15: The first year of operation
<< 14: The days before inauguration || 16: The two years to 1969 >>
After all the tests and practicing with operations, and all the miles they had run to bring out
any problems, we had four trains fully tested and parked out on the yard tracks, confident that all
was in good shape for the opening day, May 23rd, 1967.
Oh, no! It didn't work out like that at all!
The first morning, getting the trains out
During the night a fog developed. The fog was not bad enough to delay train movements, but
the moisture penetrated the traction motors of the locomotives sitting out on the trains ready to
go. From the moment the first workers went out to prepare the trains for dispatch, they knew
there was a problem. Every locomotive tripped a ground relay! The trains could not leave with
that problem. Harry Dykstra was Trainmaster at the depot so he had to call out the depot staff to
The depot staff knew what was needed, but it would take time. Each locomotive in turn had to
be uncoupled from its train, taken into the shop to have the motors blown out to dry them out.
Then it was returned to its train, and the static tests of brakes and electrical connections gone
through all over again.
This was another of the kinds of problems that Doug Young could do without. His staff
understood what they were up against, and they put heart and soul into it. All the trains left the
depot on time, and now they were in the hands of the operators! Three of these trains would
return to Willowbrook after the morning rush, then go out again in the afternoon. The fourth
would remain out all day.
There were four trainsets to be dispatched. The phrase "Dead-head" means that the train ran
without stopping and was not open to carry passengers. Two of the sets ran deadhead to
Hamilton to replace the two CN commuter trains that were withdrawn last Friday. After their
service trip from Hamilton to Union Station, these two sets returned deadhead to Willowbrook.
One set ran deadhead to Oakville to become train #946, the first GO-Transit train carrying
passengers. It left Oakville at 0550, arriving Union Station at 0627. The fourth ran deadhead to
Pickering, to make train #903 at 0600, due to arrive at Union Station at 0637. This was the first
service train out of Pickering, just ten minutes later than that out of Oakville. This set remained
in service during the whole day, completing each cycle in three hours. It made its last service trip
from Union Station to Pickering at 2313 then returned deadhead to Willowbrook. This train set
reversed in the Pickering terminus seven times and in Oakville six times. This gave a 3-hour
headway between trains all day.
In the first stage, the weekend service was not operated. This also was to allow review of the
experiences from that week. The depot would be having the extra work of putting together and
testing two more trains received from the manufacturer. George Dollis and the Trainmasters had
to arrange for transferring in and training the additional crews who had bid in to be ready for the
expanded service when that date arrived.
The first train in service
Bill Howard remembered that he was one who went out to Oakville, as he said "In the wee
hours of the morning!" to greet the invitees who came to ride #946, the first GO-Transit train.
Premier Robarts of Ontario came out, with Vice President Gonder of CN. There were people
from the Legislature, Mr. McNaughton and some of the local dignitaries, and a good
representation of the press and TV stations. Jimmy Morrison was there with the train crew.
Another person who rode the train had not yet attained
the high office he would occupy later. That was James Snow, who became Minister of
Transport in 1975 I went to visit him in June 1996 at his
home in Hornby, Ontario, not far from Oakville. On the
inaugural run he was the candidate for the Progressive
Conservative Party of the new riding of Halton East. He
explained that the new riding was the result of the old
riding having grown to the stage that a split was needed.
The sitting member was George Kerr, who lived in
Burlington, so he had chosen to stand for Halton West.
That left Halton East open for a new member. Jim was
new in the political field, but in view of his business as a
construction contractor and a local farmer he was already a well-known personality in the area.
The new commuter service lay within what he hoped would be his riding, it was logical for him
to want to be present.
His nomination was in March 1967, and even then there was a lot of discussion about the
coming service. When I asked the usual question about what he remembered most about the
service, he said it was two things, riding the first train on May 23rd, and the provincial election
that was called on Labour Day. That was the date of our fourth step, when we were putting the
ONR trains into service. As candidate he was impatiently waiting for the Premier to call the
election. Jim Snow took his seat in the Ontario Legislature from the election of October 17th
The departure of the first train into service was a big occasion only for those of us who were
closely involved. It had not been written up as a publicity stunt. It was cold and dark so early in
the morning. The new timetable was out, so any passengers could come out for it. Mr. Gonder
made a presentation of the orders for the train to operate, then it was all-aboard for the departure.
