A New Look For Toronto’s SRT Cars.

Toronto’s lonely ICTS (SkyTrain) Line is due to be dismantled within ten years because it is life expired, but with the ongoing seesaw debate to replace the ICTS Line with LRT or a subway rages on. To keep the line operable the existing cars need to be refurbished to keep the line operating for the next few years.

This is what the TTC’s revamped SRT cars look like

Posted by Derek Flack / March 6, 2015

Scarborough RT makeoverThe TTC recently announced that a makeover was in store for its Scarborough RT trains. With the aging transit line forced to operate until the completion of a new subway line in Scarborough (at least a decade away), it wasn’t possible to put off upgrades any longer. Despite the notorious unreliability of the cars, the city is stuck with them for now, so the the TTC will invest $132 million to overhaul the fleet.

The first car has been re-wrapped as part of the makeover. It will travel the SRT to draw attention to the project and allow for the TTC to solicit feedback on the new design. At first glance, it’s a major improvement over the dated 1980s aesthetic of the original trains, though it does bear an odd resemblance to the Montreal Metro.

It’s also clear that the TTC is invested in rebranding the SRT to “Line 3,” with each car prominently marked with this still MTA-looking label (though, in fairness, New York isn’t the only city to number its subway lines). That’s not a bad idea given the bad reputation that line has accrued over the years, with loads of service delays each winter.

Almost five million rides are taken on the SRT each year, so if this renovation project helps to make the experience better for the next decade, it will likely have been worth it, even if the construction of an LRT instead of a subway would have made this upgrade unnecessary.

In addition to the new-look exterior, the TTC will replace the motors of these vehicles as well as other aging parts and upgrade the interior space in an effort to make the trains more accessible and bright.

What do you think of the new design?


7 Responses to “A New Look For Toronto’s SRT Cars.”
  1. Haveacow says:

    The design has been public for 2 years, its a boring blue wrap covering to hide metal and fiberglass fatigue. The cars are old and have adequately done their duty and like the line itself is very soon to be retired. I give a salute to the old cars despite all the criticism, they soldier on doing their duty. May you all give a hand to the maintenance techs at the TTC for keeping them running as long as they have and still have too! In 1984 I was 15, and one of the thousands of people taking the free rides offered by the TTC between Kennedy and Lawrence East Stations. The cars were so young exciting and modern, and then so was I for that matter. Now just get rid of them please and put them in the electric transit museum at Halton County and Radial Railway and Museum. I have said it before, yes I did volunteer there but despite that, it really is worth the trip up to the Museum, if you ever get the chance.

    Zwei replies: Strange then that the Vancouver MK1 cars have lasted so well as they have been in service only one and half years after The Toronto MK.1 cars entered revenue service.

  2. Haveacow says:

    I forgot to mention the other major comment TTC riders gave about the RT cars when they got their free ride back in 1984 was,” wow are these things small!”

  3. Haveacow says:

    That should be Halton County Radial Railway and Museum.

    Here is the website address: http://hcry.org/

  4. eric chris says:

    Baby blue looks good to me. If Toronto doesn’t like them, maybe TTC can donate them to Vancouver for Broadway to replace the soot blowing and harrowingly loud 99 B-Line diesel buses spewing out massive amounts of GHG emissions and toxic PM emissions.

  5. Haveacow says:

    Toronto’s climate is harsher on railway equipment. Too many freeze thaw cycles. Too many years of snow, ice and salt on clothing and boots getting washed into crevices causing rust by machines designed for much stronger and larger rail vehicles. Running full sized GO Trains in a parallel right of way many times being splashed and shook by the GO Trains as they went by, could not have been good for them.

