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THE GLOUCESTER RAILWAY CARRIAGE & WAGON COMPANY

AND THE TORONTO SUBWAY

 
                   
 

Unloading the Red Rockets from Gloucester

In 1951 the order for carriages for Canada's first subway in Toronto was won by The Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company in the face of competition from North America and Europe.These cars were originally due to be 48' long - the same length as a Toronto tram - but The Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company advised that 57' would be a better solution in terms of cost, maintenance and efficientcy. However, the old tram gauge of 4' 10 7/8" was perpetuated despite the first use of 90-degree hypoid gearboxes sleeved to the driving axles.

In 1953 deliveries of the 106 cars for Toronto began, not finishing until 1955 and with associated work lasting up to 1959. The first 100 vehicles were steel built and painted red while the final six were aluminium and outshopped in a plain metallic finish. These were influential in later North American subway design.

In the meantime the Gloucester built "Red Rockets" became a part of Toronto life - just as the big red double-decker buses are enduring London icons!

This page offers an appreciation of the Red Rockets by Toronto resident and subway enthusiast Robert Lubinski - to whom I offer my sincerest thanks for both his excellent written research and the acquisition of some splendid photographs!

Cars 5006-5007 pictured in October 1953 just after delivery ( Bill Vigrass )

Cars 5006-5007 pictured in October 1953 just after delivery ( Bill Vigrass )

In 1951 two important Canadians visited GRCW in Bristol Road. W.E.P. Duncan was General Manager and John Inglis Equipment Assistant Manager of the Toronto Transit Commission. Their aim was to select a builder for eight million dollar’s worth of vehicles for Canada’s first subway.

Boarding the train First in Canada 1954 - from an original postcard

Boarding the train First in Canada 1954 - from an original postcard

In 1951 the Wagon Works was on the crest of a post War wave. It had built new Tube stock for London Transport in 1947, and had supplied most of LT’s brake blocks from its Alfred Street subsidiary. GRCW Chairman Sir Leslie Boyce and Managing Director Leslie Smith persuaded the Toronto Transit Commission that a fleet of 104 57’ long cars – rather than 130 48’ vehicles – would save money. The deal was clinched in the teeth of fierce international competition.

Another image from the early days of the subway, when the Gloucesters were still shiny and new, attributed to Julian Bernard, and in the collection of the late Curt Frey. Judging by the snow, it was probably taken early in 1955

Another image from the early days of the subway, when the Gloucesters were still shiny and new, attributed to Julian Bernard, and in the collection of the late Curt Frey. Judging by the snow, it was probably taken early in 1955

A post war shortage of steel threatened the project but luckily the British Board of Trade pulled the right strings and raw materials became available. Each car boasted many advanced features and equipment supplied by famous British firms. The traction motors, traction gearing and controls had all been over-designed and would not overheat even in the most arduous of conditions. The brakes had also been supplied with a moveable fulcrum. This allowed the brakes to be re-set for heavier than anticipated weight, but would still allow the car to stop safely. From the 30th car onward ways were found to trim 200lbs off the weight.

One of a number of bright, airy stations on the Toronto subway

One of a number of bright, airy stations on the Toronto subway

Known as Red Rockets, GRCW’s were the only Toronto subway cars ever to carry the traditional TTC red livery with gold lining. Each car logged more than 1.9 million miles of operation from the inauguration of the subway – on 30 March 1954 - before the last one was retired in September 1990. Not bad for stock that was only designed to last 18 years!

Gloucester built car 5030 sets out for Eglinton

Gloucester built car 5030 sets out for Eglinton

The last of the Rockets pointed the way to future rapid transit developments. The British Aluminium Development Agency reached an agreement with both TTC and GRCW to design and build the four final cars, largely of this novel material for carriage building. In 1962 TTC pioneered 75 feet long aluminium cars – the longest in the World – which set the standards for all North America.

Gloucester built car 5063 ready to reach Union Station

Gloucester built car 5063 ready to reach Union Station

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 Commission’s Hillcrest Training Centre offices. The two pictures immediately above were taken by Janet Illingworth-Cooper and the lower one shows Toronto Subway enginner Frank Roberts ( left ) and Toronto transport historian Ray Corley inspecting the 1/16th scale model train.

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 Commission’s Hillcrest Training Centre offices. The two pictures immediately above were taken by Janet Illingworth-Cooper and the lower one shows Toronto Subway engineer Frank Roberts ( left ) and Toronto transport historian Ray Corley inspecting the 1/16th scale model train.

