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GO Transit's Lakeshore Line

Eastbound Lakeshore Train at Pickering Station

Eastbound Lakeshore GO Train at Pickering station in track 2, taken looking east from track 3.

Text by Daniel Garcia and James Bow.

Lakeshore Service Today

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GO Transit officially operates its Lakeshore GO train service as two lines: Lakeshore West and Lakeshore East, connecting at Union Station. In practice, many trains starting service on one line operates through Union Station and continues service on the other. Most trains operate from Aldershot GO station at Waterdown Road and Highway 403 in west Burlington and follow the former tracks of Canadian National's Oakville sub through Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, southern Etobicoke and Toronto. At Union Station, trains continue east along the former tracks of Canadian National's Kingston Sub through Toronto, southern Scarborough and into Pickering. At Durham Junction, roughly 1 km west of Pickering station, GO trains transfer onto the GO Sub, which branches off the Kingston Sub at Durham Junction, and follows purpose-built tracks paralleling Highway 401 into Oshawa.

Four additional rush hour express trains extend west from Aldershot over Canadian Pacific tracks to the former Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo station at Hunter Street in Hamilton, while another two follow the CN's Grimsby subdivision to West Harbour station near James Street north of Downtown Hamilton. Since 2009, GO Transit has also operated seasonal weekend service west from Union Station to Burlington and Hamilton and then east via CN's Grimsby subdivision to St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.

Over most of the line, rush-hour service sees trains operating at intervals as frequent as every ten minutes. The Lakeshore West line stretches 64.2 kilometres from Union station to Hamilton, while the Lakeshore East line stretches 50.1 kilometres from Union Station to Oshawa. Between Union and Oshawa are the intermediate stations of Danforth, Scarborough, Eglinton, Guildwood, Rouge Hill, Pickering, Ajax and Whitby. Between Union and Hamilton, trains serve the intermediate stops of Exhibition, Mimico, Long Branch, Port Credit, Clarkson, Oakville, Bronte, Appleby, Burlington and Aldershot.

As of 2014, 60,000 passengers used the Lakeshore West line on an average workday, while 52,000 used the Lakeshore East line.

Early History of GO Transit and Metropolitan Toronto

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 that take us back farther, to the early 1950s. At the time, Toronto's development, held back by two decades of war and depression, boomed. Since the city had instituted a moratorium on annexations in 1931, this meant that a ring of twelve municipalities surrounding Toronto was left to pick up the growth. In this period of unprecedented growth, this ring of municipalities was handling the growth with varying degrees of success. Some were prospering. Others were being choked on the rising demands for serviced land and were facing bankruptcy. The city itself had to deal with the high cost of ageing infrastructure and no free land with which to reap the benefits of new development. Worst of all, there was no overall plan for growth.

As the problems progressed, the City of Toronto reversed its annexation moratorium and sought to absorb its neighbours, envisioning a City of Toronto stretching to the outer boundaries of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough townships. The outer ring of municipalities (North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke townships), fearing the loss of their independence, but desperate to handle the high cost of servicing their newly developed land, demanded a service-sharing agreement between all the suburban municipalities and Toronto. The provincial government of the day took a middle view and created a two-tier municipal federation of the twelve suburban municipalities and the City of Toronto called the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. This change set the stage for the area's subsequent forty years of prosperity.

However, by the 1960s, the problem resurfaced on a larger scale. This time, development spilled beyond Metro's boundaries and into the formerly rural areas of Peel and York Counties. 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.

The Province Steps In to Protect Toronto Highways

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.

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.

The other reports eventually resulted in the creation of regional governments out of the counties of Halton, Peel, York and Durham. The province had intended that these "mini-Metros" would build to a regional plan set down by the provincial government. Although this regional plan was soon discarded, allowing the new regional municipalities to build as they saw fit, one legacy of this 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.

Pickering Junction

Eastbound Lakeshore train at Pickering Junction, heading into Pickering station

Service begins on the Lakeshore Line

Ontario premier John Robarts announced plans to build a commuter railroad operating from Dunbarton (Pickering) to Hamilton in 1965. The Ontario government set to work purchasing rail equipment for the route, including locomotives from General Motors and coaches from Hawker-Siddeley. The province decided against leasing equipment from the private railways as, at the time, such equipment was unavailable; Canadian National and Canadian Pacific had their own trains to run. However, GO Transit did pick out equipment that could be easily operated by the private railways. The provincial commuter service would lease equipment to the railways during weekends and, the plan was, the equipment could be easily sold to the railways should the trial of the commuter service prove unsuccessful.

