TTC's long, bendy streetcars to carry riders for last time on Labour Day

The last two of Toronto's "bendy" streetcars have reached the end of their working life, but the TTC is pressing both into service on Labour Day one last time before they officially retire.

2 old streetcars roll into retirement on Labour Day, after final trips on Queen Street

The TTC says it will run the last two of its long, bending streetcars, known as articulated light rail vehicles or ALRVs, on Labour Day for three hours. The old vehicles will offer free trips to riders on Queen Street on Monday afternoon before they finally roll into retirement. (Toronto Transit Commission)

The last two of Toronto's "bendy" streetcars have reached the end of their working life, but the TTC is pressing both into service on Labour Day one last time before they officially retire.

"We have squeezed as much as we can out of these great streetcars and the final two will be out of service as of tomorrow," Mike DeToma, spokesperson for the Toronto Transit Commission, said on Sunday.

The streetcars, known as ALRVs, or articulated light rail vehicles, will rumble and clang into service on Monday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Queen Street.

They will offer free rides westbound and eastbound, between the TTC's Russell Carhouse, near Queen Street East and Greenwood Avenue, and the Wolseley Street Loop, near Bathurst Street and Queen Street West. 

Originally part of a fleet of 52, the streetcars have been transporting TTC passengers for more than 30 years. The TTC introduced the bendy streetcars into service in 1988.

One to be kept in storage for posterity

One of the last two will be refurbished and kept in TTC storage for historical purposes, to be wheeled out for special tours and charters, while the other will be salvaged for parts and then scrapped. The TTC retired the other 50 in the fleet in the last two years.

"It will be the last day the folks of Toronto will see our original articulated streetcars in service," DeToma said. 

"It is absolutely the end of an era. It's been 30-plus years since they first came into service, but they have finally reached the end of the line," he added.

"Anyone who is really interested in being a part of history, getting a last opportunity to take a ride on these original articulated streetcars, tomorrow between 2 and 5 on Queen Street is the time to do it."

The streetcars will enter their golden years as the TTC continues to acquire low-floor vehicles to modernize its streetcar fleet.

"They were the first articulated streetcars that the TTC purchased. These were extended streetcars, twice the length of the CLRV (Canadian Light Rail Vehicle) streetcars, the ones that are being retired slowly from service as the new low-floor vehicles come online," he said. 

"These articulated streetcars were the first bendy streetcars that Toronto citizens saw in service. They were, at the time, modern streetcars, full of electronics, new gadgetry. And after 30 years of service, they are going to be finally retired."

Over the years, the streetcars were repaired and rebuilt.

Vehicles allowed TTC to boost capacity on busy routes

In a news release, the TTC said the vehicles were "considered a landmark achievement at the time, allowing the TTC to increase capacity on its busiest routes at a time ridership was increasing."

One of the streetcars will make an appearance in Toronto's Labour Day Parade, DeToma said.

According to the TTC, Car 4204 will leave from the Russell Carhouse at 2 p.m., heading east to Wolseley Loop and back. Meanwhile, Car 4207 will leave from Wolseley Loop at about the same time, although road closures and CNE traffic could affect when it hits the road.

The TTC said the two streetcars will make return trips between the Russell Carhouse and the Wolseley Loop until 5 p.m. The very last run will leave Wolseley at about 4:15 p.m., arriving at the Russell Carhouse at 5 p.m.

"It will be back and forth between those destinations," he said.

The CLRV streetcars, the shorter version of the articulated streetcars, will likely be retired at the end of the year, he added.

The first ALRV entered service on Jan. 19, 1988 on the 507 Long Branch route, the TTC said.