Brown Boveri vehicles were brought to Toronto, they maintained most of their Edmonton livery but were renumbered to the TTC standard. Bus 192 became 9192 and 197 became 9197.

The new arrivals did encounter some initial troubles. The Brown Boveri motors were not used to Toronto's regenerative braking system, where streetcars and trolley coaches would use their brakes to generate electricity that fed back into the system. The result was some repairs and retrofits had to take place to the Brown Boveris to prevent motors from burning out. Once these initial issues were dealt with, the TTC was pleased enough with the results of the evaluation and sought to lease another 28 vehicles. These would replace Western Flyer coaches that the TTC was retiring due to electrical failure and severe body deterioration.

Edmonton trolleys were delivered by CP Rail between June 20 and July 4, 1990, two per flatcar. The Edmonton coaches ranged in number from 149 to 199 and had nines added at the beginning of their numbers as they were accepted by the TTC. The lease was signed for three years, to terminate March 31, 1993, and was for $1500 per vehicle, per month. In total, the TTC was to spend $540,000 per year for this fleet of thirty trolleybuses. Another ten coaches (9149-9157 and 9151) were leased and delivered beginning in 1991. All of these coaches were operated out of Lansdowne Garage.

A Temporary Fix

Originally, the TTC planned to replace its Western Flyers with new trolleybuses, but budget pressures, and the high capital and operating costs associated with trolley bus operation, made them rethink this policy. In January 1992, to save $2 million towards covering a $30 million budget shortfall, the TTC ordered its trolleybuses pulled from the streets. This plan was complicated, however, by the terms of their lease with Edmonton. The Edmonton Transit System refused to terminate the lease before its initially planned close-out in 1993.

Rather than let these buses waste money doing nothing, the TTC decided to reinstitute trolley bus service on 4 ANNETTE and 6 BAY, using only the Brown Boveri trolleybuses. The provincial government of the day helped the TTC defer the reopening costs with $385,000 in special funding. On September 2, 1992, coach #9183 made a test run, and service was gradually phased in between September 4 and 8.

It would only be a brief reprieve, however, lasting only until the end of Edmonton's lease in July 1993. The Brown Boveri trolleybuses vanished from 4 ANNETTE first, with the last trolley bus running into Lansdowne Garage in the early morning hours of July 12. The 6 BAY route operated four days longer, with trolley bus service ending in the early morning hours of July 17. Coach #9151 departed Jarvis and Queen's Quay at 12:40 a.m. and arrived at Dupont and Davenport at 1:10 a.m. It arrived at Lansdowne Garage at 1:29 a.m., ending trolley bus service in Toronto forever.

After this, the TTC started shipping the leased coaches back to Edmonton, placing all but one of them on train cars by December 1993. The exception was coach #9155, which the Hamilton Street Railway be towed to its facilities to assess whether to restore its trolley bus system using these vehicles. This proposal did not pan out, and coach #9155 was sent home to Edmonton in March 1994.

After the TTC

Back in Edmonton, the Brown Boveri vehicles returned to a fleet where many were still surplus. While most were accepted back into the Edmonton Transit System, coaches 164, 165, 167, 169, 171, 174, 176, 178, 182, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 190, 191, 196, 197, and 199 were officially retired, although they remained in the fleet for another decade, for use as spare parts. These started to be sent to the scrap heap in 2004 as Edmonton started to wind down its electric trolleybus network, shutting down its system on May 2, 2009.

A few of these Brown Boveri trolleybuses were preserved, however. Coach 9181 (ETS 181) stayed retired until 2004, when it was pressed into service, retaining its Toronto-style fleet numbers in Edmonton until this oversight was corrected in early 2008. Placed in storage in July 2008, it was donated to the Illinois Railway Museum in the fall of 2009. Coach 9189 (ETS 189) was also donated to the Trolleybus Museum in Sandtoft, England, also in the fall of 2009. Finally, coach #9199 (ETS 199) was sold to the Reynolds - Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin, although it never made it on the property, possibly as it was in too poor of a condition. It joined its comrades on the scrapheap.

Principal Specifications

  • Fleet Class: T9
  • Fleet Numbers: 9149-9157, 9159, 9163-9172, 9174, 9176-9178, 9180-9192, 9196-9197, 9199
  • Builder: GM-Brown Boveri
  • Model: ?
  • Year Built (Leased): 1980 (1989-91 Edmonton)
  • Length: 41' 3" (12.57 m)
  • Width: 8' 6" (2.59 m)
  • Height: 9' 11.25" (3.03 m)
  • Wheelbase: 23' 8.75" (7.23 m)
  • Seating: 40
  • Weights - Normal (W1): 19840 lb (9000 kg)
  • Weights -- Normal (Service) (W4): 32440 lb (14715 kg) (83)
  • Weights -- Normal (Crush) (W5): 35890 lb (16280 kg) (106)

Brown Boveri Image Archive


  • Corley, Ray, 'Edmonton Coaches Leave TTC Property', Rail and Transit, December 1993, p8, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario).
  • Corley, Ray, Trolley Coach CC&F and Flyer Coaches, The Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto (Ontario), January 1987.
  • Filey, Mike, The TTC Story: The First Seventy-Five Years, Dundurn Press, Toronto (Ontario) 1996.
  • Scrimgeour, Pat and Scott Haskill., 'Toronto Trolley Coaches Stored', Rail and Transit, January 1992, p3-4, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario).
  • Wickson, Ted, 'TTC leases 30 Edmonton trolley coaches', UCRS Newsletter, July 1990, p19, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario).

Special thanks to Ray Corley for his corrections to this web page.

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