As part of Doors Open Toronto, the Toronto Transit Commission opened up the Leslie Barns for public tours. The new streetcar facility was built to house and maintain the new fleet of Bombardier-built low-floor streetcars. Of course, the streetcar delivery schedule has been disrupted by Bombardier’s incompetence; while there are only eighteen new streetcars currently in revenue service, there should have been 70 in service by the end of last month. Now the Bombardier problems have affected the Region of Waterloo’s light rail project, ION, which was to open in late 2017.
View from the yard at Leslie Barns west toward the Toronto skyline
In any case, the TTC always puts on a great public event. Visitors to Leslie Barns were welcomed to tour the vintage streetcars — a 1923 Peter Witt, and a 1951 PCC streetcar. A new streetcar gave visitors a tour through the barns and around the (mostly empty) yard. Employees held a charity barbecue, there were giveaways for children and lots of friendly staff eager to answer questions. These public open houses are where you’ll find the TTC at its very best.
You could tell that some of the organizers had some fun. The CLRV on display (pictured below) was signed for Old Weston Road, a short turn point on the 512 St. Clair carline. Townsley Loop, once the terminus for Dovercourt and later Harbord Cars, was closed to streetcars in 2003 and the tracks removed during the St. Clair Avenue streetcar right-of-way construction. Streetcar 4401, parked in the paint shop was just asking for the title I gave it, an homage to the visuals in that great Stanley Kubrick film.
Yeah, operating a streetcar was a childhood dream for a while. Note the rollsign.
Also on Sunday (and every Sunday, from noon until 5PM until Labour Day Weekend), you can ride a PCC streetcar in active service along Queen’s Quay between Union Station and Fleet Loop, and rides are free. We did this yesterday between visiting several downtown Doors Open sites, before exploring Fort York. The two PCC streetcars retained by the TTC (the rest were sold to museums or sent to Kenosha, Wisconsin) were restored to their 1951 appearance and are used for special events, charters, and summer Sunday service on the Harbourfront.
The TTC is often maligned, often unfairly, for poor customer service, service disruptions, and delays. But I think events like Doors Open and free rides on vintage streetcars are a great way for the public to feel good about our transit system.
Streetcar 4500 on Queen’s Quay
Interior, PCC streetcar
Streetcar 4500 at Fleet Loop, passing the 1861 Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse