The Witts: An Affectionate Look at Toronto's Original Red Rockets


115 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-919822-74-6





Reviewed by Toby Rupert

Toby Rupert was a librarian living in Toronto.


This is a good popular history of public transit in Toronto, for it covers some 42 years of service as provided by the “Red Rockets” of the Wits Streetcars, 1921-1963. Peter Witt was City Clerk of Cleveland when he developed the idea for “pay-as-you-pass” in public transit; this necessitated a basic re-design of the public transportation vehicles, and on Dec. 1, 1914, the first of the Witt cars was launched in Cleveland. Seven years later they arrived in Toronto, and they dominated the scene until the 1938 PCC “streamliners” began to be phased in. Through interviews with motormen and mechanics, author Partridge tells some of the history of the trams, along with details on plans for roofs, windows, the body, trucks, cab, stand, stoves, seats, lights, bells, floors, and so forth. All of these are nicely illustrated with lots of black-and-white photographs, which incidentally also include transfers, tickets, the Witt trailers, and various paint jobs. Partridge, actively involved in restoring the first Peter Witt (No. 2300, now owned by the Canadian Railroad Historical Association), comments on other restorations and the future of selected cars that have been changed into refuse cars, houses, sheds, and so forth. No. 2424, he points out, is still operating during the summer for private runs (and it was during the summer of 1983, the twentieth anniversary of its displacement). A good book for railroad buffs.


Partridge, Larry, “The Witts: An Affectionate Look at Toronto's Original Red Rockets,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024,