So the first train in service left Oakville at ten minutes before six, and another from Pickering at
"On the train there was a lot of talking. The press interviewed the railway personnel first. This
was the first train carrying passengers, so they were boarding at stations along the line. The press
representatives interviewed them as well to get their reactions. It was a great occasion!"
Jimmy Morrison was the Trainmaster who had looked after all of the training for the
enginemen, and he was the one looking over the shoulder of the engineman on train 946. Premier
Robarts came forward to see the operation in the control cab, and to use the public address
system to make a speech to the passengers on the train. It was natural to invite him to sit down in
the engineman's seat, and let him see how the driving was done. So with Jimmy driving over his
shoulder, the train rolled into Union Station with the head of the Premier looking out of the
driver's window, just as if he had driven it all the way!
When I came on the job that morning, I went first to Willowbrook to see the trains out, then I
continued on to Union Station to watch the arrival. It was a great satisfaction for me to stand
watching the first passengers as they exited passed the ticket booths there. Surprisingly it was
also a bit of a letdown! They walked out so nonchalantly, as if they had been riding GO-Transit
for years. It just didn't seem to be a great occasion for them, and it was over in an instant. From
then on, for us it would be just a case of keeping the operation going!
During the day, the crews had support from supervisors who rode along with them. Don
Wallace was borrowed from the Rules office, Tony Williams and Bob Watson came from other
offices, and the three Trainmasters took turns to observe the operation. They were all chosen
because their background was in train operations. Don Martin went out to the various stations to
maintain contact with the Attendants. Doug Young was busy at Willowbrook preparing the three
train sets for their return to service for the afternoon peak. George Dollis rode in on train 903
from Pickering at 0600h, then he stayed in the office with Bob Withrow and me, listening to the
reports as they came in. Bill Howard stayed on board that first train set from Oakville when it
went on to Pickering and back to Union Station, then he went over to his office in the
government buildings. There he spent the rest of the day responding to more requests for
information about the service from the press and radio stations.
The Government had decided that all travel on
GO-Transit for that first day would be free, so the
Station Attendants were told not to take the tickets
that passengers were offering as they walked up to
the ticket booths. That meant that we wouldn't have
a count of tickets taken to be able to calculate our
total carryings that day, but we asked the
Attendants to keep a count of passengers as they
entered the stations.
The following morning was the time to review
the events of the day. It had been a long day, and
everything had gone smoothly. We could look back
to say that it had gone very well indeed. The Station
Attendants doing their manual count had estimated
that the number of passengers who had ridden the trains had to be more than 8,000, more or less.
Our opinion was that today we had friends who yesterday didn't even know we existed!
The next two weeks
Wednesday, May 24 was the first day the passengers were required to deposit tickets, so it
was the first time we could have an accurate count. The five morning arrivals brought in 2,284
passengers, almost double what had been the carryings on the two CN trains. I had a loose-leaf
book that used to come on my desk every morning to report the previous day's carryings. It
showed the figures for the number of passengers exited at each station, and which station they
had travelled from. I'm sorry that I don't have that book any more. That day we carried more than
7,000 paying passengers.
Every day the level of carryings increased. Bill Howard was following it closely, and he
would phone in to hear what had been yesterday's figures. Then he was passing the news around
in his own offices. It was obvious that the service would be extremely popular. We could see
ourselves becoming swamped with new demand. We had planned the next increase in level of
service in five weeks, on Monday, June 26th and another on July 17th. Clearly we would have to
do something before that to handle all the new commuters who were coming to the service.
We put our heads together at Willowbrook to see how we could have one more train ready to
go in advance of the planned increase. They were able to offer one in two weeks.
For the Transportation Department, this meant we would be operating another train that was
not covered already in the printed literature. It would need special paper work to get it out on the
line, so we had to clear that through the dispatching office. The dispatchers had become more
familiar with the new trains being on line, so the planning was not too difficult. All the trains
were still operating as extras, until they could be included in the working timetable in the Fall.
