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H-4 Subway Train Farewell charter:

H-4 Subway Train Farewell charter:




            In spring of 2011, the Toronto Transportation Society approached the TTC to do a farewell charter to the H-4 subway trains which were due to be retired by the end of 2011 with the Toronto Rocket subway trains entering service. The H-4s are the longest running subway cars on the TTC network running for 40 years! The TTC doesn’t usually charter subway trains but the Toronto Transportation Society had pulled of two; one in 1990 and one in 1999. I was able to attend the 1999 farewell charter to the M-1 subway cars.


            After some discussion with TTC, the charter was approved. We had first planned to charter a four car train of H-4s with the intent to take it on the Sheppard line which uses four car trains, but less than a week before the charter, the TTC said they could only do a six car train which meant we couldn’t go on the Sheppard line. The date of the Charter was September 11; the 10th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil and the reason why photographers have been having problems taking pictures. The event happened as follows:


September 11, 2011:


            I got to Finch around 9:30 am. I encountered someone else who was going on the charter.  I paid the fare and went to the platform. I boarded a train of T-1 subway cars and rode to Bloor. The last two subway charters started at Davisville. However, this charter was starting at Lower Bay. I will go into details about Lower Bay later.


            At Bloor I got off and transferred to the Bloor line and rode another train of T-1s one stop west to Bay station. I got off and watched the train leave. I then went upstairs to the collectors’ booth area where I checked in for the charter. There would be 90 people attending this charter. However the 1999 M-1 Charter had 120 people. Gradually other people showed up including my friend Mark. Before Mark showed up however, I went down to the platform and saw an H-4 train passing non-stop. I missed the first two cars but saw the middle two and filmed the last two. I could tell that this would be our train.


            When the Bloor-Danforth subway line first opened in 1966, it ran combined with the Yonge-University line. A train going west could have terminated at Keele which was the western end at the time, or just past the Yonge station it would have diverged and stopped at Lower Bay before connecting with the University line just north of Museum station. Eastbound trains would either go to Woodbine on the Bloor line or diverge just east of the Spadina station and go uphill and stop at the St. George station on the University line. This arrangement lasted only six months. As a result of signaling problems and ridership confusion, it was decided to run the Bloor-Danforth line separate from the Yonge-University line. Lower Bay was closed off.


            Lower Bay was often used for movie shoots; often TTC subway cars would be lettered for other subway systems. I first visited Lower Bay in 1999 on the M-1 charter. At the time, it was dark. However, in recent years, the TTC replaced burnt out bulbs making the station brighter. They’ve even opened it up on two occasions for the public to see. There were three occasions where because of track work west of Upper Bay, TTC diverted Bloor trains through Lower Bay to Museum where they made people switch trains.


            On the day of the H-4 charter, the switch north of Museum was out of service, so they had to run our charter train from Greenwood yard west to just before Ossington where the train pulled into a pocket track and changed ends. It then headed east to Spadina where it went up the “Spadina Ramp” and connected with the University line. It then ran to just past Osgoode where it pulled into another pocket track and changed ends again and headed to Lower Bay.


            TTS newsletter editor Adam Zelka handed out the latest two issues of Transfer Points. One issue had an article on the H-1 through H-4 subway trains. I learned that when the TTC ordered the 88 H-4 cars, they could have ordered additional cars to replace the Gloucester cars, but it would have taken longer for the cars to arrive and at the time the TTC urgently needed subway cars. Had that happened, the Gloucesters which are my all time favourite subway cars would have been gone before I was born!


            After our train had arrived into Lower Bay following its longer route, a TTC supervisor escorted us into the station. As it was in the case of the M-1 charter, only the front and rear cars were open. I put my backpack in the first car which was #5648. The cars in the train were as follows: 5648-5649-5655-5654-5622-5623. I took some photos of Lower Bay and our charter train before I got on board.












            We got on the train and the door chimes went off and the train departed. We joined the Bloor-Danforth line west of the Yonge station. We ran through the stations non-stop. One other charter attendee made faces at the people on the platform as we passed! However, he was told to stop which he did.


            East of Castle Frank, we crossed over the Bloor Viaduct and through Broadview station. The Bloor Viaduct was built in 1916. When it was built, they put decking below the road for streetcars but it wasn’t used for 50 years until the Bloor-Danforth subway was built and opened. That bit of foresight saved the TTC A LOT of money!


            I didn’t think to take my friend Bill over the viaduct when he visited Toronto in early 2009. It would have been a minor detour from the route we did take.


            Our first photo stop was Kennedy station; the present terminal for the Bloor-Danforth subway. We pulled in on the South Track. The station made announcements that regular passengers were not to board our train. We noticed an H-6 train in the pocket track past the end of the station. We took some photos.




            I walked to the end of the platform and took some more photos.




            Meanwhile a train of T-1s entered on the other track. I saw that one of the cars was #5041 which was one of two T-1s that were damaged in March of 2004 in a collision with one of the few remaining Gloucester work trains. I photographed the T-1.



            I boarded car 5623 and other people on the charter boarded and we soon departed. We then headed to Greenwood Yard. I caught a glimpse of the oldest H-4 cars in service: 5580 and 5581 on another train parking in the yard. I was hoping that those two cars would have been in the charter train along with other people, but that wasn’t the case.


