<< 16: The two years to 1969 || TOC
There are several aspects of the new service that are worthwhile to summaries. When the GO-Transit service was
created, we introduced as many as sixteen concepts completely new to the main line railway that have since been
fully absorbed into daily operations.
The new concepts
i) The contract between the Government of Ontario and the Canadian National Railways introduced a completely
new principle, under which the railway would operate and maintain a rail commuter service on its own rail lines, but
in the name of the Government, using train equipment purchased and owned by the Government.
ii) Public address system: When the proposal for the service was first put forward, there were still many
questions whether commuters would be prepared to park their cars and travel daily by train. The intent of the
Government was to provide an ambiance similar to that of a private automobile. That meant having a public address
system that would provide background music and perhaps radio news broadcasts. The system was installed as
required, but the background music was not long in operation. There were objections from passengers who did not
want music all the time, and the cost of the contract to supply the music was out of line.
There was a valuable side benefit. The system allowed train crew to communicate between themselves, or to
make announcements to the passengers. While this was in the planning stages, we asked for loud speakers installed
on the outside of the cars, so that the crew could make announcements directly to passengers on the platform. These
speakers were energized only when the doors were open. From day one, the crews used this system to tell the
passengers on the platform which train it was, and which stations it would be serving.
iii) Power doors: The traditional designs of railway passenger cars used doors at the ends of the cars that had to
be operated manually. Boarding and alighting up and down steps through single doors was slow, lengthening the
dwell time at stations. Trainmen had to open and close the doors. This limited the number of doors that could be
opened at a station and took longer time doing the station work, or in commuter service the train would run with
doors open. This was an unsafe operation. Some passengers ran for the train, and the crew would be delayed getting
the train out of the station on time.
With the power doors, the train crew made announcements on the outside speakers when it was time to depart,
then the power doors were closed. Passengers could not run and jump on to a moving train. Passengers entering the
platform after the doors had closed knew right away that they had missed that train, and the trains left on time.
iv) Push-pull: Before this concept was accepted, the railway tradition was that the locomotive would haul the
train from the front. At any terminal, the need was to turn the locomotive round and run it to the other end of the
train. This required time, trackage, and staff to perform the coupling and testing operations. Introducing push-pull
eliminated all of these needs. Turntables and run-around tracks were not needed. Crews could stop the train at the
terminal station or any part of the trip, walk to the other end of the train, and depart in the opposite direction in very
v) Head-end power: Some railways in Australia had already put trains into service with an engine room in a car
behind the locomotive. This room held one or two engine-generator sets providing electric power down the whole
length of the train. The GO-Transit trains were the first to do this in North America. We did not have a separate car
with a generator set, because we had placed a separate engine-generator on the locomotive. The generator capacity
was designed with enough power for ten cars, for all the required services.
vi) No water on the cars: Being in short haul service, we had provided toilets at all the stations for the use of
passengers. There was no need for toilets or drinking water on the trains. In Winter there was no risk of freezing, so
the cars did not have to be kept warm during long lie-overs.
vii) Electric heat: This was a departure from the tradition of heating the cars with steam from a boiler at the head
end. Steam locomotives were a natural source of heat in this way. The consumption of water during a journey
required frequent stopping at water towers or water hydrants to fill up. Steam heat brought problems in the Winter
from freezing of pipes. Trains parked in the yards had to be kept heated from steam supplies on the ground.
Replacing steam locomotives with diesel removed the natural source, so when diesels were used to haul cars that
required steam for heating, extra boilers had to be installed and supplied with fuel and water at frequent intervals.
The GO-Transit cars were heated electrically from the auxiliary generator, and they had no need for heat at all
while standing in the yards. The auxiliary generators on the locomotives could be shut down when the lights were no
longer needed after the cleaners had finished.
viii) Electric starting bell: The traditional technology for communicating from the conductor to the engineman
derived from the days of steam engines. There was an air pipe that connected to a whistle in the cab. When the
conductor opened a valve in any car, it created a leak at the pipe, and the flow of air made the whistle sound in the
control cab. This was slow to react, because it depended upon the flow of air in a long pipe through all the cars. The
starting message to the engineman required two whistles. The conductor had to allow adequate time between pulling
the valve twice, and the passengers could hear the air rushing through. Getting a train started by this technique was a
The GO-Transit trains borrowed a technique from rapid transit practice that used an electric bell that sounded
instantly when the Conductor pressed the button at any door control station. The train started immediately.
ix) Locked end doors: In short haul service there was no need for passengers to pass from car to car. In fact such
actions would be undesirable. The trains normally left the depot with all the end doors locked. The crews had door
keys, so that they could pass from car to car when necessary.