The fifth train went into service between Toronto and Oakville on Monday, June 5th, three
weeks earlier than planned, and was an immediate success. It gave relief to the other peak hour
trains and offered passengers another train time in the 20-minute spacing to make the journey
Stages 2 and 3
The extra train that we started on June 5th was just an advanced leg of the full cycle that the
same set would run when the next stage would be introduced, so it served also as part of the
progressive implementation. More crews would be required for this stage, so this train set and
the sixth were used as training in service, and the full stage 2 & 3 trains for the expanded service
on June 26th and July 17th were running deadhead out on line from Wednesday, June 21st.
We ran the Saturday and Sunday service on June 24th and 25th, even though the weekend
service would not be open to the public until the following weekend. When Monday, June 26th
came along, the trains and crews already had run the stage 3 schedule during three days of the
previous week, and the only change was that all the trains were open to carry passengers. By this
stage, in our weekday service we were operating 46 service trains and twelve deadheads.
Up to that time, we had had no problems in any part of the operation, and we were feeling
The next day brought us down to earth. One train had an engine failure on line, and we used
the radio well between the locomotive and the depot to help the engine crew to complete the
service run. Another had ground relay problems in the depot that required some snappy action to
get that train out in time. Someone fired a gunshot through one of the car windows, so there was
a switching move to cut that car out of the train and get it into the depot for repair. The exercises
that Doug Young had put his staff through in preparation for this type of service now showed
their worth. All the staff on the trains and in the depot knew how to handle emergencies like
this, and the public didn't know anything untoward had happened.
Even though the service had started so smoothly, there could always be problems in the on-going operation. Yes, there were problems.
This was a new service, so this was another learning process. We had tried to foresee things
that might happen, and get ourselves organised to handle them. Still it was only at the moment of
action that we could see how well we might have done our planning.
The signal failure
This incident happened when George Dollis and I had been out to Pickering to observe the
change of ends on the train. We were riding in the cab with the engineman when we saw there
had been an accident that had knocked down a telephone pole.
The next signal was showing stop, so we stopped and waited. As required in the rules, the
engineman got down to the telephone on the signal mast, and spoke to the control centre. The
dispatcher said there were no trains ahead, so he dictated an order to the engineman under rule
264. That is an order to pass the signal at stop, and proceed at restricted speed until passing the
next two signals showing clear.
The next signal did not show clear. It showed stop. In fact, every the signal all the way to
Union Station made us stop, talk to the dispatcher and obtain similar 264 orders.
That was when George realised that the downed telephone pole must have cut the signal
control wires. All of the signal circuits between Rouge hill and Union Station were out. Every
signal would be showing stop. All the trains east of Toronto going or coming would have to stop
at every signal just as we had done. Each train could be delayed anything up to 20 or 25 minutes.
These were the trains that should come back westward through Union Station to form the
Oakville trains to go west on time. According to the schedule the station should have a train full
of passengers leaving every ten minutes, one east, one west. The flood of commuters was
starting already, and the platforms were not wide enough to let them all go up there to wait for
the delayed trains. All passengers would have to be held in the lower concourse until their trains
could come in.
There was no question what to do next. George phoned the control room to tell them where
we had seen the telephone pole knocked down, so that a repair crew could go straight to the
point of failure. I brought together what staff was available to give the best service we could
under the circumstances. George stayed in my office with the radio to maintain contact with the
trains. I went down to the station with the loudhailer so that we could keep the passengers
informed. Don Martin stayed beside the telephone in the ticket office to receive updates from
George. Stella Hanula took up a position beside the ticket barriers to be able to answer questions
from the passengers who would be accumulating there.
At one moment the lower concourse was so crowded that commuters newly arriving could
hardly get in to hear what was going on. Apart from that, the communication system worked
well. As each train approached the station, George got a report by radio from the engineman, that
he relayed to Don on the phone. Don told me which train was entering, then I walked through the
crowd with the loudhailer to tell the waiting passengers which destination train would be at the
platform next, so that they could pass through the barriers and go up to the platform. Each train
departed as soon as it was loaded, so that we would not delay any other train trying to come in
No passenger was delayed more than 20 minutes, and the concourse was empty again when
the 1843 train left for Oakville, albeit the service was still running up to 20 minutes late.
Track blocked at Oakville
There was an unfortunate event when there was a derailment between Oakville and Clarkson.