            I took some photos and videos. This was most certainly different than from all the times I rode GO and VIA past the yard and filmed it as I passed! At one point I saw H-4 car 5630 by itself and H-4 car 5602 coupled back to back with 5639. I later learned that those two and their original mates were retired.






            We stopped a couple times to wait for permission to proceed. One of the times was just south of the Greenwood portal where the Gloucester rail grinder collided with the T-1s.


            We finally proceeded onto the Bloor Danforth line; joining the line just east of Donlands station. We ran non-stop to Kipling, the western end of the Bloor-Danforth line. I took some photos.





            I made my way to the other end of the platform and photographed 5648.




            At one point an in-service H-6 train arrived at the other side of the platform. I saw the car that would lead the train east still had black paint around the headlights. I photographed it.



            I boarded 5648 and we departed Kipling. We then proceeded non stop along the Bloor-Danforth line to Spadina where we diverged up the Spadina ramp and connected to the University line and ran through St. George and Museum stations. I noted to myself this was the first time in 12 years I had ridden a first generation H-class train on the line! {The first generation H-class trains are the H-1 through H-4. The second generation H-class trains are the H-5s and H-6s.}


            As we proceeded, I spoke with other charter attendees. There was a girl from Ryerson University on the charter and she interviewed another charter attendee and me for an article she was doing for Ryerson’s paper.


            Our next stop was at Finch. Before we arrived, I wondered if we would go into the tail track at Finch Station like we did on the M-1 charter in 1999. However there was a train of Toronto Rocket subway cars in the track, so I figured we weren’t and was proven right. In the meantime, I took some photos.






Here’s the Toronto Rocket train in the Finch tail track.


            In the meantime another Toronto Rocket train pulled in at the other side. We took some photos of it. It was interesting to see one of the oldest trains and one of the youngest trains side by side since they run on separate lines. I took some photos





            The Toronto Rocket departed. I realized there were now three Toronto Rocket trains in service. At one point, I went upstairs and bought a bag of chips and a chocolate bar before I returned to the train. I boarded car 5648 before the train left. I was now in the rear car. I resigned myself for the long ride to Downsview.


            When we got to Downsview, we saw the Toronto Rocket was now in the tail track just past the station. We took some photos.






            With the H-4s running on the Bloor-Danforth line, I have no idea if any H-4s had ever made it to Downsview prior to the charter. When the M-1 charter visited Downsview in 1999, it was the first and only time an M-1 train entered Downsview station.


            I boarded car 5623 as everyone else boarded the charter train. We departed Downsview.


            We came out into the open and departed the main line and entered Wilson yard. On the M-1 charter, we were unable to go into Wilson yard.


            The train pulled into the tail track almost to the end and stopped. While we were stopped, a Toronto Rocket train passed heading towards Downsview. We changed ends and went around the yard. I took some photos and some videos of various pieces of equipment in the yard.








            I looked for H-5 car #5717 which had suffered fire damage back in June but didn’t see it. Given the fact the H-4s, H-5s, and H-6s are going to be retired soon, the TTC won’t repair 5717. While the H-4s will be scrapped after retirement, many of the H-5s and H-6s will be sold second hand to Lagos, Nigeria for use on their rapid transit system! Hopefully that will happen. The TTC nearly sold 120 Gloucester cars to Lima, Peru in 1990, but Lima was unable to come up with the money to buy the cars so they were unfortunately scrapped.


            The charter train then stopped at a platform trains usually stop at before entering service or coming out of service. We were allowed out onto the narrow platform. I took some photos.





Here’s a photo of our charter train taken from an unusual (from the subway) angle. Don’t worry, I was being careful.




            I then made my way to the front of the train.



Don’t get our here!



            I boarded car 5623. The train soon departed once everyone was on board. The train headed down to St. Andrew then pulled into the pocket train just before Union and changed ends. We then headed back north along the University line to Museum where we took the switch and ended up in Lower Bay again. This was the end of the charter. I took some photos.








            I then made my way to the front car and took some more photos both inside and outside the train.





            Just then the door chimes rang and the doors closed. I took some more photos and waited for the train to depart.



            The train didn’t leave. The supervisor told us that we should head up to upper Bay. I would be unable to film the charter train leaving. I took two more photos before I headed upstairs.




            Once upstairs, I waited for Mark to put his monopod away. An eastbound train of T-1s arrived then left. Other people on the charter were going to look for the Toronto Rocket train.


            However Mark and I decided to go home. Mark and I boarded the next eastbound train and rode one stop to Yonge where we switched to the Yonge line and rode north to Finch. Mark then gave me a ride home.




            It was a bit disappointing not to have gotten a four car train of H-4s so we could go on the Sheppard Line. That would have been a really rare opportunity to photograph a train other than a T-1 on the line. I would have preferred to have H-4 cars 5580 and 5581 be on the train since they are the oldest cars on the system right now.


            Aside from that, the charter was great. I liked getting to ride through Wilson and Greenwood yards as well as ride a first generation H-class train on the Yonge-University-Spadina line again.


            Subway charters in Toronto are rare so I thought I’d give people an idea of what one is like. I have no idea when the next subway charter will be, but most likely not for 10+ years.