The first provincially run commuter rail service for Toronto was officially called Government of Ontario Transit, which serendipitously shortened to "GO Transit". A logo was designed, and the first locomotives painted, and everything was ready for service to begin on May 23, 1967. The first train left Dunbarton at 6:00 am that morning, with another train departing Oakville station 10 minutes later, to meet at Union. The next day, trains departed from Pickering at 5:00am, 6:40am, 8:00am, 11:00am, 2:00pm, 4:00pm, 4:40pm, 6:00pm and 11:00pm, arriving at Oakville at 6:09am, 7:49am, 10:49am, 1:49pm, 3:49pm, 4:29pm, 5:09pm, 7:49pm, 12:09pm. By September 1967, trains were running hourly, seven days a week. Even though the service was given only three years to prove itself, GO carried its first million passengers within four months; two months later weekday ridership was averaging 15000 passengers per day. The trial service had succeeded beyond everybody's expectations.

Although it was planned from the start that Hamilton should receive GO Train service, initial service to Hamilton was limited to a handful of Toronto-bound trips in the morning, and Hamilton-bound trips in the afternoon. GO Transit was able to purchase track time between Oakville and Pickering in part because Canadian National had upgraded the Halton and York subdivisions across the north of Metropolitan Toronto, and had built the MacMillan classification yard in Vaughan Township a few years before. Canadian National's freight operations were moving away from downtown Toronto, freeing up space on the rails for GO's commuter trains. West of Oakville, however, no such bypass existed, meaning that extending service to Hamilton was a costly prospect that was not resolved for decades after the launch of service.

Expansion, and the GO-ALRT Question

Initial service on the Lakeshore GO stopped at Pickering, Rouge Hill, Guildwood, Eglinton, Scarborough, Danforth, Union, Mimico, Long Branch, Port Credit, Lorne Park, Clarkson, Oakville, Bronte, Burlington and Hamilton (the latter three stops served by rush hour runs). Sometime in August 1967, GO Trains started serving the Exhibition, initially from an old platform and concrete stairs just west of the Dufferin Street Bridge. Canadian National and Pacific trains (and their corporate ancestors) had used this special stop all the way back to 1912. The service was not heavily publicized, at first, but still carried 8,000 passengers on its first day. For the 1968 Exhibition season, GO Transit set up a temporary booth to handle the crowds, which topped 24,000 on the season's busiest day. This highlighted the need for a proper GO station at the Exhibition grounds. The old platform was on a curve, and had only one exit, and wasn't as conveniently located relative to the rest of the grounds. GO planners identified a straight section of track further east, near Exhibition Stadium. Storage tracks were removed to allow for the construction of platforms, and a pedestrian overpass was built to cross the four tracks between the north and south platforms. This station was ready in time for the 1968 Royal Winter Fair in November of that year.

In November 1967, Bronte Station was replaced by a new station a kilometre and a half to the east, named Oakville West (and renamed Bronte in the 1990s). Lorne Park station (likely located where the railway crossed Lorne Park Road) closed on April 26, 1968, and, in March of 1980, Burlington station was replaced by a station bearing the same name, three-quarters of a kilometre to the east. Appleby Station opened on September 19, 1988, followed by Aldershot on May 25, 1992.

While service continued to expand between Oakville and Pickering, the question of extending service further east and west was hampered by Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, which continued to operate significant freight service on their lines. The cost of extending service proved so prohibitive that, in the late 1970s, the government of Ontario considered bypassing the railroads altogether and building their own automated, high-speed service. The GO ALRT project proposed building light rapid transit lines west from Oakville to Hamilton and east from Pickering to Oshawa. Smaller trains would operate as frequently as every five minutes to shuttle passengers to larger trains operating at twenty-minute frequencies during rush hours. This was a temporary measure, as premier Bill Davis envisioned a wider network of lines stretching through the GTA, replacing GO Lakeshore service, building a second line to Pearson Airport and across the north of Toronto.

