It’s May 23rd and on this very day, forty-six years ago, my favourite railroad company ran it’s first trains. Happy birthday GO Transit!
Wilfred Sergeant has written a truly excellent book about the first day of operations on the railway. He writes from having been there and during the design and set-up of this new company. You can read the full book online at:
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…Click here to read the rest of the article
In the days, weeks and year that would follow GO would continue to exceed it’s passenger targets and it’s challenges shifted from worrying about public acceptance to how they could possibly put more trains into service. Not only was the service a success for Ontario but further afield this one company has had a profound effect on the entire commuter rail industry. It’s revoluntionary bi-level passenger car have become so well received that many other transit operators across North America now have fleets made up of these cars. It’s not just the bi-levels, GO’s locomotive fleet has also been on the leading edge of commuter train motive power development. GO started with purpose-built locomotives: their GP40TC fleet. Innovative locomotive development would give us the wonderful F59 locomotive. F59’s based on the GO design can now be found across North America continuing to make their home road proud with years and years of reliable service. Here in Canada, F59’s can be found at home on GO trains but also in Montreal in service with AMT and even in VIA’s services into rural Quebec.
We often don’t realise how many great things we have right here in Canada. GO’s success is evidence of the value of careful and dedicated planning and good design. It’s also a terrific example of a successful public-private parternship, an example of government at municipal, provincial and federal levels all working together and making something great.
It makes me proud.
Good work, congratulations.
Of course, it’s exciting to look into the future. We’re only four years away from fifty years of GO Transit. This year London is celebrating one hundred and fifty years of their subway system and heritage trains are everywhere. Just imagine a restored GO Train in service. The coaches still exist and I think some of the original GP40TC’s are still in Amtrak work train service – it might not be totally impossible to do and it’s certainly fun to dream about.