"GLOUCESTER TRAINS KEEP CITY MOVING"
|This article first appeared in the Gloucester Journal of 25 February 1991 and was written by Gloucester based Canadian journalist Janet Illingworth-Cooper at the time that the last of Toronto's "Red Rockets" were going out of service.|
|Forty years ago the Gloucester
Railway Carriage and Wagon Company Limited won - over
intense competition from UK, European and North American
manufacturers of rolling stock - an 8 million dollar
order to supply the cars for Canada's first subway system
Since the official opening of the 4.5 mile Yonge Street subway on 30 March 1954, the 140 Gloucester built cars have travelled more than 250 million miles, each annually covering an average of 52 000 miles - the equivalent of two trips around the Equator.
The last two Gloucester cars still carrying passengers went out of service at the end of october last year and are now undergoing conversion. Soon they will join the team of vehicles maintaining and repairing the system after regular services have ceased.
News that the remaining 114 recently-retired cars are at this moment being broken up for scrap created a surge of local enthusiasm for bringing one of them back home to Gloucester. Just last week the Toronto Transit Commission responded positively to this by generously offering to move in and rescue one and donate it to the City. This has coincided with a clear strengthening of interest in establishing a museum of transport and industrial heritage in Gloucester. The TTC offer could well mobilise a broad base of support tomove the museum idea forward.
The Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company itself, founded as the Gloucester Wagon Company Limited in 1860, has disappeared from the City. As one of the companies held by Powell Dufryn, it has since 1986 concentrated mainly on wagon repair work operating from the MaindyWorks in Cardiff. Despite the historical importance of the company's contribution to the life and economy of Gloucester for more than a century, its, its 27 acre Bristol Road works and offices have all received the bulldozer treatment - although mercifully much in the way of documentation and photographs is held by the Records Office.
It is a tribute to the high standards achieved by GRCW that, with a projected life span of 15 to 18 years, the cars they built for Toronto served the system well for double that length of time. TTC historian Ray Corley is not alone in recognising that they represented excellent examples of a sound investment in reliable transportation.
"The G-Cars have an enviable record. They consistently performed well, with mean miles per defect running equal or better than their newer counterparts half their age" he points out.
More recently, the TTC obtained cars from Montreal Locomotive Works (1960) and Hawker Siddeley Canada Ltd (1975) as its subway network steadily expanded more than sevenfold until today there are 35.3 miles of track and 60 stations instead of the original 12.
When the TTC's specification for a proposed 130 car fleet were received back in 1951, it was GRCW's Chief Engineer Fred Sinclair who, with Chairman of the Board Sir Leslie Boyce and Managing Director Leslie Smith, proposed the economy of changing the length of each car from 49 to 57 feet, so that only 104 cars would be required.
By accepting this change, the TTC would save 47% and 63% over the quotations of GRCW's two closest competitiors; they would also eliminate the cost of expensive components such as couplers, trucks, traction and brake controls and driver's cabs - as well as maintenance costs - for 26 cars. An estimated overall saving of half a million pounds was enough to convince the TTC.
Mr Sinclair, now 87, reveals that 400 to 500 drawings of each car to specification were required. "Fortunately," he adds, " I had a team of 60 draughtsmen and tracers to carry out this work."
Critical to the whole enterprise was the arrival of the fleet of cars to coincide with completion of subway construction. A potential problem here was the shortage of steel in post-War Britain, when so much was then required for reconstruction and industrial production. Fortunately the British Board of Trade was persuaded very considerable pressure at high levels - even delaying a military order for tank recovery vehicles - to ensure that deadlines would be met.
During both initial engineering and early construction phases, the TTC's Supervisor of Rolling Stock John Inglis and Shops Supervisor L.W. Bardsley worked in the Gloucester plant. They reported back that the job was proceeding smoothly and that GRCW were bending over backwards to ensure high quality.
Little did they know that on a day to be labelled Black Sunday when the first completed cars were pulled out to be weighed, each would tip the scales at more than 25 000 lbs over the contracted weight of 60 400 lbs.
With time running short, the only option was to continue production, examine the various effects of additional weight on operation, and find the best compromises. There was great relief when it was discovered that the traction motors - a prime area of concern - had been over designed and would not overheat in more arduous service. Likewise, traction gearing and controls both had sufficient reserve capacity to cope.
The brakes were another stroke of good luck. The supplier had designed each brake shoe unit with a moveable fulcrum for the internal force-multiplying lever. This had been set for the expected car weight, but the range available was sufficient for the heavier cars. After the shock of Black Sunday, certain weight restriction measures were taken, trimming 2 000 lb off all cars from the 30th onward.
The first two cars were delivered in July 1953. These and all subsequent cars were taken by rail to Bristol on special accommodation bogies with a side-shift capability for adjusting clearances where necessary en route. They were then shipped from Avonmouth to the ports of Montreal, Halifax or St John, depending on the time of year.
|Early in the car construction
phase, the British Aluminium Development Agency -
promoting the use of aluminium in railway passenger car
construction - worked out an agreement with the TTC and
GRCW to design and build the final four cars of the 104
largely of this newly available material. Its light
weight was an obvious attraction, but long life and
substantial maintenance economies entered into the
picture. In the event six such cars were built and
shipped in 1955, bringing the total fleet - numbered 5000
to 5105 - to 106.
When in 1955 the Queen visited the City of Gloucester to honour the 800th anniversary of the granting of its first Charter, she and Prince Phillip toured the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company works and inspected the innovative aluminium cars just before they were due to be shipped to Canada.
With the last cars on their way to Canada, the thoughts of some 400 GRCW workers turned to holiday planning. In order to meet the delivery schedules, each had volunteered to forego a week's holiday and take this once the job was completed.
|There remains one part of TTC which is forever Gloucester. Two 1/16 scale models of cars 5042 and 5043 were commissioned by Sir Leslie Boyce from the famous firm of Basset Lowke and presented to his clients at an inaugural meal on the first day of operations. Today they hold pride of place in the foyer of the Commissions Hillcrest Training Centre offices. This picture was taken by Janet Illingworth-Cooper and shows Toronto Subway engineer Frank Roberts ( left ) and Toronto transport historian Ray Corley inspecting the 1/16th scale model train.|
|Sir Leslie Boyce had meanwhile
commissioned Basset Lowke, England's premier model
makers, to construct a 1/16th scale model of cars 5042
and 5043. This he presented to the TTC during the
inaugural luncheon on opening dayand it still holds pride
of place in the foyer of their Hillcrest Training Centre
By 1979, when celebrations were mounted to mark the subway's 25th anniversary, it had carried over three billion passengers. Motorman Finlay McLeod, driver of the very first eight car train to speed down the rails, was brought out of retirement to do it again with the same eight cars.
For the 30th anniversary in 1984, the last two of these cars became a rolling exhibit, travelling the line with a display of the subway system's history, of which they themselves were a part.
The TTC has already set aside two G cars for its own transport museum and it is to be hoped that Gloucestrians will themselves soon have one to provide tangible evidence of the quality of Gloucester craftsmanship.