BY ANDREJ FEHER
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) hosted an open house at its streetcar overhead shop in support of the United Way last weekend.
Visitors were able to look at various equipment used to maintain Toronto’s streetcar wires, including service trucks and various electrical parts. Old photographs were displayed at booths outside the shops, and tours of the shop were offered to visitors. The facility, located at 391 Alliance Avenue in the Rockcliffe-Smythe neighbourhood, was open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m on Sept. 23.
For a small fee, visitors could dunk Gaetano Franco, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 2 in a dunk tank.
The TTC began to host annual open houses in 2013. In previous years, the open house was held at Harvey shops, the TTC’s largest surface vehicle maintenance facility at Bathurst and Davenport. According to Kathy Wyeth, the employee campaign chair for the United Way campaign, the overhead facility was chosen this year to shine a light on employees of a different union than those working at Harvey.
“We wanted to include them as being recognized in the community, being part of the United Way and the good work that they do,” she said.
“It went over so well at Harvey shops that we thought this is a perfect opportunity to showcase another group of great TTC employees and what they do,” she added.
One of the most popular attractions at the event was the subway simulator table. It was hosted by T2P Films, a Toronto-based production company that has been developing the Toronto subway for the openBVE train simulator since 2012. The table was lead by co-founder Weilan Huang and lead content developer Aljon Ramos.
According to Huang, the need for the Toronto subway content arose after his experiences with operating New York subway trains in openBVE.
“I thought ‘This is cool, why don’t we do this for Toronto?’ ” he says.
Huang acquired a copy of the Yonge-University-Spadina line route that had been kicking around the internet since 2007, and progressively revamped it, swapping out old scenery objects, signals and sounds for ones that more closely resembled reality. At the same time, he developed the Virtual TTC Academy, an online subway driving experience. Users could come together and simulate a real-life subway operation, complete with delays and emergencies.
Originally trains were tracked through the use of spreadsheets, but coding developments over the years have made it possible to track trains through a plugin directly in the simulator, simplifying the job of both virtual dispatchers and train operators, who no longer had to call in at every station.
A revamped edition of the Bloor-Danforth line was recently released to the public, and Huang has his sights on modelling the Spadina line extension or the Scarborough RT next.
But despite Huang’s dedication to the project, he doesn’t want you to take it too seriously.
“We walk you through the process,” he says, “We’ve got people from different ages.”
Realism is important, but his end goal is for everyone to have fun.
“The fun element has to be there,” he says, “There’s no commitment to it. Feel free to sign up, do one run a year, if you want.”