GO ALRT plans advanced far enough that the province acquired property for a right-of-way between Pickering and Oshawa along the south side of Highway 401. In the late 1980s, however, the situation changed when the federal government passed legislation giving passenger trains priority over freight service. For GO Transit, this meant that the current train service could be extended west from Oakville and east from Pickering at a much lower cost than with ALRT technology. Construction on the extension east from Pickering along the already-acquired right-of-way began almost immediately and was put into service from Pickering to Whitby on December 4, 1988. Starting October 1, 1990, a train started serving Oshawa operating along the Kingston sub, bypassing Ajax and Whitby on its way to Oshawa's VIA Station. Oshawa would not be added to the GO Sub until January 8, 1995. The eastern suburbs enjoyed expanded service until July 3, 1993, when budget cuts forced all but the rush-hour trains to be cut back to Pickering. On May 1, 2000, all-day-weekday service returned to the GO Sub, although weekend and holiday trains were still terminated at Pickering. Weekend and holiday service was restored to Whitby and extended to Oshawa on December 30, 2006.

GO Transit

A GO Train prepares to enter Port Credit GO Station. Photo by Daniel Garcia.

Extensions to the West

At the start of service in May 1967, the bulk of GO's Lakeshore West service was to Oakville, with two rush-hour trips running to Hamilton. Starting October 27, 1986, a third rush-hour train was added to Hamilton's service. The GO ALRT project for the west was never as developed as it was in the east, and so no right-of-way was available when GO decided that conventional equipment would be better for the westward extensions than ICTS technology. Despite this, GO Transit was able to extend all day and weekend service from Oakville to Burlington, including stops at Appleby and Oakville West stations on May 23, 1992 (the twenty-fifth anniversary of GO service). Budget cuts forced all but peak service to be cut back to Oakville on July 3, 1993.

Undaunted by this setback, GO continued to prepare for improved service to Hamilton, rerouting its trains and buses from the inconveniently located CN station on James Street near Burlington Street to the refurbished TH&B station on Hunter Street in downtown Hamilton on April 29, 1996. A fourth rush-hour train to Hamilton was added on May 1, 2000, the same day that all-day-weekday service was restored to Burlington. In September 7, 2007, GO extended weekday service outside of rush hour one station to the east at Aldershot, connecting GO Trains to VIA services offered at the same station, and reducing the pressure on Burlington's parking lots. Weekend service to Aldershot began on Sunday, October 28. Limitations with equipment and track time initially prevented the extension of rush-hour service to Aldershot, beyond the four trains operating through to Hamilton, but additional rush-hour service has been added to Aldershot since.

In May 2009, GO Transit announced it would begin a special summer weekend and holiday operation between Union and Niagara Falls. Four trains were scheduled to depart Union Station, stopping at Exhibition, Port Credit, Oakville and Burlington stations before following CN tracks through north Hamilton to the VIA station at Niagara Falls. Trains made an additional stop at the VIA station in St. Catharines. Service began on Saturday, June 27, 2009, and ended on Thanksgiving Day. The service proved popular and resumed for weekends and holidays on May 21, 2010. The service has continued to operate during summer weekends ever since, with a Friday evening service added on June 27, 2014.

Metrolinx continued to work towards GO Transit's original goal of full seven-day-a-week service between Hamilton and Oshawa, although it encountered difficulty expanding service on the former TH&B tracks to Hunter Street station in downtown Hamilton. In response to this, Metrolinx returned to the former Hamilton station site on James Street north of the downtown. Starting in 2013, it built a new station next to the original Hamilton station (which had been repurposed as an events venue), with fully accessible platforms, a new parking lot, and bus looping facilities. Originally to be called James North GO, Metrolinx announced in May 2015 that the station would open as Harbour West GO, to avoid confusion with the Hamilton station on Hunter Street and James Street South. Service began in time for the 2015 Pan Am games, with extra trains running express to Union in order to connect venues between Hamilton and Toronto. After the games closed, GO Transit settled in to operate two rush-hour trains (inbound to Toronto in the morning and outbound in the afternoon) in addition to the four operating out of Hunter Street station.

