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The TTC’s Winter Wonder Bus

Dashing through the suburbs on the TTC's Xmas express.

TTC express bus stopped on Eglinton Avenue east of Victoria Park Avenue in 1959. Photo by Eric Trussler. City of Toronto Archives, Fond 1567, Series 648, Item 4.

Wouldn’t it be grand if we could revisit the days of yore, when the TTC provided holiday bus service to the North Pole?

Legend has it that as Christmas approached, a fleet of special winter wonder buses were put into service. Fuelled by marshmallows, fare charged at one gumball, drivers dressed in candy cane costumes, and any talk of fare hikes and service cuts immediately got your name on the naughty list.


If only. Actually, just the part about the express bus service is true. The rest, sadly, not so much.

For a few years in the late 1950s and until about 1963, the TTC really did operate a fleet of Christmas buses. Unfortunately, the North Pole wasn’t included on the route.

TTC Christmas bus, 1959. Photo by Eric Trussler. City of Toronto Archives, Fond 1567, Series 648, Item 3.

A month prior to December 25 these unique express buses were put into service; they continued serving commuters until New Year’s. Their purpose was to transport suburbanites into the downtown core so they might enjoy the true meaning of Christmas: shopping. Later, an express bus serving Cedarbrae Mall in the township of Scarborough came into service. Fare was a dime.

When January rolled around, the painted Christmas buses were repainted to match the rest of the fleet.

Brad Ross, the TTC’s director of cooperate communications, speculates there were several buses providing the shuttle service on six routes, but only a few painted white and decked out in holiday regalia. A review of a schedule from the period indicates Ross is probably correct: suburban commuters were instructed to watch for the red and green pennants displayed on particular buses; their presence indicating express service.

The reason the express service was eventually Grinched? Ross couldn’t say.

TTC tour of lights, 1957. Photo by Eric Trussler. City of Toronto Achieves, Fond 1567, Series, 648, Item 2.

Express service wasn’t the only treat in the TTC’s stocking. There was a time when transit users could hop on a bus and enjoy a tour of lights, too.

Don’t think the TTC humbugs the season today. One day in December, Santa and a helper will appear at subway stations handing out candy canes. Plus, merry makers ride for free after midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Wouldn’t it be great to go dashing through the snow just one more time on the TTC’s Santa express? Now, if only we could recall the proper mixture for creating marshmallow fuel.


  • HaggisAndTheHerring

    The TTC was way ahead of its time. Brilliant idea. I imagine a modern bus wrap would make quick work of that paint job nowadays.

    But marshmallow fuel? I thought the buses in Toronto would run on leftovers from holiday dinners. Specifically, the gravy :-)

  • Wrenkin

    Vancouver has its own Christmas bus.

  • kimhask

    REALLY??? “One day in December, Santa and a helper will appear at subway stations handing out candy canes.”"??? Managment just ordered the removal of all Christmas Decorations from the end Subway Terminals and Drivers rooms…Santa will still make an appearance?? I just don’t get it…employees don’t get to express a Christmas spirit, but the TTC can look all ‘Christmasy’ for the public.