|A Tribute to Ray Neilson.
1943 - 2005
A fan, a friend.
Ray Neilson, born in Timmins, Ontario on November 2, 1943,
began his videographing career with several positions in
commercial radio and television. His initiation into the field of
transit and transportation, he said, was based of personal
recollections of his travels around Toronto, on its PCC
streetcars and trolley buses. He started his company, GPS
Video in 1985, with the thought of bringing these experiences
Over the years, Ray had travelled all across North America
recording transit and transportation, and visiting fellow
historians to share their experiences through video.
Personally, Ray always had a unique outlook on the hobby,
and life in general. To some, it would have seemed like a kind
of fatalist view, but from the twelve years I had the privledge
of knowing him, I feel that it was a kind of optimism of what
things could be.
Those who did know him usually either liked him or didn't.
However, whichever one it was, you had to respect him for his
enthusiasm and drive. He was always thinking of others
wether it was personal friendship or public events.
Ray Neilson posed with TTC New Look #8051
on one of his transit charters, March 25, 2000.
As his interest and knowledge expanded, he became
drawn to enthusiast clubs and groups, most notably the
Toronto Transportation Society, where he was a
member for many years, and President for several of
them. During this time he hosted many transit charters,
featuring PCC and CLRV streetcars, new looks, and
even of the Toronto subway. He had a way of providing
the best "bang for the buck" when planning these
events, both from a historical and personal enjoyment
As his business expanded, and time became more
valuable to him, he sidelined the fan aspect and
concentrated his efforts on providing quality material
for the public to enjoy. Over the years he produced
over 50 different transportation videos, ranging from
buses and streetcars to steam and diesel railway, from
cities and regions across Canada and the USA. His
reputation was such that he could visit virtually any
place and be greeted warmly. He became somewhat of
an icon in the transit industry.
Ray Neilson hosting a Toronto Transportation Society sponsored
charter of Toronto PCC streetcar #4500, September 1, 1996.
Despite his dry and rather blunt approach to things, to know him was to experience a person whose intellect was
limitless. He was a mentor to some, a debator to others. He was strong willed, yet underneath was the passion to be
the best, to give the best, and to share his experiences with everyone.
He personally took me under his wing after meeting him at the Model Railway Show hosted in Toronto in 1994. He
opened my eyes to new expereinces, he taught me an understanding of the hobby and its participants. He was
someone whose vision was so broad that you couldn't help but learn something new from him each time you met.
In early 2005, Ray was diagnosed with brain cancer. He underwent an operation to attempt to cure this affliction. I
had the privledge of visiting him once more following his operation. Even in this weakened state you could see his
drive and determination hadn't slowed down. He still wanted the best even though it was now through others. He
would not let this change him from the man he was. Sadly, however, on July 31 of 2005, he finally succumb to his
ailment after a short hospital stay.
The industry has lost a very monumental individual. Personally, he was one of my closest friends in my life, and he
will sadly be missed.
Thank you, Ray, for enriching my life.
Ray Neilson making sure everything was going smoothly during this Toronto Transportation
Society sponsored charter of Toronto PCC streetcar #4500, September 1, 1996.
Ray Neilson (highlighted) with myself to his left and other Toronto area transit fans on a charter of Toronto Transit
Commission's last silverside GM new look #8051. This group shot was taken at York University, March 25, 2000.
|Ray Neilson being interviewed by CityTV /CP24 for a segment during the
Toronto Transportation Society's charter marking the end of the Montreal built
TTC subway cars. Seen here at Lower Bay Station, February 28, 1999.
|On October 1, 2005, the Toronto Transportation Society operated a memorial charter honouring Ray and his service to both the TTS and transportation history.
Toronto Transit Commission's NewFlyer D40-89 #6460, from Queensway Division, was taken on routes that operated in Etobicoke, including Ray's
neighbourhood, and on some of the TTC's former trolley bus routes. - Seen here, TTC #6460 is seen in the Otter Loop, a short turn loop for the 61 Nortown West
/ 61 Avenue Rd. North route. At this spot, the bus was posed showing Ray's home bus route, 66 Prince Edward, and with his car's"iconic" license plate.