Increased Frequencies and On to Niagara

The expansion to Hamilton included a new layover yard beside the Grimsby subdivision between McNeilly Road and Lewis Road. The station tracks, which were separate from the mainline, only connected to the mainline at the west end of the station. As a result of this, GO's Niagara seasonal trains bypass this station, stopping instead at Burlington on their way to Grimsby, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls. This led to some residents in Hamilton protesting in the spring of 2018 that their city was being unfairly overlooked. Connections between the east end of the station tracks and the mainline are planned as Metrolinx proceeds with an extension to Confederation Beach Park further east in Stoney Creek, and eventual full service to St. Catharines and Niagara Falls. Construction for the extension to Stoney Creek began in the fall of 2017 and that station was expected to open late in 2019. Metrolinx also studied a proposal to extend service to Niagara Falls, with the line opening to Grimsby in 2021 and to St. Catharines and Niagara Falls in 2023.

Meanwhile, the provincial government and Metrolinx spent money to increase frequencies on the line. Now that sufficient capacity had been built from Port Credit west, on June 29, 2013, Lakeshore GO Train base service increased from hourly to every half hour throughout most of the week. Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig and Ontario Minister of Transportation Glenn Murray hosted a press conference where they ceremonially tore up a GO timetable as, they argued, passengers no longer needed timetables to quickly board their trains. This may have been optimistic, but on September 20, 2018, John Yakabuski, Minister of Transportation for the newly elected Conservative government of Ontario announced that starting the following Monday (the 24th), weekday service would increase to every 15 minutes between Oshawa and Union, and to an average of 20 minutes between Union and Oakville.

The provincial government followed up by launching a single weekday train between Niagara Falls and Union, launching on January 7, 2019. This train served all stops on the Lakeshore line to Hamilton's West Harbour station before continuing on to Niagara Falls. However, the platform tracks at West Harbour station remained stub-ended, meaning that the inbound train from Niagara Falls had to travel west past West Harbour and back in before leaving, and the outbound train to Niagara Falls pulled into West Harbour, then backed out before continuing on its journey. The connections allowing for smooth through service would not be built for months. However, expansion continued, with the provincial government announcing in late August 2019 that the seasonal weekend service to and from Niagara Falls would now operate year-round. In addition, the number of rush-hour trains to and from West Harbour would increase from two to four, giving Hamilton eight inbound departures and eight outbound arrivals at either West Harbour or Hamilton GO stations.

On Monday, July 26, 2021, the Ontario Minister of Transportation, Caroline Mulroney, announced that effective August 7, 2021, full hourly service would operate to West Harbour station, seven days a week. During weekdays throughout the day into the early evening, additional service would short-turn at Aldershot and at Oakville, providing 30-minute service east from Aldershot, and 15-minute service east from Oakville, all the way to Oshawa. Additionally, hourly buses would connect with the short-turning trains at Aldershot, taking passengers to the Hamilton GO station at Hunter Street.

A Tour of the Line

At the east end, Lakeshore GO Train service starts at Oshawa station, a facility shared between GO Transit and VIA Rail near the corner of Bloor Street West and Thornton Road. Here, passengers brought in from Newcastle, Bowmanville and other points east and north transfer to waiting trains. GO trains use tracks that parallel the Canadian National Kingston Sub west from Oshawa to Whitby. Approaching Whitby, these tracks shift closer to Highway 401 and, west of Whitby station, the GO subdivision tracks split away from the Kingston Sub and follow Highway 401 past Ajax station towards Pickering. The tracks here have been built to high standards, with concrete ties and continuously welded rail, producing a very quiet and smooth ride. The station platforms along this route have been built in roughly the same minimalist, late 1980s style, with glass walls and low concrete and metal roofs.

Near Whitby station, passengers looking to the south may catch sight of the East Rail Maintenance Facility. Since 2012, Metrolinx has been building this facility as a complement to its Willowbrook Maintenance Centre near Mimico station. This 600,000 square foot facility will contain more than a kilometre's worth of tracks and 72 track switches, allowing up to 22 trains to be stored onside, with space for coach repair, locomotive repair, a wash track and other facilities. This facility is expected to open early in 2017.