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 Commission’s Hillcrest Training Centre offices. The two pictures immediately above were taken by Janet Illingworth-Cooper and the lower one shows Toronto Subway engineer Frank Roberts ( left ) and Toronto transport historian Ray Corley inspecting the 1/16th scale model train.

A line-up of G cars at the Davisville Yard with the then-new TTC Head Office building in July 1959: as photographed by the late Gerald H. Landau

A line-up of G cars at the Davisville Yard with the then-new TTC Head Office building in July 1959: as photographed by the late Gerald H. Landau

Another Gerald H. Landau view from July 1959 of a nearly brand-new car 5111, one of the experimental last series of cars delivered in the spring of 1959.  The 5111 was part of a six-car trainset featuring experimental equipment and was not equipped with driving controls, hence the "blind" end with no marker lights or signs.  The 5111 was part of the "G-4" class and included such features as dynamic braking, which resulted in the incorporation of dynamic braking as a standard features on later subway cars.

Another Gerald H. Landau view from July 1959 of a nearly brand-new car 5111, one of the experimental last series of cars delivered in the spring of 1959.  5111 was part of a six-car trainset featuring experimental equipment and was not equipped with driving controls, hence the "blind" end with no marker lights or signs.  The 5111 was part of the "G-4" class and included such features as dynamic braking, which resulted in the incorporation of dynamic braking as a standard features on later subway cars.

Gloucester car with more modern Canadian built metal skinned stock

Gloucester car with more modern Canadian built metal skinned stock

In 1951 the order for carriages for Canada's first subway in Toronto was won by The Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company in the face of competition from North America and Europe.

5077 et al. resting at the Davisville Yard on May 9, 1970 (The late Robert McMann)

5077 et al. resting at the Davisville Yard on May 9, 1970 (The late Robert McMann)

These cars were originally due to be 48' long - the same length as a Toronto tram - but The Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company advised that 57' would be a better solution in terms of cost, maintenance and efficientcy. However, the old tram gauge of 4' 10 7/8" was perpetuated despite the first use of 90 degree hypoid gearboxes sleeved to the driving axles.

A St George bound service passes through Rosedale Station on 29 June 1971 (Joseph Testagrose)

A St George bound service passes through Rosedale Station on 29 June 1971 (Joseph Testagrose)

In 1953 deliveries of the 106 cars for Toronto began, not finishing until 1955 and with associated work lasting up to 1959. The first 100 vehicles were steel built and painted red while the final six were aluminium and outshopped in a plain metallic finish. These were influential in later North American subway design.

A view at Imperial St from Sept 3, 1971 with two of the aluminum G-2 cars leading a train southbound (The late Robert McMann)

A view at Imperial St from Sept 3, 1971 with two of the aluminum G-2 cars leading a train southbound (The late Robert McMann)

In the meantime the Gloucester built "Red Rockets" became a part of Toronto life - just as the big red double decker buses are enduring London icons!

The first four-car set (5035-34-33-32) repainted in the brighter "subway" red - as it was known at the time - captured on July 25, 1972 at Davisville by Ted Wickson (who was the TTC's photographer for many years) Another train is on its way to the terminal at Eglinton in the background.

The first four-car set (5035-34-33-32) repainted in the brighter "subway" red - as it was known at the time - captured on July 25, 1972 at Davisville by Ted Wickson (who was the TTC's photographer for many years) Another train is on its way to the terminal at Eglinton in the background.

In spring 1954, the citizens of Toronto eagerly anticipated the opening of the new subway under Yonge St.

22 August 1972 southbound on the Yonge Subway at Imperial St. Another shot from the late Robert McMann, who took literally tens of thousands of slides of the streetcars, subway, trolley buses and railways around Toronto.

22 August 1972 southbound on the Yonge Subway at Imperial St. Another shot from the late Robert McMann, who took literally tens of thousands of slides of the streetcars, subway, trolley buses and railways around Toronto.

To learn how people got around the city before trains ran underground, I spoke with George Meek, one of Toronto’s eldest transit experts. Born in 1911, the rail fan recalls the network of streetcar lines that covered much of the city -- a great deal of which disappeared after the subway opened.

Another Robert McMann image, from 30 March 1984 taken at Davisville Station, on the subway's 30th anniversary. Cars 5098 and 5099 were freshly painted and decked out with the Year of Celebration motif.

Another Robert McMann image, from 30 March 1984 taken at Davisville Station, on the subway's 30th anniversary. Cars 5098 and 5099 were freshly painted and decked out with the Year of Celebration motif.