This was at an interlocking at 8th line, where there are crossovers and industrial sidings. The
main line was blocked, and our trains could not get through to Oakville or Hamilton.
Bill Howard called me from the Government offices to ask what was going on at 8th line. I
had to ask him why he had called. He asked me hadn't I heard about the derailment near
Oakville? I went to listen to my train radio but it was silent. I tried to call my offices but all the
phones were busy and I could not get through. So I walked to the transportation office to find out
what was going on. What I found was very impressive. My staff knew what had happened out on
line, and they were on all the available phones, deeply into doing exactly the actions that each
person's responsibility needed. No wonder I had been unable to get them on the phone.
Now Don Martin and I got together to decide how to get the commuters home to Oakville and
west. We made a quick review of the figures to estimate how many passengers off each train
would wish to travel beyond Clarkson, so that we could calculate how many buses would be
needed to meet each train. I called Bill back to tell him that we would have to short-turn the
trains at Clarkson, and asked him to call out buses to meet the trains at the station there and take
the passengers onward. Don went out to Clarkson with the loudhailer to direct the passengers off
the trains, and Jack Clark came from the Government offices to look to the handling of the
The centralised traffic control with power over the switches and signals gave all the flexibility
needed, and the trains ran back and forth easily. Because they were being short-turned they were
able to run on their scheduled times. That was the situation through the peak period and for the
rest of the evening. This was another place where having the trains equipped for push-pull
operation paid off. There were no problems reversing direction, and no question of needing to
run the locomotives round the trains.
Next morning CN had the tracks open in time for the peak hour service to operate as usual.
All our passengers were well served and we had congratulations the next day about the way we
had handled the problem.
Late delivery of self-propelled cars
The date for implementation of stage four had been set for September 5th, ready for when
schools would reopen. This stage was planned to have eight trains on line in the peak period.
We already had the six locomotive trains in service. The other two trains were to be the self-propelled diesel railcars, due to follow on out of the manufacturer's plant.
The S-P cars were to have the same car bodies as the coaches and cab cars we had already put
into service. But these cars were to have a completely new design of propulsion unit. The diesel
engine was to be suspended under the floor to drive the wheels through a gearbox and drive
shaft. Control of the throttle and gears was by electric multiple-unit wires through the cars.
The designs were not ready. In effect, development of the design was going on even while the
cars were being built in the shop. This had delayed getting them ready, so we would not have
them in time for the stage four.
Clearly we had to find some other solution to meeting the commitment to open stage four on
September 5th. The daily increase in carryings showed that the demand was coming on faster
than anyone had expected, and we surely needed to have the other two trains in service as soon
We had not provided any trackage for running engines around trains at our outer terminals, so
any trains we brought in would have to be reversible. The experience with push-pull on the new
trains had demonstrated how this arrangement made it far more flexible, and was essential for
our operation, but there were no other push-pull trains available to us.
The Government of Ontario was, and is still, owner and operator of the Ontario Northland
Railway (the ONR), running passenger trains from Toronto to North Bay and further north. We
turned to the Government to see whether we could borrow any spare equipment to fill out our
service. The ONR released to us nine old commuter cars and four diesel units that we brought
down from North Bay as soon as we had their agreement. These were traditional coaches with
single doors at each end, slow to load and unload.
The idea of asking for four units was to have a unit at each end of the train. The unit at the
head end would haul the train, while the unit at the rear would idle until the engineman changed
ends. The units were of 1,500-horse-power each, so there was some question whether they could
maintain the schedules they would have to conform to.
While I was meeting recently with George Dollis, he found his notes about these trains. We
would need one train of four cars and one of five cars, for the schedules they would be filling.
Tests were run on Sunday, August 27th, to measure what speeds they could make and what
schedules we could put them in. With only the lead unit working and the rear unit idling, the
train did not perform well enough to keep schedule. So a second test run was made with a second
engineman driving the rear unit to help move the train. What we learned was that, if we had both
units working, the train could keep time in commuter service.
