The Single Level Coaches (1968-1989)

By Daniel Garcia and James Bow.

GO Transit’s First Passenger Rail Cars

When the Government of Ontario started setting up its commuter rail service between Pickering and Oakville in 1967, the first question it confronted was what to use to carry people along the line. Rather than lease passenger cars and locomotives from Canadian Pacific or Canadian National (at the time, they needed this equipment for their own passenger runs), GO Transit purchased a set of locomotives from General Motors, and set to work looking for passenger coaches.

They turned to Hawker Siddeley, which had just built Toronto’s H-1 subway cars for use on the Bloor-Danforth subway. Hawker-Siddeley started work on a set of coaches based on the H-1 subway class design (this model would also be used on the CN/VIA Tempo intercity trains and the Montreal Expo Express trains). Just as with the multi-purpose GP40TC locomotives, the thinking was that if the commuter rail service failed to live up to expectations, they could be more easily sold to other agencies, like the TTC or Montreal.

Self Propelled Vehicles

The first order of 32 cars (numbered 4700-4731) arrived in 1967. These had standard railway coach seating (they could seat 94 passengers), but motorized doors for ease of entrance and access (conductors wouldn’t have to help passengers off the train). An addition 17 coaches also arrived in 1967. Eight cars had cabs where engineers could drive the train, and the remaining nine had motors to give the train an extra push without need of a hefty diesel locomotive.

The nine motorized coaches were powered with a little 330hp Rolls-Royce diesel engine. This wasn’t much power compared to the 3000 hp put out by the GP40TC locomotives, so the self-propelled vehicles were expected to run on their own during the midday, evening and weekend service periods of the Lakeshore line. Seven of the nine self-propelled cars had one cab, while the remaining one had two. Unfortunately, these cars just didn’t have enough power to handle the crowds, and the self-propelled cars soon found themselves behind a diesel locomotive full time.

When GO Train service was confirmed for the long term, GO Transit ordered an additional 14 cars, which arrived in 1968. Thirty more coaches, all non-cab, were bought in 1974, followed by another 30 in 1976.

Victims of their Own Success

GO Transit’s operations proved to be even more successful than the government of Ontario had hoped for. In 1974, service began on a new line between Union and Georgetown, followed by a service to Richmond Hill in 1978. Crowds were already packing onto the single-level cars during off-peak times. To deal with this, and to address design problems with the single-level cars’ ability to handle larger crowds, GO looked to a new model.

In 1974, GO borrowed a number of CP’s gallery cars then in service in Montréal, in exchange for an equal number of single level cars. These gallery cars ran in service on the Lakeshore line. Interestingly enough about these cars, each features its own HEP engine and generator, which meant that GO could use any of the non-HEP equipped engines without the need of an APU/APCU (Thanks to Mark Walton). Gallery cars from the Chicago and North Western commuter rail service joined the experiment soon after, and while these gallery cars weren’t everything GO was hoping for, they confirmed that the way to expand service was not through longer trains, but taller ones. GO again turned to Hawker Siddeley for a solution, and GO’s bilevel coaches were born.

Gradual Retirement

Following the first order of bilevel coaches, GO Transit never ordered another single-level passenger rail coach. Twenty were sold to the Ontario Northland Railway, which rebuilt them and put them to work on the Northlander between Toronto and North Bay. The ones that remained with GO continued in service, carrying passengers until 1989. Cab cars were renumbered 100-116, and some were used to “pull” a locomotive-powered train of bilevel coaches. The remaining coaches were renumbered 1000-1105.

Once pulled from service, GO gradually sold off or scrapped the cars. Five more coaches were sold to the ONR in 1994. Eleven cars were sold to the railway maintenance company Pandrol-Jackson in 1991 and 80 more to the Quebec government (1993) where, after awaiting rebuilding for 6 years, they were finally put into service on Montreal’s newest commuter line.

A Vital Contribution

GO’s single level coaches were not without their problems. They were not built to the commuter-friendly design that the Bi-Level coaches would be built to; in spite of their modifications, their design owed a lot to the passenger cars of long-distance trains. The underpowered cab motors would serve to tar reputation of the entire fleet. However, it is impossible to diminish the importance of these cars to GO Transit. They were there when the system was born, and they saw the system through its critical first decade in service.

Fleet List (All Retired)

Regular Passenger Coaches

  • 1000-1031 - Built 1967 - Hawker Siddeley Canada
    (arrived as 4700-4731 in 1967, renumbered 9900-9931 in 1970, renumbered again in 1975)
  • 1032-1045 - Built 1968 - Hawker Siddeley Canada
    (arrived as 4740-4753 in 1968, renumbered 9932-9945 in 1970, renumbered again in 1975, 1043 scrapped due to fire damage)
  • 1046-1075 - Built 1974 - Hawker Siddeley Canada
    (arrived as 9946-9975 in 1974, renumbered in 1975)
  • 1076-1105 - Built 1976 - Hawker Siddeley Canada
    (never renumbered)

Cab Cars

  • 100-107 - Built 1967 - Hawker Siddeley Canada
    (arrived as C700-C707 in 1967, renumbered 9850-9857 in 1970, renumbered again in 1975)

Self-Propelled Cars

  • 108-116 - Built 1967 - Hawker Siddeley Canada (arrived as D700-D708 in 1967, renumbered 9825-9833 in 1970, converted to unpowered cab cars in 1975, renumbered again in 1975)

Single Level Coaches Image Archive

References

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