The next stop is Pickering. Most trains board and disembark passengers at platforms alongside the GO Sub tracks, officially (but not publicly) known as the Pickering North station. The original station at Pickering (officially but not publicly called "Pickering South) exists south of the Kingston Sub tracks and is accessed by a long tunnel. The original station still operates a platform that sees the occasional Union-to-Pickering short turn train. In 2011, a 250-metre long pedestrian bridge was built, connecting all three platforms to shops and services north of Highway 401, including the Pickering Town Centre, significantly enhancing the accessibility of Pickering station. The bridge opened late in 2011.

Passengers heading for home

Passengers heading for home at Rouge Hill GO Station.

Entering Scarborough

West of Pickering, near Liverpool Road, the GO Sub connects back with the Kingston Sub in a complex junction that requires trains to dip beneath the CN York Sub coming in from the west. From there, GO trains operate along the Kingston Sub across southwestern Pickering, crossing the Rouge River near its mouth at Lake Ontario. Following the lakeshore along an embankment, GO trains then make the next stop at scenic Rouge Hill station (where connections are provided with TTC bus services and the occasional Durham Region Transit shuttle). The tracks continue west along the shore of Lake Ontario a short distance before pulling back behind East Point Park and the industrial lands near the F.J. Horgan Water Treatment Plant.

The next stops along the Kingston sub, at roughly three-kilometre intervals, are Guildwood near Kingston Road and Guildwood Drive, Eglinton near Eglinton Avenue and Bellamy Road, Scarborough, near St. Clair Avenue and Midland and Danforth, near Danforth Avenue and Main Street. In spite of the close proximity of these stations, and the availability of TTC bus services, the parking lots at these stations are often full, proving the popularity of GO Service even in the suburbs within old Metropolitan Toronto. There are three tracks along the Kingston Sub between Danforth and Guildwood, the result of GO Transit building a siding when the stations were built in 1967. The original eastbound track now sits between the outer tracks that GO uses. In addition, GO trains share Guildwood Station with VIA Rail, which uses it as a suburban Toronto stop for its Ottawa and Montreal trains.

Between Midland Avenue and St. Clair Avenue, the Kingston Sub meets the Uxbridge Sub at Scarborough Junction. The Uxbridge sub carries Stouffville GO trains. GO Trains to Stouffville used to serve the Scarborough and the Danforth steps on its way to and from Union Station, but now runs express, as Lakeshore GO passengers were crowding Stouffville GO patrons off their own train. At Danforth station, it is possible to see the remnants of Midland Yard, which served CN freight trains until the opening of the CN MacMillian yard in 1965. Without MacMillian yard, the trains that operated out of Midland Yard, as well as other yards along the Lakeshore route, would have made the current GO train service impossible. These sites are now potential sites of redevelopment, or even GO Train storage.

En Route to Union

West of Danforth, Lakeshore GO trains pass working-class and gentrifying residential neighbourhoods on their way to downtown Toronto. Until the late 1990s, it was possible to see "Helper Pockets", short stub tracks used for storing extra engines to help the trains up the hill, along the route. The line is elevated west of Danforth Station, and the backs of buildings and parking lots are the typical trackside scenery. Treats along the way include a good view of TTC's Greenwood Yard and Shops, especially if you are seated in the upper level of the bi-level coaches. The line gradually turns southwest, crossing Gerrard and Queen Streets, before turning west again and crossing the Don Valley Parkway and the Don River.

At the Don, the line meets the Bala subdivision, which serves Richmond Hill GO trains. The redeveloping Don lands are clearly visible here, including the Cherry Street streetcar. On the south, beside the Gardiner Expressway, the Cherry Street staging yard holds rush hour GO trains serving Union Station from the east and north. Trains often slow, here, as they navigate the switches leading to the many platforms of Union Station, and a stop that usually empties out the train, before filling it back up again for the run to points west.

West of Union

After leaving Union Station, most trains passes into a "duckunder" which allows Lakeshore trains to move from the northernmost tracks out of Union Station and access the Oakville Sub without interfering with trains from the CN Weston and the former CP Galt (now owned by GO Transit as far as the West Toronto Junction) subs, hosting the Barrie, Kitchener and Milton GO Trains as well as, come 2015, the Union-Pearson Express. After passing beneath Bathurst Street, these subs branch off and head north west.