It would be unacceptable to go into regular operation with an arrangement like this, so the
alternative was to run trainlines under the coaches to convert each train also into a push-pull
train. We had quick discussions with the technical staff at CN Headquarters, to learn what kind
of wiring would be needed. The total need was for nine wires. The cars were placed in the
coachyard at Spadina, where the craftsmen attached three bundles of three wires each to the
undersides of all the coaches. It was necessary to retain the flexibility to be able to switch cars in and out of the trains, so the cables were connected together at the
ends of the cars using standard three-pin connectors. All this work was done in a period of four days. Then we could couple
the diesel units back to back, one on each end of the train. The next test runs were made on Saturday, September 2nd, from which we confirmed that the performance
in push-pull was quite satisfactory, and the crews could change ends within the time available at the outer terminals.
Monday, September 4th was Labour
Day, so the full stage-four service was open to carry passengers on Tuesday September 5th,
using the six new trains from Hawker-Siddeley, and the two trains of old commuter stock
borrowed from the ONR.
I set up a meeting with Joe Desjardins in the GO-Transit offices in 1995. He spoke to me as
Director of Customer Services for the government offices of GO-Transit. During the opening
days in 1967 he was a junior with Bill Howard.
There was an amusing incident while the ONR trains were in service. Joe explained this to
me, when I met him. We had not provided on-ground ticket collection at the stations west of
Oakville, which the Hamilton trains served only twice in the morning and twice in the evening,
weekdays only. At those stations, the routine was for the train crew to open only one door while
the CN Station Agent would stand at the open door to collect the half-tickets of the passengers
entering or leaving. As the traffic rose, this became a slow process that delayed the trains. The
longest train from Hamilton to Toronto was due to pass through Oakville at 0750, but it became
consistently late. Passengers started to rely with this, so sometimes they came on to the platform
later than train time, expecting it to be late.
In a commuter operation, it is always a bad thing to have trains always running late, so a
change was made. The train crews were asked to open more doors so that the train could load
faster and stay on schedule. Next day the train arrived at Oakville and left on time, leaving some
astonished passengers still in the parking lot.
The Billy Graham crusade
While this work was going on, we had a request to run a service to the CN station at
Exhibition, for a big religious meeting being held on both Sunday and Monday in the exhibition
stadium for the Billy Graham crusade. The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) was still on,
with the closing date being Labour Day. The old CN Exhibition station was at the Dufferin
Street overpass next to the Dufferin Gate. For trains to stop there required that they should be put
on the sidetracks. This required slow running, because the side tracks were not signaled for main
line operation. The published timetables did not include any GO-Transit trains stopping at the
Dufferin Gate station, so stopping our trains there meant special arrangements to run the trains
on the side tracks, instead of on the centre tracks they normally used.
We had no experience from carryings to foresee how many passengers might use our trains,
so for the Sunday we set up 14 extra trips, and had all the scheduled hourly trains running
through the side tracks to stop there as well. This afforded trains every 30 minutes on what
otherwise would have been only one train per hour on weekends. Don Martin called in extra
Station Attendants to man the station and sell or collect tickets.
That was a disappointment! All those trains carried a total of 600 passengers into the
Exhibition. It wasn't worth putting extra trains for that. So the Monday service had only the
regular hourly trains stopping for Exhibition.
Surprise! The news had spread that the GO-Transit trains would be stopping there. It was
gratifying to see how many passengers chose to go in that way. On Monday, September 4th, we
carried over 8,000 passengers into Exhibition Station.
The lesson learned was that in the following year, the GO-Transit trains should serve the CN
Exhibition station during the full two weeks it would be open.
Another comment from Joe Desjardins when we were talking was how surprised they were
that we were able to fit a new stop at Exhibition and still keep trains on time. That was easy for
me to explain. "You may remember that when we were setting the first schedules, there had not
been a final decision whether there would be a stop at Sunnyside? So the schedules still had time
to allow a station stop somewhere between Mimico and Union Station. So the time we used for
Exhibition was really the time that had been intended for a station stop at Sunnyside just moved
along the line a short way. When the service started we were glad to have that time in reserve,
but it was turned to good use in the end, wasn't it?"
On the regular trains of Thursday, September 14th, we carried the millionth passenger, who
boarded at Eglinton. Within eight months of opening the service, the traffic level reached 15,000
per day. That was the level that had been forecast in the studies to be achieved after three years
Inspection party from New Jersey
In the month of October 1967, we had two representatives visited us from Morris County,
New Jersey. The County had a long-standing concern about the continuing deterioration of its
suburban rail passenger services, and it fought to preserve and improve the service for the
benefit of its users. It was a policy of The Board of Public Transportation to study successful
suburban rail passenger service elsewhere, to ascertain how and why they were successful.