He reels off for me the history of Toronto’s trams -- in 1861 came the first horse-drawn cars, by 1891 they were replaced with electric vehicles and in 1921, the city’s myriad transit companies were amalgamated into the Toronto Transportation Commission.

Another outstanding Robert McMann view from 31 March 1984, with 5099 leading a train southbound on the Yonge subway at Imperial St, sporting its "Year of Celebration" special paint scheme.

Another outstanding Robert McMann view from 31 March 1984, with 5099 leading a train southbound on the Yonge subway at Imperial St, sporting its "Year of Celebration" special paint scheme.

The same year a new streetcar, named for a Cleveland Street Railway official, was introduced -- and a young George Meek saw the "Peter Witt" on display that summer at the Canadian National Exhibition. The "Witt cars" remained common even after the newer, sleeker Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) streetcar arrived in the 1930s. Although the larger vehicle came to symbolize Toronto transit, both varieties plied the tracks up and down Yonge Street until the day the subway opened in 1954.

Another excellent view by Robert McMann, taken on 8 May 1985 just outside the Eglinton West Station. What better contrast than spring green grass and the bright red of a Gloucester train!

Another excellent view by Robert McMann, taken on 8 May 1985 just outside the Eglinton West Station. What better contrast than spring green grass and the bright red of a Gloucester train!

Says Mr. Meek, "Up until they got the PCC cars, about half the streetcars in Toronto could pull a trailer (for passengers). They only had motors in one car, and the trailer had no motors at all, so obviously the speed was a little bit slower. They had one extra man as a conductor on the trailer. The front car always had two - the conductor in the centre of the car to collect the tickets, and the motorman at the front to drive the car." With a wry smile, he adds, "In fact, the early cars even had a little doorway there, so the motorman could close off the wicked public from himself."

Robert McMann's view on 9 May 1987is of 5024 leading an 8-car train southbound on the Spadina Subway at Aldburn Rd

Robert McMann's view on 9 May 1987is of 5024 leading an 8-car train southbound on the Spadina Subway at Aldburn Rd

"I still remember riding up Yonge Street to somewhere in the vicinity of Lawrence Avenue. I got on the Yonge streetcar at Bloor, and then somewhere at St. Clair this woman got on. I was sitting at the back - the back of the car had a curved five or six-person seat - and apparently I was sitting in ‘her seat’. ‘Move over.’" she mumbled to him. Meek says, "North Yonge was always a peculiar place in some little ways."

Cars 5099 and 5098 lead TTCs last train of Gloucester built stock out of Davisville Station on a rush hour relief train on 30 August 1990, just a month before retirement

Cars 5099 and 5098 lead TTCs last train of Gloucester built stock out of Davisville Station on a rush hour relief train on 30 August 1990, just a month before retirement

Eventually, the world’s longest street would lose its crowded streetcars to underground trains. Says Mr. Meek, "In due course, the subway cars came by ocean -- over the deep blue sea from England." After looking across North America, TTC officials found the vehicles they needed from the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company. When the red Gloucester cars, (pronounced "Gloster") finally came to Toronto, Meek says the first two were again delivered to the CNE -- where they were a huge hit with the public.

This is a rare view of the cars being scrapped was taken by Patrick Semple in March 1991 at the Wilson Yard. Car 5000 (sadly not preserved) is being lifted from its trucks. Mr. Semple was able to photograph the entire sequence of the car being lifted and set down on the ground. He was also able to photograph the remainder of the first trainset being lifted (cars 5201, 5200 and 5001) and set down on the ground side by side in preparation for scrapping. Car 5008 is visible to the left, having already been prepared for demolition. The windows were removed, and the roofs were cut from the car bodies.

This is a rare view of the cars being scrapped was taken by Patrick Semple in March 1991 at the Wilson Yard. Car 5000 (sadly not preserved) is being lifted from its trucks. Mr. Semple was able to photograph the entire sequence of the car being lifted and set down on the ground. He was also able to photograph the remainder of the first trainset being lifted (cars 5201, 5200 and 5001) and set down on the ground side by side in preparation for scrapping. Car 5008 is visible to the left, having already been prepared for demolition. The windows were removed, and the roofs were cut from the car bodies.

"One dark night, when the Exhibition was over, they took them up Bathurst St., along St. Clair and up Yonge -- and ran them onto a track that went into the Davisville Yard." So the subway cars travelled on existing streetcar tracks to the train storage yard near Davisville station? Yes, he says, "they were on the street, and not only that, but they had a couple of policemen (as escort), because the cars were 10 feet wide, and that was far wider than the normal streetcar."

