Calgary

PSSST! Want a well-used former CTrain car?

After decades of serving commuters, it's an ignominious ending for many of Calgary Transit's original LRT cars. Car after car is ending up in a southeast metal recycling yard, where they're crushed for scrap.

Nearly half of Calgary's original LRT cars are now out of regular service

Nearly half of Calgary's LRT cars are now out of regular service. (City of Calgary)

After decades of serving commuters, it's an ignominious ending for many of Calgary Transit's original LRT cars.

Car after car is ending up in a southeast metal recycling yard, where they're crushed for scrap.

The original German-built U2 cars date back to the opening of Calgary's first LRT line in 1981. The youngest of the 86 cars is from the late '80s. 

But they're all well past their original service life. Parts can no longer be found. On some cars, rust eats through their exteriors.

Breakdowns are common.

Meanwhile, every month or so, a brand new LRT car arrives from the Siemens plant in California.

So the old ones have to go. 

Calgary Transit says 39 of the cars are now no longer in regular daily service.

Given the U2s were already a tried-and-true design when the city first bought them, they're a glimpse of 1960s transit chic.

City got its money's worth

The fleet director with Calgary Transit, Russell Davies, said they're all well past their expected service life.

"They're almost 40 years old, the oldest ones. They have about three million kilometres on the clock and they're just not as reliable out on the tracks as they need to be," said Davies.

Transit has scavenged parts from enough cars to keep the rest of the U2 fleet going as long as necessary.

Car after car is ending up in a southeast metal recycling yard, where they're crushed for scrap. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

Davies said the city did strike a deal to sell three surplus cars to Edmonton for $20,000 where they were used for parts by Edmonton Transit's U2 fleet.

But the city has started disposing of the ones it no longer needs to keep around.

And it doesn't get a cent for them when the cars are hauled away.

Takers are hard to find

Davies said the city managed to find one company willing to take them. It brings in its truck, loads up the train car and hauls it off to a southeast yard to be crushed.

The city gets nothing except more room in its yard.

"All we do is we split them up, split them in half down the middle. They basically lift them up on a forklift, throw them on the back of a flatbed and take them away."

Old parts from Calgary Transit CTrains. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

He said the company likely salvages what they can before the car is crushed. Things like recovering copper from motors or trying to repurpose other parts.   

There's a long history of people acquiring old buses or streetcars to re-purpose them.

The city is interested but so far, Davies says there have been no takers for a used LRT car.

Thinking of opening a LRT diner?

The price —$1 — may look like a steal.

But there's a catch. The buyer would have to pick up the car and get it off city property.

If you'd like to turn a CTrain into a diner, the catch is that the buyer would have to pick up the car and get it off city property. (City of Calgary)

"We tried locally with some various entrepreneurs. They wanted to try them for cafes or restaurants or even art installations," said Davies.

"When everyone typically looks at what it costs to move one of these things, like it's probably the best part of $10,000 to move them somewhere in town."

The end of the U2 cars is currently estimated to be three to five years away.

The interior of a retired CTrain car. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

But when the end finally comes for the fleet, as it inevitably will, Davies said Calgary Transit might tuck some away as a heritage piece.

"We may look at just prettying one up a little bit, using it as a heritage vehicle or bring it out on sunny days kind of deal," he said. 

About the Author

Scott Dippel

Politics Reporter

Scott Dippel has been at CBC News for more than two decades across four provinces. His roles have included legislative reporter, news reader, assignment editor and national reporter. When not at Calgary's City Hall, it's still all politics, all the time.

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