So the Chairman, Thomas T. Taber and the Vice-Chairman, Frank T. Richardson visited the
Government of Ontario, and together spent a full day with us, when we showed them the CN
In February 1968, The Board released the report prepared by these representatives, stating in
their conclusions that "In the opinion of the writers of this report, the Province of Ontario has
done the right thing, at the right time, and in the right way". This is the phrase they chose for the
title of the report:
TORONTO'S TRANSPORTATION TRIUMPH: THE RIGHT THING, DONE AT THE
RIGHT TIME AND IN THE RIGHT WAY.
Receiving this report within less than a year of our inauguration gave a great feeling of
satisfaction to all our personnel having had any involvement in bringing the service into being.
We believe that this report significantly influenced subsequent decisions that led in the end to
creation of the modern rail commuter services now operated in the name of "New Jersey
Putting the S-Ps into service
The S-P Cars were beginning to come to us soon after we had put the ONR trains into service.
They had to be tested before we could put them out in the same schedules. Tests were run within
the limits of the tracks in Willowbrook depot.
Two S-P cars were run on September 7th. There were many problems, so Hawker-Siddeley
assigned a representative to correct them. He was Alan Wright, and a small group of craftsmen
working for him. I met Alan in 1995 to discuss the work he had to do. He was responsible for
any adjustments that had to be made to the coaches and cab cars as they went into service. That
was called "Retrofit". When George Dollis had a severe cut on his finger due to getting trapped
in a door as it closed, it was Alan who saw to changing the design of the doors so that this danger
When I met with Allen in 1995, he was far from being retired. Working out of his own home,
he was representing another manufacturer of S-P cars, so all his experiences with GO-Transit
were still part of his repertoire. Both Allen and I had started our careers in railways on the
subway system of London, England, so we had some common ground.
When John Robarts and Donald Gordon made their joint
announcement that they would create a new rail commuter
service, Allen was working with Len Bardsley of the TTC in
Toronto. Hawker-Siddeley had signed a contract to supply TTC
with 164 new subway cars, to meet a specification that Allen had
a part in drafting. That was when Lorne Main, the Marketing
Manager of Hawker-Siddeley had asked TTC for a candidate to
work for them on the production and delivery of the cars. Lorne
was a great "Marketeer". He promoted the whole range of cars as
being to the same basic design, so "Look what they are doing for
the community!" Allen made the switch in January 1967, when
the four different models of cars were already in production. So he
was dropped right into the massive delivery program for the Expo
Express, the TTC subway cars, the GO-Transit cars and the CN
Tempo cars on order. The first GO-Transit trains were almost
ready to go out on test runs.
He said it was a surprise to him to see the sizes of the rail cars. He had started with the
London tube cars only 15m long, built small enough to run in a tunnel only nine feet (2.7m)
inside diameter. Then the TTC cars were bigger. Now he was into cars 25m long and 3m wide.
They seemed enormous
I asked him what he remembered most about his time with Hawker-Siddeley when they
assigned him to us to put the train equipment into service. He said: "It was the decision of the
Government to introduce a rail commuter service that registered with him. I was still with the
TTC at that moment. When that decision was being made, there were only the two components
of transit around Toronto, the subway in the city, and the highways surrounding it. If they had
not built GO-Transit, I can't imagine what the roads would be like now. I'm thinking of the
Queen Elizabeth Way and whatever. It's incredible!"
"There were many new features built into the train equipment, that needed adjustment after
the cars came to Willowbrook. Since there were no vestibules to protect the end doors, when the
cab cars were leading, they were exposed to the pressures of wind and rain. We got into some
heavy storms, and the end doors leaked like sieves. We must have tried three or four different
seals. Every one had to be submitted to CN for approval before we could put it in. Finally we
"The S-P cars gave us a lot of problems. As they came to us, they showed a problem of the
engines shutting down without apparent cause. The more cars we coupled into a train, the worse
the problems became. There were other problems, but the worst thing was that the engines kept
shutting down, even though the engineman had not called for a shutdown. Finding the cause of
an event like this takes time. It needed a kind of a detective hunt for a cause that was by no
means obvious. It was in November when we could say the cars were ready for service."
