Text by James Bow
From 1938 to 1996, the TTC’s “Red Rocket” PCCs cars trundled Toronto’s streets, serving Torontonians and working their way into the city’s popular culture. Today, in 2007, the TTC retains two of these venerable streetcars, numbered 4500 and 4549, which have been restored to their original 1950s appearance. Operating in charters, these cars remind Torontonians of a time when their streetcars were curvy, and maroon (or red) and cream.
But railfans who are around twenty years and older may remember a time when at least two of Toronto’s PCC cars were painted in a different set of colours.
In 1984, the City of Toronto and the Toronto Transit Commission looked into rebuilding a number of its PCC vehicles, to meet an increase in ridership and serve the planned Harbourfront LRT. As many as 30 PCCs were considered for rebuilding and the contract eventually fell to the Urban Transportation Development Corporation. Cars 4512 left Toronto for UTDC’s Millhaven plant (just outside Kingston) to be rebuilt from the bottom up. Car 4505 was rebuilt at the TTC’s own Hillcrest Shops to assess the economics of rebuilding in-house versus outsourcing the task. Peter C. Kohler describes the reconstruction as follows:
The body was essentially remanufactured with new side sills, bolsters, window posts, frame members and side skin replaced with new and in some cases heavier, steel. Only the roof was original. The underframe was slightly modified and certain areas reinforced. The trucks, motors and all electrical components were rebuilt and all wiring replaced. All the wiring between the front and middle of the car was relocated in a sealed conduit in the side sill instead of beneath the car floor. The new control rods featured Teflon spacer/guide blocks instead of rollers. Newly added features included the installation of side sill heaters, replacement of all fuses with circuit breakers and a new 32v. circuit and relays for the gang switch assembly. Inside, new CLRV style seating, paneling below the windows and flooring was installed.
The rebuilt cars were reclassified, reflecting their “good as new” status, and renumbered 4600 (from 4505) and 4601 (from 4512). They were also repainted in the TTC’s CLRV livery, with red body and letterboard, grey skirting, black windows and white across the rooftops and white striping. In September 1986, the distinctively coloured 4600 was unveiled Toronto’s Hillcrest Shops and put into service soon thereafter. Car 4601 followed suit in February 1987. The two cars operated successfully on the TTC for two years, leading the Commission to proceed with the rebuilding of three more PCCs in 1988. Eventually, 19 PCCs would be fully rebuilt.
But in February 1989, the TTC opted to paint the new rebuilt PCCs in the traditional maroon and cream paint scheme, to go with the two cars (4500 and 4549) that were being restored to their 1950s appearance. These cars operated alongside the CLRV painted 4600 and 4601 on the Harbourfront LRT and as rush hour extras throughout the system, before submitting to a maroon and cream repainting in late 1992.
Outside of various publicity shots, photos of the CLRV painted PCCs are rare, due to the fact that only two such cars ever operated, and only for five years. However, thanks to Brad O’Brien, who donated these photographs from his collection, we can recall those days when PCCs looked like CLRVs.
PCC Shape CLRV Colours Image Archive
Thanks to Robert Lubinski and John F. Bromley for their assistance on this article.