A Transit Fan’s History of Toronto’s Iconic CLRV Streetcar

by | Mar 13, 2020

The Canadian Light Rail Vehicle (CLRV) has been a unique staple of Toronto for 40 years. They’ve rumbled across Toronto streets ever since September 30, 1979. Now, they are retired as of December 29th, 2019.


Article co-written by @transit_insider and @br0adview
Feature photo by Jack Loughran / @jackjustjumped
Body photo by @conner_transitpics

A Brief History of the CLRV

The first car delivered to Toronto was 4002. There are two different types of CLRVs. The first type, the L-1, was built by a Swiss company named Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft (SIG) in partnership with the Urban Transportation Development Corporation (UTDC). They were produced and delivered between December 29, 1977 to July 13, 1978. And the L-2s were built by Hawker Siddeley, also in partnership with the Urban Transportation Development Corporation (UTDC), which, the L-2s were delivered from 1978-1981.

Retirement Announcement

On November 21, 2019, TTC announced that the final day of service for the CLRV would be December 29, 2019. 2 CLRV would provide free rides between Greenwood/Connaught and Bathurst. Until that date, the CLRV would run on the 511 Bathurst on the weekdays and 501 Queen as trippers on the weekends.

December 28, 2019 was the last day of revenue service for the Canadian Light Rail Vehicle. Units 4040, 4042, 4069, 4085, 4123, 4179, 4184 and 4193 ran all day on Bathurst and the final revenue service car, #4193, returned to Russell Carhouse at approx. 2:15am.

On December 29, 2019, units 4001, 4057, 4068, 4081, 4124 and 4178 (the art car) offered free rides to transit enthusiasts, regular passengers and those who wanted to bid farewell. Despite the miserable weather, lots of people came out to take one last ride. The final car, #4001, was filled with contest winners who won a seat for them and a guest. 4001 rolled into Russell at 4pm, ending the CLRV era.

A Streetcar Named Toronto: The Art Streetcar

In early September 2019, a group of local artists gave CLRV #4178 a facelift, inside and out. With the help of the charity “CityFund”, the project known as “A Streetcar Named Toronto” was born.

Artist Jacquie Comrie painted the exterior, while Ryan Van Der Hout, Nicole Beno, Chris Perez and Suanne McGregor retrofitted the interior. In late September, the vehicle was unveiled to the public and media at Roncesvalles Carhouse. The car ran on the 506 Carlton and 511 Bathurst on the weekdays and the 501 Queen on weekends, and ran all night on October 5th for Nuit Blanche.

The car was one of the final 6 CLRV’s in service and was retired from service on December 29, 2019. 4178, also known as “the art car”, has been donated to the Halton County Radial Railway.

Streetcar Museum

The TTC has opted to donate a few CLRVs to museums. Units 4001 and 4081 have been preserved by the TTC, along with 4089 being rumored but not confirmed as preserved by the TTC. Other preserved units include 4034 with Illinois Railway Museum (IRM), 4068 with Seashore Trolley Museum and lastly, 4003, 4010, 4039 and 4178 (the art car) with the Halton County Radial Railway Museum (HCRR).

We hope you enjoyed this article. Co-written by @transit_insider and @br0adview 

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