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May 23, 2017: 50 years of GO Transit

Rising housing costs…

Commuters living further and further away from the core…

Congested highways…

In some respects, the Toronto region of 50 years ago wasn’t all that different from the region today, except for one thing: the GO train.

Exactly 50 years ago today, Tuesday, May 23, 1967, the first GO Transit trains headed down the tracks from Oakville and the Dunbarton area of Pickering towards Union Station, carrying the first of many hundreds of thousands of train-loads of commuters into downtown Toronto.

Since that Tuesday after Victoria Day in Canada’s centennial year, GO has continued to grow into the extensive train and bus-route network it is today. In its first year of operation, GO Transit carried 2.5 million riders, exceeding its projected ridership for that year in just six months. Today, GO accommodates about 70 million trips per year on seven rail lines, connecting to 15 GO bus terminals and 17 municipal transit systems across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.


William Mewes captured this image of GO train led by cab car 9855 at Bronte GO station in 1971. He writes, “This historic building was located on the east side of Bronte Road, south of the tracks, and not at the same location as the present GO station.” The image used in accordance with his Creative Commons license.

Daniel Garcia and Transit Toronto’s webmaster and resident historian, James Bow, write elsewhere on this site:

“Passenger trains, including commuter trains, had been serving Toronto’s Union Station and the towns and villages along the shores of Lake Ontario for decades, but the history of GO Transit goes back to 1967, and has roots which take us back farther, to the early 1950s…

“Villages such as Port Credit and Streetsville were seeing an influx of people who commuted to work in Toronto. A number of planners and politicians called for Metro’s boundaries to be expanded to encompass this new growth, but the provincial government of the day was leery. Metropolitan Toronto was already a powerful government in its own right; making it bigger could cause it to rival the provincial government in prominence. As a result, the provincial government vetoed the idea of expanding the boundaries of Metropolitan Toronto.

“With the provincial government ensuring the Metropolitan Toronto could not fully control the development of the sprawling services surrounding it, the same provincial government realized it had no choice but to manage that growth itself. The province knew that unrestricted growth could put pressure on area infrastructure, increasing costs that could put pressure on local and provincial taxes. A clear example of this was the provincial highway network, including Highway 401 and the Queen Elizabeth Way. Without a regional government to create a managed transportation grid, the province realized that their highways would likely receive the brunt of the area’s new car traffic, and that the increased costs of maintaining and possibly expanding these highways would fall to it.


GO Transit single-level cab car #755 pulls out at the back of a train leaving Oakville station, while another train of single-level cars awaits to depart in this May 1967 shot. The service is barely days old. The photographer is unknown.

“In response, around 1965, the provincial government commissioned a number of reports, including the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Transportation Study (MTARTS for short). These reports confirmed that provincial highways were likely to see a significant increase in traffic, and they noted that expanding these highways to fill expected demand would be costly. One alternative to unrestricted highway expansion was the creation of parallel commuter rail services to act as a relief valve for overburdened highways.

“…one legacy of these slew of mid-1960s reports was the creation of a commuter rail service operating parallel to the Queen Elizabeth Way and the shore of Lake Ontario from Oakville to Dunbarton (today better known as Pickering). The service, which opened in May 1967, was designed to take pressure off the Queen Elizabeth Way in the west and Highway 401 to the east. The rest, as they say, is history.

Speaking about that history, GO Transit has assembled an informative “virtual museum” about its past, present and future. You can check it out, here. And, be sure to head over to Urban Toronto, where Andrew Johnston has provided a good historical overview of the service, here.

But, as always, Transit Toronto is the best place for you to explore and learn about the story of GO Transit and, of course, other transit history of Toronto and area.


GO train led by locomotive #606 enters Port Credit station in this July 1968 shot. The photographer is unknown.

From the Transit Toronto archives, read:

  • “GO Transit’s Lakeshore lines”, by Daniel Garcia and James Bow, here.
  • “GO Transit’s Kitchener line” (formerly Georgetown), by Daniel Garcia and Sean Marshall, here.
  • “GO Transit’s Richmond Hill line”, by Daniel Garcia, here.
  • “GO Transit’s Milton line”, by Daniel Garcia and James Bow, here.
  • “GO Transit’s Barrie line” (formerly Bradford), by Daniel Garcia and James Bow, here.
  • GO Transit’s Stouffville line”, by Daniel Garcia and James Bow, here.


A GO train led by locomotive #600 enters the original Danforth station on July 1, 1967. The photographer is unknown.

To learn about the GO Transit that was — or might have been or may be — also read:

  • “The GO-ALRT Program”, by Peter Drost, here. (GO-AlRT was an early regional express rail proposal using articulated light-rail vehicles, similar to the TTC’s Scarborough rapid transit line.)
  • “GO’s Dial-a-Bus Experiment”, by Pete Coulman and James Bow, here.
  • “GO’s future Midtown Corridor”, by Daniel Garcia and James Bow, here.

Visit our Regional Transit Photo Gallery to view more pictures of GO trains and buses, here.


GO Transit GP40TC locomotive #602 leads a train of single-level coaches through Scarborough station on September 5, 1967. The photographer is unknown. This photo is from the John Knight collection.