- Is GO Transit expanding its service?
Slowly, but surely, yes.
In 2004, there were several service improvements. For example, GO Transit improved its service on Sundays on the Lakeshore line, adding earlier train and bus trips to match the Saturday schedule. On the Milton line, an additional round trip was added, and on the Georgetown line, one morning run was split into an express train from Georgetown and a local train from Bramalea. Go Transit is also improving its infrastructure, proceeding with environmental assessments As to build grade separations at West Toronto on the Georgetown Corridor, Snyder on the Bradford line and Hagerman on the Stouffville line, and additional tracks on the Lakeshore West and Georgetown Corridors. More infrastructure improvements are required before additional trains can be put into service.
As well, the Highway 407 bus service, serving York University, has been a huge success since it started in September 2000. At first, the service provided limited trips between Oakville and Unionville, but since then, the service has expanded as far as Hamilton and Pickering, with new bus trips added frequently to meet the demand.
- Is it my imagination, or is GO Transit more reliable than VIA Rail?
We can't quote you numbers, but a number of people have plenty of personal experiences to suggest that GO Trains are delayed far less frequently than VIA Trains in the Greater Toronto Area. Before you criticize VIA, however, note that GO has a number of advantages that its federally funded cousin does not. For one thing, GO Transit's commuter rail service is focused primarily on the inner ring of the Greater Toronto Area (east of Oakville, west of Oshawa, south of Richmond Hill). The freight railroads have largely pulled their trains out of these inner-city tracks, preferring new freight-only lines and huge classification yards outside the City of Toronto. GO Transit is, according to some sources, CN Rail's largest customer within the Greater Toronto Area. On some lines, GO is practically the only customer. Outside the GTA, where most of VIA's trains operate, these freight-only bypass railroads join up with the lines that VIA makes use of, meaning that VIA is far more likely to be forced behind a freight train than GO Transit is.
This fact has an impact on GO's ability to extend rail service to the outer reaches of the Greater Toronto Area. GO would love to extend full service to Hamilton and institute off-peak service on the Milton, Georgetown and Richmond Hill lines, but the railroads they are operating on are demanding that GO expand the capacity of these rail
lines with new rail before considering such a thing, and such a project would cost tens to hundreds of millions of dollars -- far more expensive than it was to get GO operating between Oakville and Pickering. This competition between the freight railroads and GO's commuter service is further illustrated by GO's eastern extension to Oshawa. Rather than purchase rail time on one of CN's busiest lines, it proved cheaper to build completely separate right-of-way.
- Why doesn't GO Transit run to Kitchener/Cambridge/Orillia/etc?
Initially, it was all a lack of political will on the part of the province to pay for such an extension. There were few commuters who would directly benefit enough to entice the politicians to act. Questionable decisions by the provincial government reduced GO Transit's ability to provide expanded services to areas outside the Greater Toronto Area, and even now, the political representatives on the GO Transit Board are from the regional municipalities or cities that help fund GO Transit's capital expenses.
The Province of Ontario took back responsibility for GO Transit when the short-lived Greater Toronto Services Board was abolished on January 1 2002, and has committed to several rail and bus improvements, including extending GO trains to Barrie from Bradford (a restoration of a previous service cut) and new bus feeders from Waterloo Region, Guelph and Peterborough to GO Train stations. There has been considerable interest from Waterloo Region for GO service to Cambridge and/or Kitchener, and there was a brief GO Train service on the Georgetown line that extended all the way to Guelph.
Existing GO bus services to Hamilton, Barrie and Guelph are the legacy of the former Gray Coach commuter buses that were assumed by GO Transit in the 1980s. Hamilton had peak-period rail service since the the beginning of GO Transit service in 1967.
If you live just outside the GTA and feel that GO Transit service should be extended to serve you, write to your local municipality or region, explain your case, and suggest that they start talking.
- What is an HEP generator?
HEP stands for Head End Power. A HEP generator is what powers the lights, heating and air conditioning, doors, etc. on a coach. I don't know who invented it, but I know that GO Transit was among the first to use it: Amtrak didn't start until about 1980, 13 years later. A HEP generator can either run off of the prime mover, like the F40PH's, or off a separate engine, like on the GP40TC's or F59PH's.
- What is a prime mover?
The prime mover is the main motor in a locomotive. For example, all GO Transit engines save for the GP40s and the F40s used to have a 567-series prime mover, rated at 3000hp (horsepower), but the F59PH's have a 710G3 prime mover. It too, is rated at 3000hp. The GP40s and F40s used a 645-series prime mover.
- What is the difference between the GP40TC, GP40-2L and GP40u?
The GP40TC is a "normal" GP40 on an SD40 frame, with the extra length for the HEP generator and engine. A GP40-2L is basically a, well, GP40-2, but with a CN-designed "safety cab". It doesn't have a HEP generator. The GP40u's were rebuilt GP40's, but were rebuilt with Dash 2 electricals, and a "u" was added to the designation to separate them from "normal" GP40's and GP40-2's. These too have no HEP generators.
- How come the engines are called something, but have a different, or sometimes the same, designation?
That's a little bit more difficult to answer. You see, every railroad has it's own engine designations, and GO Transit uses CN's engine designations. They are used to list the engine's horsepower, number of powered axles, use, etc. For example, GO's GP40TC's were designated GCE-430a, "G" standing for GM, who built the engine, "C" because it is designed for commuter service, "E" for the fact that it uses an electric generator as opposed to a steam generator, "4" for 4 powered axles, "30" for 3000hp and "a" because it was the first of this designation to be delivered. If you wanted to find out the designation of an SD-70I, than you would go through step-by-step: "G" for GM, "F" for freight service, "E" for the presence of Head End Power, "6" for 6 powered axles, and "40" for 4000hp. There would be no delivery order letter because there has only been one order so far, so that's it: GFE-640.
- What is a Dash 2 electrical?
Let me start from the beginning: First, GM "regular" engines, such as GP30's, SD40's, and GP40's. Then, in the early '60ies, with the advent of transistors and the such, GM decided, "hey, me can make things work better if we put these in." And so, the Dash 2 series was born, and for a while, both "normal" and Dash 2 models were built simultaneously. Then, around 1970, GM decided that they didn't need two models of what were basically the same engine, and so, all engines built after then were Dash 2 models. What Dash 2 really means is that these transistors control all engine systems (braking, accelerating, wheelslip control, etc.). Recently, though, GM has dropped the Dash 2 designation, and has added microprocessor control to all of the engine systems, starting with the most recently built SD60's and GP60's. All of GO Transit's F59PH's feature microprocessor controlled systems.