Car 5200, first of the G-3 series, is seen being hoisted from its wheels on a sad day in March 1991.

Car 5200, first of the G-3 series, is seen being hoisted from its wheels on a sad day in March 1991.

The subway’s inaugural celebration took place on March 30, 1954. "At noon on the opening day I went over to have a last ride on Yonge Street, and rode down to Union Station by streetcar." According to Meek, trams would run along Front Street in front of the station and turn around just to the west, near Simcoe Street.

Glen Franks took this view on August 30, 1991, when car 5099 was being delivered to the Halton County Radial Railway Museum. The car was shipped by rail to a nearby siding, and then taken by flatbed to the museum. Car 5098 was delivered a couple of weeks later, by the same method. The Halton County museum has made one of the TTC work cars (which utilized Gloucester controls and equipment as well as trucks - effectively a Gloucester-built flat car with the body supplied by the TTC) operational again and it is carrying on its work duties at the museum.  The TTC had two such cars, and the museum has both of them  preserved.  The two subway cars are apparently to be put into indoor storage when the new storage building is completed.  They look a little worse for wear, but body work has been done on them to keep them from deteriorating and apparently they are operational.

Glen Franks took this view on August 30, 1991, when car 5099 was being delivered to the Halton County Radial Railway Museum. The car was shipped by rail to a nearby siding, and then taken by flatbed to the museum. Car 5098 was delivered a couple of weeks later, by the same method. The Halton County museum has made one of the TTC work cars (which utilized Gloucester controls and equipment as well as trucks - effectively a Gloucester-built flat car with the body supplied by the TTC) operational again and it is carrying on its work duties at the museum.  The TTC had two such cars, and the museum has both of them  preserved.  The two subway cars are apparently to be put into indoor storage when the new storage building is completed.  They look a little worse for wear, but body work has been done on them to keep them from deteriorating and apparently they are operational.

"So I was standing in front of the Union Station, and there was a (northbound) streetcar. Instead of going down to the subway, I decided to have a last ride up Yonge Street. So I got on the trailer of the car -- somewhere I still have a transfer with the conductor’s name signed on it. I think I was pretty well 99 per cent of the (passenger) traffic on the ride up Yonge."

RT-34 at the Greenwood Yard, taken on 20 December 2003. Robert Lubinski zoomed in for a close-up as there was a lot of equipment and supplies piled up - making a photo of the entire rail grinding train difficult. One of the rail grinding units is visible behind the car. The red and white "candy-cane" reflective striping had only recently been applied and the Tomlinson-type coupler - which all the work cars received so they could couple with other flat cars and trailers - can also be seen.

RT-34 at the Greenwood Yard, taken on 20 December 2003. Robert Lubinski zoomed in for a close-up as there was a lot of equipment and supplies piled up - making a photo of the entire rail grinding train difficult. One of the rail grinding units is visible behind the car. The red and white "candy-cane" reflective striping had only recently been applied and the Tomlinson-type coupler - which all the work cars received so they could couple with other flat cars and trailers - can also be seen. This car was damaged in a collision in the subway in March 2004 and has unfortunately not been repaired, merely covered and parked at the south end of the Greenwood Yard along with another G car, thus leaving only two operational G cars in the subway: one of the aluminum cars and one of the original steel cars. 

 
                   
  FLEET NUMBERS CLASS MANUFACTURER YEAR BUILT LENGTH SEATS  
                   
  5000-5099 G-1 Gloucester RCW 1953-1954 57" 62  
  Delivered July 1953 to March 1954. 5068-5069 converted to service cars RT-36/37 (grinding train power units) on 4 February 1991. All retired. 5066-5067 & 5074-5075 held for future conversion to service cars. 5098 and 5099 donated to Halton County Radial Railway Museum and now owned by the Ontario Electric Railway Historical Association of Rockwood Ontario  
                   
  5100-5105 G-2 Gloucester RCW 1954 57" 62      
  Delivered December 1954 to June 1955. All retired.      
                   
  Non-driving motor cars permanently coupled with mating G-1 cars (50XX-52YY-52XX-50YY)      
                   
  5200-5227 G-3 Gloucester RCW 1955 57" 62      
  Delivered July 1956-November 1956 All retired.        
                   
  5110-5115 G-4 Gloucester RCW 1955 57" 62      
  Delivered July 1958 to March 1959 Experimental cars built as an integral train (5110-5111-5112-5113-5114-5115) electro-dynamic braking equipment and motors removed April 1966 through March 1967 for installation in service cars), and remarshalled as: 5110-511, 5030-5111-5114-5031.All retired.