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 Queen route on January 23, 1989.

Although ALRVs can travel throughout the system, they have rarely placed in regular service on any other route (510 Spadina operated with ALRVs for the summer of 1999, and ALRV extras are now seen on King street during peak hours).

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


ALRV prototype 4900 Image Archive


ALRV Image Archive


References

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

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