The Oakville Sub then passes north of the Exhibition, passing by the Dufferin Gates and then following a tight right-of-way with the Gardiner Expressway on the south and King Street and the Queensway to the north as it curves around Humber Bay to the Humber River. After passing the TTC's Humber Loop, it ducks under the Gardiner Expressway and heads for Mimico Station.

Eastbound Lakeshore Train

Eastbound Lakeshore GO Train under signals.

At Mimico, several tracks branch off both north and south of the mainline while the mainline converges into three tracks. Here, GO trains pass between two large yards. To the south exists VIA's Toronto Maintenance Centre (TMC) where passengers can see an assortment of VIA trains, including the Canadian. Just west of the TMC is CN's Mimico yard, a shadow of its former self. Its current duty is to hold and sort cars for the industries west of Union Station and it boasts its own yard switcher, usually a rebuilt GP-20u that spends its nights at the Cherry Street Tower and yard.

To the north is GO Transit's own Willowbrook Maintenance Facility and Yard. This is where most of the Lakeshore and all Richmond Hill trains spend their nights and weekends, and where most of the Richmond Hill, Bradford, Milton, Stouffville and Georgetown trains spend their weekdays. Passengers on the Lakeshore GO train can clearly see a number of locomotives and coaches, and can even catch glimpses of new equipment being delivered to the system.

Just past the Willowbrook/TMC/Mimico threesome, a pair of tracks comes from the north and joins up with the mainline. These tracks belong to CP's Canpa Sub, also known as "The Cutoff". They join up with the Galt Sub at Obico, just west of Kipling station. A nice little tower still stands at the junction, but it's currently used for maintenance-of-way crews. These tracks used to be used frequently by CP's Oakville auto trains to reach the Ford plant in Oakville, but this service now varies considerably, with seemly over forty trains emerging from the Sub one month, followed by nothing for another two months.

To Mississauga and Beyond

Once past Canpa, it's a short distance to Long Branch Station. Beyond Long Branch Station, the scenery changes from industrial factories to residential backyards and trees. These are some of the oldest houses in Mississauga, built by families that where brought out here by either CN trains or by the Lakeshore Interurban trolley that ran to Port Credit until the 1930s. As the train gets closer to Port Credit, apartment buildings become more and more common.

Beyond Port Credit, the line passes over an old bridge over the Credit River and dives into some of the oldest neighbourhoods of Mississauga. Just before the train arrives at Clarkson Station, you'll pass a small yard to the south of the mainline, where the west yard lead wraps around the south platform of the station. This, too, used to be part of a bigger yard, but it now stores cars for the local industries and extra cars that are headed for the Oakville Ford Plant.

Past Clarkson Station, most of the scenery is obscured behind the thick layer of trees on either side of the right-of-way. This shields passengers from such sights as an oil refinery and other heavy industry until the line reaches the Ford plant and its yard. Here, you can see the switcher CN has permanently assigned to handle this extremely busy industry; it is usually a rebuilt GP-20u. Past the plant, it's a short trip to Oakville, a station that was the western terminal for most GO trains for almost 25 years. The station is located some distance from Oakville's downtown, which is well worth a look. The station itself sees a lot of activity, including VIA trains to London and Niagara Falls, which make stops here.

Just past the station, the line crosses over a river. The line runs very straight alongside industrial scenery, past Bronte and Appleby stations. Here, GO Trains have to contend with more freight traffic; the third track along this part of the route was built specifically to extend GO service to Burlington and Aldershot. Should a GO train have to contend with a freight train up ahead (and many depart from the Ford plant), it would likely use one of the crossovers to move onto an empty track. The crossover for westbound trains heading to Appleby is located close to Bronte station; the crossover for Burlington station is at Cumberland Avenue, two kilometres east.

After passing beneath the Queen Elizabeth Way as the highway cuts south to cross Hamilton Harbour, the final stop for most Lakeshore GO trains is Aldershot, located a short distance west of Burlington station. The station was opened on May 25, 1992 (close to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the launch of GO Train service) in order to relieve parking pressure on Burlington, and it allowed VIA Rail to consolidate Windsor and Niagara train services, which previously stopped at Hamilton, Dundas and Burlington. In 2011, Metrolinx established a new fuelling station at Aldershot, enabling midday trains to refuel here while laying over, eliminating the need for these trains to be switched off at Willowbrook and keeping them in service.

