Remembering the "Peter Witt" in Old Photos, on Toronto's Oldest Streets
No history of Toronto's streetcars would be complete without talking about the Peter Witt design. Named after the Cleveland Railway commissioner who designed the car, it was first shown off to Torontonians at the Canadian National Exhibition in August 1921. The first Witt rolled out on October 2 of the same year.
Made from metal and wood, the large ones were just over 51 feet long and could seat over 60 passengers. Originally, the seats were made of wooden slats. During winter, coal-burning stoves kept the interior of the streetcar warm.The design was distinguished from other streetcars of the era by its use of the center door as an exit only, with a conductor stationed inside just in front of the door. This made its operation much more efficient. It was also selected because its heavy steel body was well suited to Toronto's severe winters, and contained large windows for good ventilation on hot summer days. A feature many still remember were the wooden framed windows that opened at the bottom.
The streetcar routes, Yonge, College, Dundas and Bloor, were all given Witt cars, but the Yonge cars became the most famous of them all.
Today, you can see a beautifully restored Witt car in action at the Halton County Radial Railway museum in Milton, Ontario, which is about an hour from Toronto.
The Real Red Rocket Makes its Burgundy and Cream Entrance, to Over Half a Century!
Any Torontonian born in the 1960s or the 1970s knows exactly what a "red rocket" looks like. This was the name that would forever be associated with the next wave of Toronto streetcars, with a design still considered by many as our definitive streetcar.
Designed in Ontario specifically for the TTC, the "President's Conference Cars (PCC) were brought into service in 1938. You'll recognize the design: round, curvy front, and distinctive cream and burgundy colours.
From the time that the TTC took delivery of the first PCC 4000, to the day in 1996 when the last model, the PCC 4611, was taken out of service, the Red Rockets were the heart of Toronto's streetcar network. At its peak, the PCC fleet had more than 740 streetcars in service, was one of the largest fleets in North America.
Today, the TTC retains two of these venerable streetcars, numbered 4500 and 4549, which have been restored to their original 1950s appearance.
Canadian Light Rail Models and the New "Flexity Outlooks"
During the 1970s, the TTC decided to eliminate all of its streetcars. The plan was reversed, instead, a program put in place to bring in new cars to replace the aging PCCs. There were called the Canadian Light Rail Vehicles (a single streetcar) and the Articulated Light Rail Vehicle (two cars joined together).
The CLRVs (single car) and ALRVs (articulated) kept many features of traditional streetcar design: they collect their electric power by trolley pole rather than a pantograph (a diamond shape electric rod) used in more modern vehicles. They also were designed to go in one direction, that is, the driver is always at the front.
These new streetcars also had a change in colour scheme. The cream and burgundy were replaced with cherry red, white and black.