There’s a long tradition at the Canadian National Exhibition of showing off new products — from farm implements and kitchen gadgets to transit vehicles.
If you head down to the 129th edition of the Ex, look near the Princes’ Gates for two life-size models of streetcars that might carry passengers around Toronto as soon as 2012.
Aptly placed across from the popular Duelling Human Cannonballs show, these light-rail “mock-ups” were shipped in by their manufacturers Bombardier and Siemens to give fair-goers a firsthand look.
Siemens Canada is obviously trying to get some attention for its new “Combino Plus” vehicle. The subsidiary of the worldwide German firm is aiming at transit users with big advertisements and a website showing videos of their car travelling through Toronto (hypothetically) and Melbourne, Australia (in an actual test).
Some observers believe rival Bombardier may already have a head start in reaching the public — not only because it has parked its “Flexity” model around Toronto on several occasions, but because the company is Canadian-based.
Streetcar builders Vossloh Kiepe (which has a small display in the CNE’s Music Building) and Skoda are the other two firms in the running to supply over 200 low-floor trams to replace the TTC’s existing high-floor fleet.
I expect we’ll hear more from them, considering that Toronto’s ambitious Transit City light-rail network could require another 200-plus streetcars.
Add in proposed LRT lines in Mississauga and elsewhere in Ontario, and there is the prospect of billions to be made selling modern-day trolleys.
Back in June and July, thousands of TTC customers commented on what they’d like to see in new streetcars for Toronto. People had a lot to say, covering everything from paint schemes to the number and arrangement of seats and doors.
Transit officials are also preparing specific requirements so that new cars can navigate Toronto’s unique street rails. TTC tracks are wider than other cities and it seems we have the tightest curves anywhere.
A request for proposals would likely go out in October for a vehicle that can handle not only our geography and climate but also the particular tastes of TTC riders.
By taking the time to walk through the mock-up vehicles, you’ll be following the path of Torontonians who got sneak peeks of previous streetcars. TTC models known as the Peter Witt, PCC Streamliner and the current “CLRV” debuted at the CNE in 1921, 1938 and 1978.
Historian Mike Filey confirms the TTC’s first subway cars were also showcased at the fair in 1953.
Those of you above the age of 35 may recall these “Gloucester” trains — they were painted red, had greenish interiors and the windows even opened.