    Many maintenance issues with TTC crews (no one wanted to work in the tiny McCowan Yard). Compared with other Toronto rail transit equipment, RT cars were maintenance heavy to begin with, had many non standard railway parts, required specialized training due to their different propulsion equipment and arrangement as well as virtually every piece of maintenance equipment down to the flange (train wheels) lathes have to be either 3/4 scale compared to the standard railway kit or highly specialized (very expensive and hard to fix when broken down) equipment just for the RT cars themselves. The actual RT cars were just so small that, even the maintenance crews had a hard time just getting into the tight spaces needed to conduct repairs and cleaning the equipment compared to the other rail vehicles in the system. As all rail vehicles age they become more expensive to repair. Many spare parts for the 35+ year old CLRV’s and 26 year old ALRV’s (Toronto’s existing streetcar fleet) have to be made by the TTC because no one makes them anymore, this raises costs. But on a vehicle per vehicle basis they are only 2/3 of the cost compared to the cost of maintaining the RT cars and Bombardier is still supplying all their spare parts for them. The interesting thing is that the components for the drivers cabs and their associated systems, the things that make the RT cars different from all the Mk.1 Skytrain cars, which could potentially drive up repair costs even more, are cheap because they are based on the controls for the H series subway cars which the TTC has in ample supply. The required parts were taken off the H series subway cars when they were being retired, dismantled and recycled. Some H series vehicles were saved to provide vehicles and components for the next generation of TTC subway work cars, most of which are made by the TTC themselves. Some are purchased from outside suppliers, usually at great cost. This capability has long saved the TTC money, unfortunately work equipment for the RT line had to be purchased from outside suppliers.

    Zwei replies: I have been told by retired maintenance types that the MK.1 cars were a maintenance nightmare, especially the steerable axle trucks and wheel sets. The Mk.2′s are a little better, but their trucks have problems on the movable frog switches, necessitating much more frequent maintenance to both truck and switch.

  6. Haveacow says:

    Oh yes this comment by a TTC yard employee, now retired shows just how dearly the RT cars needed to be treated. The crews at the McCowan Yard often called the RT cars their, “Fine China Trains” or the yard itself was often called,” The China Shop”. When maintenance crews working on the RT cars, made mistakes or accidentally broke a RT component they were called, “Bulls in the China Shop”! My neighbor (a former TTC electrical engineer) told me that, “You could kick and pound the S*** out of a PCC, CLRV or a H series subway car and everything worked fine but, you generally had to tip toe around the RT cars”.

  7. Haveacow says:

    Remember, the techs who maintain the Skytrain have known nothing but, the Skytrain. I am quite sure if you threw some Skytrain techs into the Canada Line Maintenance Shop there would be an issue or two.

    In Toronto the much of the technology, subsystems and parts on the subway and streetcar system are the same and thus require similar technical abilities. The RT was originally a LRT line operating Articulated Streetcars in married pairs. The only difficult thing was having to maintain a satellite line and maintenance shop 12km or so from the end of the existing streetcar system.

    When the technology for the line was changed by the provincial government everything else changed on the line. Totally different technology, supply system, maintenance requirements, control and propulsion systems. So all the support services had to be recreated at the McCowan Yard, a separate training area, control centre (a new combined control centre was opened in 2001) and an entirely new maintenance building all built on the foot print of a yard building that was supposed to only operate and maintain articulated streetcars. All within the same budget!

    The line goes over budget so its cut length is cut back. Thus, the line operates as a incomplete line for 30+ years missing, a major Community College Campus of 25-35,000 full and part time students (Centennial College Progress Campus) as well as the growing community of Malvern. Both places now have to serviced by many, many buses, all at the TTC’s cost. The TTC has resented having to operate this complex system for 3 decades, so you can see why they would rather have it gone than update it again at greater operating costs than if it had been a simple LRT line operating ALRV’s or an extension of the existing subway system. This is on top of the problem that no one has budgeted for, the updating of the aging (31-33 year old) 3km+ concrete, above grade RT car right of way (still not in the RT to LRT Line conversion budget) from Midland through Scarborough Centre to McCowan Station!

    Zwei replies: When I mention that our SkyTrain guideway is rapidly moving towards its best before date, I am treated like I had way to much BC Bud. I am not saying the guideway is falling down but it is deteriorating, especially in our salt laden atmosphere (the Oak Street Bridge some years ago shocked locals when it was found out that a lot of internal rebar had rusted away. In just a few years the Expo Line’s guideway will be 40 years old and TransLink will have to come up with a financial game plan to renovate the guideway. This why TransLink is desperate for a YES vote in the upcoming plebiscite.

    On another matter, I have heard a rumour by two widely different sources, that TransLink may buy the technical patents and jigs for the Mk.2 cars and set up a small production shop in the old fabrication plant that TransLink just re-bought after losing millions in selling the building in the first place. The claim is that TransLink will be refurbishing the Mk.1 cars there, but a reporter phoned me to see if I knew anything about MK.2 cars being built there!