Like everyone else, the TTC experienced hard times during the Great Depression. Construction and rebuilding projects were initiated to provide work for employees. For example, from 1930 to 1939, 49 miles of single track and 124 miles of trolley wire were replaced. The transit workers’ union also made concessions by accepting pay cuts, and gradually the number of operators on streetcars was reduced from two to just one. In this way workforce stability was maintained and the Commission did not have to endure the massive layoffs experienced in other industries.


Workers are installing two parallel sets of streetcar tracks on the road. Other workers are standing in a crane lift and on a tall ladder to install overhead wires.
Track and overhead wire work on Bay Street, looking south from Grenville Street
August 19, 1930
Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 7978.


Falling ridership was a troubling development, prompting the TTC in 1933 to join forces with other street railway companies to develop a new kind of streetcar. They realized that private automobiles were the competition, and that it was necessary to devise a speedy and comfortable vehicle to attract riders back to public transportation.


A well-dressed couple standing in front of a shiny automobile.
This new Frontenac sedan was an elegant way to get around town.
Fonds 1244, Item 2510.
A man is standing in front of an automobile on a dirt road. His hand is resting on the open door.
Intrepid travellers braved rural roads in their personal automobiles for the sake of convenience.
Fonds 1247, Series 1057, Item 9497.


The answer to the problem was a new streetcar. The Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) designed just such a new ride, complete with the snazzy streamlined look that was all the rage in the 1930s. In 1938, the TTC placed an order for 140 new PCC streetcars at a cost of $22,300 each. By late September, the St. Clair line was the first route to be operated entirely with PCCs, and by December, base services on the Bloor and Dundas lines were also turned over to the PCC streetcar.


A red and cream coloured streetcar is shown beside a title that reads "New cars! Fast, quiet, smooth--for TTC passengers."
TTC Brochure for the new PCC streetcar (cover)
Fonds 516, Series 2211, File 21.


Workers are gathered around a shiny streetcar that sits on an open train car bed.
Brand new PCC streetcar being unloaded at the Hillcrest Yard
August 20, 1938
Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 12613.


The new streetcars were an immediate hit with riders. Compared to the Witt cars, they were better at accelerating and braking, and therefore much faster. They had comfortable padded seats, electric heating, and much reduced noise and vibration. So popular were the new streamliners, that an order for another 50 PCCs was placed in the fall of 1940.

After the Second World War, the TTC engaged in a rebuilding and modernization program that saw them purchase another 250 PCC streetcars. By the early 1950s most US cities were abandoning the use of street railways in favour of buses. However, the Commission remained committed to streetcars as they were well suited to Toronto’s narrow streets and short blocks. With American cities phasing out streetcars, the TTC was able to acquire 205 second-hand PCC’s at bargain-basement prices. By 1957, Toronto had the largest fleet in the world by purchasing 745 streamliners.


A red and cream coloured streetcar drives past large concrete silos painted with the words "Use Dominion Coal."
Red Rocket heading north on Mount Pleasant Road at Merton Street
July 1973
Fonds 124, File 3, Item 25.
A red and cream coloured streetcar on the road.
PCC streetcar at the intersection of Dundas St. E. and Broadview Avenue. This car had received its major life-extension rebuild in the 1970s, which included repainting in a brighter shade of red.
[ca. 1983]
Fonds 200, Series 1465, File 597, Item 49.


In November 1972, the TTC voted to continue streetcar operation indefinitely. Their PCC cars would be overhauled, sometimes more than once, to extend their lives. In the late 1980s, the last 19 were rebuilt yet again to provide service on the Harbourfront LRT which opened in 1990, and on other routes during rush hour. Finally, on December 8, 1995, the last regular service run of the venerable PCC streetcar was completed.


Two police on brown and white horses ride beside a red and yellow painted streetcar.
Restored vintage PCC streetcar in maroon and cream livery, at Fleet Loop, near the east entrance to the CNE grounds. This is one of two 1951-vintage PCCs retained by the TTC as part of the heritage fleet.
October 14, 2009
Photographer: Anne de Haas
Fonds 540, Item 236.