x) No vestibules: Vestibule connections from car to car would have been expensive and complicated for coupling
and uncoupling. Having decided that passengers would not pass between cars, there was no need for vestibule
connections, so the expense of these was avoided.
xi) Tight-lock couplers: Tight-lock couplers had been available for some time, and had found applications
elsewhere. This was the first time all the cars in a fleet had been so equipped. This avoided earlier problems of loose
couplers between cars that required the engineman to apply the brakes in a slow and controlled manner. The
engineman could make a full service application of the brakes with no concern about slack-action between cars. The
GO-Transit trains had fast brakes that allowed faster runs between stations.
xii) On-ground revenue control: On-ground revenue control had existed for a long time on subways and on some
European railways, but this was the first time it had been adopted on a main line railway in North America. The
primary reason was that these trains would have high performance, that would not allow crews time to control tickets
on board. The principle fitted well with the need for quick and accurate reporting the statistics of passenger
xiii) The two-part ticket: this ticket was designed to yield the information needed for Government to make
decisions for the future. In the beginning, there was some uncertainty that commuters would park their cars to ride
the trains to work or play. The consultants had suggested a three-year trial period, with the reservation that if it was
not a success after that time, then experiment could be abandoned. So the need was obvious that the system had to
yield good statistics on usage by the traveling public.
One half of the ticket was to be deposited at entry to the station. This confirmed that the passenger had paid to
enter. The passenger carried the other half that served as the valid ticket for the journey. This was surrendered at the
destination station, allowing the passenger to exit on completing the journey. The Station Attendants there sorted the
exiting halves by the colour-code of the station of origin. Their daily report to me and to the GO-Transit office gave
the number of passengers exiting from each train, their stations of origin, and the total carryings of the day.
xiv) No passengers walking across the tracks: This was achieved by installing pedestrian underpasses or
overpasses for passengers to gain access to remote platforms on the other side of the tracks. Fences were installed to
prevent passengers from walking across the tracks. Special instructions were included in the working timetables so
that trains would not be restricted by Rule 107 as they approached stations in commuter territory.
xv) Prefabricated underpasses; the traditional technique for installing underpasses was to divert the tracks off the
mail line on to a "Shoo-fly", then excavate where the underpass was to go. Forms would be put in and concrete
poured. After allowing time for the concrete to harden, the forms would be removed, the soil back-filled and the
tracks re-aligned over it. This was time-consuming and disruptive of train operations. To have the new commuter
service ready in the time promised, there was no time to do all this.
A new technique was develop in the CN Bridge Department, that proved quicker and cheaper in the end. Square
sections of the underpass known as "Rings" were prefabricated at concrete plants then transported to the site on
trucks or flatcars. A separate steel framework was fabricated on which the rings would rest accurately. On the
appointed day rail traffic was halted for the work period. The rails were lifted out, the excavation made. Ballast was
spread in the bottom and the steel frame laid on it. The rings were placed by a mobile crane, and drawn up tight
together. The whole excavation was then back-filled, and the rails relayed, all in a matter of a few hours. The first
one installed took 14 hours, and the last only 8 hours. Underpasses installed by this method 34 years ago are still
performing very well.
xvi) New principles of railway signaling: the new signal aspects told the engineman where he was going and
what speed was permitted. The control board at the dispatching office alerted the dispatchers when any delays were
foreseen, so that action could be taken to avert disruption in the overall service.
The first GO-Transit trains went into service on May 23rd, 1967. I started writing this in 1995, that is 28 years
later. There have been many developments in GO-Transit in the years since then. The traffic levels on the Lakeshore
lines have increased greatly. The entire fleet comprises double deck cars hauled by more powerful diesel
locomotives, and the original single deck cars are gone completely.
Except at one place, the original ticket booths have been replaced with larger modern buildings. The only
original booth remains at Danforth. The on-ground ticketing has been replaced by the honour system.
During the year 1998, the overpasses at Exhibition Station have been demolished and replaced with underpasses.
This made it possible to provide ramps and elevators so that handicapped passengers can access the exhibition
grounds from the GO-Transit trains. The overpasses were installed for the first time at the newly located Exhibition
Station in 1968, so they gave 30 years of service before being replaced.
The hourly trains on the Lakeshore continue to run on the same schedules as we designed them. Other peak trains
have been added, that depart from those schedules in order to run some express trains. This is the only route that has
train service all day, seven days a week. The service has been extended at both ends. Peak hour trains now run
beyond Pickering to Oshawa. Three trains serve Hamilton, and several others run beyond Oakville as far as
Some disadvantages showed up in the limited
facilities that we had on board the first train
equipment. When CN needed to rent extra passenger
equipment, the GO-Transit cars had limitations for
long haul services. When CN used them for extra
trains to run between Toronto and Niagara Falls, the
trains had to pause at Hamilton to allow a rest stop.