Aldershot features a bus terminal that allows passengers to connect to buses taking them the west of the way to Hamilton or McMaster University, as well as local transit buses connecting passengers to Burlington, Waterdown and downtown Hamilton.

For the four rush-hour trains to Hamilton's Hunter Street station, the line continues west, before transferring off of Canadian National tracks on to Canadian Pacific's former Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo tracks. GO used to continue on CN, rounding Hamilton harbour and terminating at Hamilton's station near Burlington Street. This station was located some distance from Hamilton's downtown, so GO decided to replace it with the former TH&B station located on Hunter Street, just south of King. The TH&B station has been restored to its 30s Art Deco splendour and now acts as both Hamilton's GO Train station and its intercity bus terminal. GO's seasonal Niagara Falls trains continue to use Canadian National's tracks, following the VIA Rail route with stops in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.

How the Lakeshore GO Train Line has Changed Since 1967

As the oldest line on GO Transit's network, the Lakeshore line has seen the most changes. Increasing ridership has required an expansion and upgrade of facilities throughout the network, especially at Union Station. Exhibition GO station saw a permanent ticket booth built, and its pedestrian overpass replaced by a wheelchair-accessible tunnel. Further improvements to better connect the station with Liberty Village will include a proper station entrance at Atlantic Avenue. In the summer of 2014, plans were drawn up to renovate Mimico station, with wider, fully accessible platforms, and entrances that offer better connections with the surrounding neighbourhoods, opening in 2018. Delays, however, have pushed the opening into the next decade. Multi-level parking structures have been added to Burlington, Oakville and Ajax stations. That only scratches the surface of the changes that have occurred.

The Future

In addition to increasing frequencies, Metrolinx has taken steps to protect and expand service on the Lakeshore GO line by purchasing tracks. It bought the Kingston Sub from Pickering Junction to Union on March 31, 2011. In 2012, Metrolinx paid $310 million to purchase the Oakville Subdivision enabling GO Trains to fully control the tracks between Aldershot and Oshawa. Canadian National continues to maintain control over the tracks west of Aldershot and through Hamilton, however.

Metrolinx continues to pursue increasing service to St. Catharines and Niagara Falls. Starting in 2017, Metrolinx began work on a $150 million extension from West Harbour GO station to Confederation Beach Park in Stoney Creek. Further rush hour trains could reach Grimsby and St. Catharines in 2021, with additional trains to Niagara Falls possible as early as 2023. However, Metrolinx notes that millions would have to be spent upgrading the tracks to expand service into Niagara Falls, providing a link that isn't blocked whenever ships activate the lift-bridge over the Welland Canal.

To the east, proposals have surfaced to take the line to Bowmanville, theoretically easy by following the Kingston sub east. However, a 2010 report suggested it would be better to take the GO line onto a new bridge across the 401, linking to the Canadian Pacific tracks through Oshawa. Such a move would bring GO Train service closer to Oshawa's downtown, as well as Bowmanville's downtown. Potential stations could include Thorton's Corners, downtown Oshawa, Darlington and Bowmanville, serving more people than following the Canadian National alignment. It would be more costly, however, and plans were put on hold when the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne was defeated by the Conservative government of Doug Ford in May 2018.

Also possible in the future is a conversion from diesel trains to electric operations. Trains operating under catenary wire could provide faster and more frequent service while reducing emissions. It would save Metrolinx money in the long run, although the initial capital costs run into the billions. It has been identified as a priority, should government funding be found.

The GO Lakeshore lines are the backbone of the GO Transit network, carrying the majority of passengers on the system. Since June 29, 2013, the core service has operated at intervals of every thirty minutes or better, seven days a week. Since September 2018, weekday service east of Oakville has operated at average intervals of every 20 minutes, while service east of Union operates every 15 minutes. With these changes, the Lakeshore GO Train is becoming less a commuter service, and far more a regional rapid transit service stretching nearly 150 kilometres through the Greater Toronto Area along the shoreline of Lake Ontario.

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