The first S-P train was sent into service on train 902 on November 21st. That is a cycle for a
set that should stay out all day, but the engineman had to keep restarting the engines that kept
shutting down, and we had to change it out for a locomotive train on 915. So the S-Ps made only
two round trips, and we knew they needed more work before they could be relied on.
There was pressure to get all the new equipment into service and plans were made to release
the ONR trains. By December 21st all nine S-Ps were out all day, and the enginemen were able
to keep them working. The troubles developed again the next day, so we had to pull them out
and call back the ONR trains. It was mid-January when we finally gave up trying, so the ONR
trains remained in GO-Transit service all Winter.
Icing of doors
When we had asked for double doors for quick loading and unloading of the cars, the choice
had been for double folding doors. In wet weather and snow, passengers' shoes carried water and
snow on to the bottom step. The doors folded outwards. When closed they rested on the edge of
the bottom step, leaving a narrow ledge exposed to the weather. That allowed ice to build up,
preventing the doors from opening.
There was no quick fix for a problem like that. Our solution was to provide the crews with
salt crystals to spread on the ledge where the ice would form. The crews were very supportive of
maintaining the image of this new service, and they accepted this unusual chore as part of the
effort to keep the trains running.
The cold station buildings
The concept was that this was to be just a three-year demonstration, so there was no
confidence that it would become permanent. The ticket booths were small structures of light
panels of aluminum and steel, with limited insulation against the cold. When Winter came, the
heaters inside could not keep the place warm. The Station Attendants complained of the cold,
particularly around the feet, so we had to take action.
Don Martin went out to the stores that supply camping equipment, and found a type of heater
intended for use inside tents. They burned light oil inside the heater, but the flame was not
exposed. The heat developed at a heat-resistant dome, so that there should not be risk of fire. We
placed these inside the ticket booths as a temporary fix. They helped somewhat, but still were
not enough. Later, Jack Clark was able to arrange for the installation of additional electric heat.
That required higher capacity in the power supply lines, so it could not be done instantly. He
recalled going out to put carpets on the floors. Some of the booths were out in exposed places,
Clarkson, Long Branch, and the south booth at Scarborough in particular.
The Station Attendants carried on bravely. This was a case where they knew we were doing
what we could, so they just dressed warmly, and did their part to keep up appearances.
The short station platforms
Under the time pressure to get all the physical work done to have the rail facilities ready for
opening in May, Eldon Dolphin had to make some shortcuts where he could.
One of the places was in laying down the asphalt for the station platforms. In the more
traditional types of train equipment, the trainmen opened doors only where the platforms would
be, so short platforms did not create problems then. These modern commuter trains with power
doors that opened along the whole length of the train really required platforms as long as the
trains. But we had to do with what we could get in time.
The platforms at Long Branch, at Clarkson and at Oakville were only as long as four cars.
The conductors on the GO-Transit trains made announcements asking passengers to these
stations to ride in the cars we knew would stop opposite the short platforms. That did not ensure
that every passenger could do that. The result was that when all the car doors opened, some
passengers stepped out on to trackside where there was no platform. We had two incidents, both
In the Fall, a lady stepped out to trackside, but did not see that she was close to the slope of
the drainage ditch. So she slipped down the bank to the bottom, where water might have been.
Fortunately it was dry. Still it was a shock, and she needed assistance to get back up and to the
exit. The Trainmaster, Emmet Roach, lived at Clarkson, so he was right on the spot to help. That
told us that we must request the platforms to be extended to the full length of the trains as soon
Unfortunately, this work could not be finished before winter set in, so we still had short
platforms at Clarkson when the snow came down. On another occasion we had an unwary
passenger step out where there was no platform, and therefore the snow was quite deep there. It
was difficult walking along beside the track to reach the actual platform and the exit.
It was Spring, 1968, before the final extensions could be completed. We breathed a sigh of
relief! We had met and handled the problems that had come up. The Government of Ontario had
a service operating in their name and there was great acceptance by the public of the quality of
service we were offering.
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