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Horse-drawn streetcar on display in Ottawa museum

People run to catch a horse-drawn streetcar in Toronto in the early 1900s

A gem from Toronto’s transit past that has been hidden away for more than half a century is finally on display for the public to enjoy.

The vintage vehicle is a horse-drawn streetcar that roamed the major streets of Toronto in the late 1800s, well before the TTC existed.

The streetcar has been a part of the collection at The Canadian Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa since 1968. While the museum was closed for renovations, the carriage was tucked away safely in a warehouse for several years, but now it is finally seeing the light of day.

The carriage — Horse Car number 16 — is one of the last surviving horse drawn cars and was built in New York City in 1874. It was operated by the Toronto Street Railway, which is the company that first ran streetcars in Toronto, from 1861 to 1891.

Historian Trevor Parkins-Sciberras says the carriage was used all over the city, on all major downtown streets, for several years and was pulled by one or two horses.

“It could seat 16 people, about that. If you tried to overload the streetcar, the horses would just refuse to pull it,” he says.

Click through the gallery below to see vintage streetcars from the City of Toronto archives.

Horse Car number 16 was retired in the 1890s. It was then turned into an electric car and towed through the streets by another streetcar.

When the TTC took over in 1921, Horse Car number 16 was retained as a historic relic along with some other heritage vehicles.

“The TTC would use it in parades, they’d display it at the CNE over the decades, until finally in 1968, the TTC decided it didn’t want its historic collection,” says Parkins-Sciberras. “[The TTC] dispersed [the collection] to historic museums across North America, and that’s why Horse Car 16 went way out to Ottawa.”

Parkins-Sciberras says he wants the streetcar to come back to Toronto and has started a petition to do so because he wants to give back to the city he loves.

“I love Toronto very much and I see this as something that is possible for someone like me to pull off. I don’t have the money or political power to just make it happen, but I want to advocate and teach the history,” he says.

“I think it’s very important to Toronto to bring back this horse-drawn streetcar because it gives us a perspective on how far the transit system has come. How can you appreciate what you have today if you don’t know where it came from? I just think the city would love this.”

Click here to learn more about the petition to bring Horse Car number 16 back to Toronto.