On Track – Your first view of Toronto’s Crosstown’s light rail vehicles in motion

During our ongoing Crosstown Progress series, looking at every major element of Toronto’s Crosstown light rail transit project, we’ve seen work on the line, but haven’t seen the machines that will run on those rails. That changes today. Our Metrolinx light rail vehicles are being tested, and we can finally show you how they look while on the move.

Bigger than any baby, our next generation of transit vehicle is taking first public steps – and we could not be prouder.

The giant doors of the Eglinton Crosstown Maintenance Facility, at Toronto’s Mount Dennis station, are swinging open, as Metrolinx unveils our line of new light rail vehicles (LRV). Before today, the tinkering and tightening has largely been far out of sight of the public. Now it’s time to open those bay doors and let our LRVs play – and be tested – outside.

The inside of the LRV with blue and green seats and plenty of standing room.

Your seat is waiting – The inside of the LRV, and room for 200 customers. (Photo by Nitish Bissonauth)

“I had a chance to take the controls of one of the new vehicles on Thursday and take it for a test drive, and it’s excellent,” says Phil Verster, Metrolinx President and CEO. “Our customers are going to have a phenomenal experience

“This is a very exciting milestone for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT (light rail transit) project and for Metrolinx. Our commercial and project management with Bombardier is delivering what we expected.”

An artist concept of a sleek and long light rail transit vehicle, with a black and white exterior.

And they’re off – An LRT is shown in an artist concept. The vehicles are now being tested at Crosstown facilities, and will one day be common on routes in Toronto.

The smooth and quick vehicles will soon provide much needed transit to neighbourhoods along the 19-kilometre route of Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown LRT line.

The driver's seat is shown, with three screens and plenty of buttons.

Driver’s seat – The view from the operator’s position inside the light rail vehicle. (Photo by Nitish Bissonauth)

Metrolinx and its constructor, Crosslinx Transit Solution (CTS), have been conducting low-speed vehicle testing at the Eglinton Maintenance and Storage Facility (EMSF). During a press event on May 22, 2019, the vehicles operated under their own power. As well, it was the first public testing of the EMSF systems.

“I like the sleek looking, modern design of the vehicle – in transit terms I consider them quite sexy,” says Gord Campbell, CTS’s Revenue Vehicle Manager.

Photo of a Crosstown light rail vehicle.

Photo of a Crosstown light rail vehicle on May 22, 2019 (Photo by Nitish Bissonauth)

The LRVs are classy and not flashy. The vehicles have a neutral exterior with no brand colour – just simple black and white.

The livery choice was very specific. Once in service, the light rail transit line will be considered part of the subway system, and known as ‘Eglinton Line 5’. Since the underground TTC vehicles have a metal finish, the idea was the LRV colour scheme would resemble them.

Side angle photo of a Crosstown light rail vehicle on May 22, 2019.

Shot of a Crosstown light rail vehicle on May 22, 2019.

They now move around easily. But getting them to Toronto by road, and then offloading them, was no simple feat.

“The logistics were so well choreographed,” says Campbell. “Bombardier was providing continuous updates on where the delivery truck was located along the highways of Ontario.”

A truck hauls the LRV down a single-lane highway, as it heads toward Toronto.

The carrier that hauled the oversized LRV was specially made.

A photo shows an LRV on the back of a large flatbed truck, while driving on the highway.

The first of many LRVs making its way down the 401 toward the Eglinton Crosstown Maintenance Facility.

The vehicles were moved thanks to a special tractor flatbed designed for the extra-long and heavy load. Once on site, an offloading ramp was used to get the first LRV down from the trailer. An electric rail car mover then pulled the vehicle down the ramp onto the tracks of the EMSF.

Campbell remembers that first delivery day in January, 2019, like it was yesterday.

“The atmosphere around the shop was exciting,” he recalls. “As the LRV cleared the front gates of the facility, most employees stopped their work to watch the LRV parade past their window.

“We had the same feeling as a child’s excitement of waking up on Christmas morning and getting a special gift from Santa.”

The first LRV is slowly offloaded from the flatbed of a truck by crews.

Those on site got a chance to witness history as the first LRV enters the EMSF for the very first time.

Crews inspect an arriving LRV inside a Crosstown facility. the interior is large and bright, as the vehicle is slowly wheeled in.

Inside the Eglinton Crosstown Maintenance Facility, where the vehicles are worked on, the energy was electric on the day the first LRV arrived – and not just because of the DC power used.

For many working on the project, the initial delivery was a career high.

The new transit machines can achieve speeds of 80km/hr. The actual working speed will be determined by the spacing between stops and the dwells at those stops.

The vehicles will carry 200 passengers – that`s three times as many riders as a typical bus – and will use DC power. They will also have traction inverters onboard to use three-phase AC motors. That means quick and smooth power and braking.

Prior to the May 22 media event, tests were performed without any problems or serious challenges, which confirmed to Campbell and his team that all the major components of the infrastructure were installed properly. That includes the interface of the LRV with the tracks, the yard switches, clearances with the yard poles and the Overhead Catenary System (OCS).

“I have great confidence in the success of this project here in Toronto,” says Campbell, who`s been in the rail industry for 40 years.

“Time will ultimately tell on how the vehicles will perform, but we have the expertise on hand to make sure any bugs will be worked out.”

Gord Campbell is shown watching the first LRV being delivered inside the Crosstown maintenance facility.

Gord Campbell, shown facing the camera with his team nearby, is looking forward to the future of transit in Toronto.

Campbell also points out the LRVs are a slight derivation of the current TTC streetcars and Region of Waterloo vehicles – an advantage as the manufacturer has had time to work on improvements.

The Crosstown LRVs produce zero emissions and will travel on a dedicated right-of-way, so they won’t impede traffic.

They`re also used to extreme cold and snow, and are used in cities like Edmonton, Minneapolis and Stockholm. Toronto weather should not be a problem.

The rest of the LRV deliveries are underway and will continue until all 76 LRVs have arrived in 2021 – when the Eglinton Crosstown is expected to be in service.

Until then, we proudly present the first public steps.

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Story by Nitish Bissonauth, Metrolinx bilingual spokesperson, media relations and issues specialist.