The lack of toilets and water prevented using them
for journeys that would require much traveling time
without making rest stops. The inability to move from
car to car was not good for mainline practice. The
double deck cars purchased later for GO-Transit
came with vestibule connections and toilets, so that
they can be rented out for other rail usage.
GO-Transit trains have been introduced on
several other rail lines radiating out of Toronto. For
economy, these lines have trains in the peak hours
only. Now the bus service also is part of the
operation. In the off-peak, passengers travel to and
from their stations by GO-Transit bus. This still maintains the principle that passengers need to be able to return to
their stations of origin at any time throughout the day or evening. The tickets are interchangeable, since they are the
Many of the stations have parking problems. These parking lots become full before the end of the peak hour.
More people could take their cars off the highways if there would be more parking space at the stations.
The passenger areas at Union Station have undergone massive reconstruction to be able to handle the flow of
passengers today. There is no trace of the layout as it was on opening day. The only constant is the rush of
passengers entering or leaving, and even that is a steady flow instead of one every ten minutes we started with.
In April 1999 I asked the Public Relations Department of GO-Transit for an update on the levels of traffic being
handled today. I received a pleasant reply from Barbara Butterfield, followed by a telex from Manu Patel. Where we
started the service between Oakville and Pickering at 15,000 passengers per day in the first months of operation,
GO-Transit now carries 50,200 per day in that same section. In the morning peak, there are 8,800 passengers
arriving Union Station from Pickering in, and 10,600 from Oakville in. If we count in the passengers from beyond
these termini out to Oshawa and Hamilton, the carryings on the Lakeshore lines now total 75,000 per day.
There are also the peak hour trains on the other lines radiating from downtown. Adding these in brings the total
being moved on all the trains up to 111,400 passengers per day. Finally, GO-Transit operates connecting buses for
the off-peak travelers, and certain outer-suburban services, so the total daily carryings by all these services totals
139,000 passengers per day. That's a happy piece of information, showing how providing the first high quality
services brought out the readiness of the commuting public to park their cars at the stations to ride in comfort.
Financing public transit
There is still some reluctance at social levels to consider public transit in the same category as highway services.
The manner of financing highway construction and maintenance is so different. Automobile drivers do not pay as
they drive. The car is paid for, the gas is in the tank, the streets and roadways, traffic control, ambulance and rescue
services, and hospitals are paid for by the Government out of taxes. At the moment of leaving the house, the drivers
do not see their costs. The only problems they have face are congestion on the highways, finding parking space at
the destination, and the complete stoppages on the highway that develop when a serious accident takes place.
As long as this funding structure for roadways continues, public transit cannot charge fares high enough to cover
all the expenses for tracks, signals, train equipment and operating staffs. This would force levels of fares that would
drive a lot of the commuters back to the automobile and create pressure for more highway construction and urban
sprawl. The need is to organise financing for transit in a manner comparable to financing highways.
When I received the response from Manu Patel, I also got some of the news about the changes that are taking
place right now in the administration of the services. It seems it has not been officially "GO-Transit" since 1974.
Since then the operation has been the responsibility of "TATOA", the Toronto Area Transit Operating Authority,
although this also was a Crown Agency of the Government of Ontario.
In a couple of months the whole operation will be transferred to the Greater Toronto Services Board, comprising
the municipalities of the Greater Toronto Area. The name "GO-Transit" together with the logo will continue to
identify the public services. I have no knowledge of how this change may influence arrangements for funding the
costs of operation.
I am writing this nearly 33 years after the GO-Transit service was inaugurated. I am lucky to have been able to
meet as many as 42 of the people who worked to bring it into service. I should have started a lot younger, then I
could have met with many more of them. Some I contacted didn't want to get involved. Some said it was too long
ago that they couldn't remember. Some were already beyond my reach. There were those I didn't succeed in
contacting at all. My apologies to the many people who could have offered more information, if only I had asked
them. I can only plead that I myself am running out of time, and I had to get on with it!
In conclusion I can only say that I am well content with the result today of the decision made by the Government
of Ontario in 1965, to move into an agreement for CN to start an experimental commuter service on the Lakeshore
lines. I am happy to have been the man in the middle, and to have had the support and participation of so many
knowledgeable people in CN and the Government.
- - - - - -and that's the story of
<< 16: The two years to 1969 || TOC