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GO Transit's North Bathurst Yard

by James Bow

North Bathurst Yard is located immediately south of Front Street between Bathurst Street and Spadina Avenue. It is a layover yard that stores a number of GO trains from the Barrie, Kitchener and Milton GO train lines on weekdays between rush hours. At other times, these trains would be stored at layover yards at the other end of these lines. In 2010, GO Transit finished improvements to this yard, allowing it to handle eight 12-car GO Trains, while improving power systems, signal systems, and a gas metering station for snow-clearing devices.

A Brief History of North Bathurst

The history of North Bathurst Yard stretches back for years, as it was part of the railway lands that built up south of Front Street in the latter half of the 19th century. Since 1920, the lands were operated by Canadian National Railways. When GO Transit started operating trains in 1967, its off-duty trains were stored at Willowbrook Yard. However, as GO service increased, Willowbrook started to run out of space. Laying over trains at Willowbrook also required extensive deadheading.

In the early 1980s, however, as GO Transit was feeling the need for additional space, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific were reducing their use of the Toronto Railway Lands. GO realized that yard space nearer to Union Station was available for use, and the negotiated with Canadian National to acquire the tracks and the land they stood on. After re-laying the tracks and setting up equipment to keep trains powered and ready for use, as well as building yard office facilities, North Bathurst Yard came online in 1987. It has been serving as a layover yard for rush hour trains operating west of Union Station ever since.

Renovations and Possibilities of Replacement

Twenty years later, in 2007, GO Transit opened Don Yard, upgrading the former CN Don Sorting Yard to handle ten 12-car GO Trains operating east of Union Station. In spite of this competition, North Bathurst Yard was in no danger of being shut down. With GO Train service steadily increasing, the demand for space only increased. At around this time, GO Transit started work on renovations to upgrade and increase capacity at North Bathurst Yard, which were completed in 2010.

Ironically, it is this same increase in GO Train service that may spell the end of North Bathurst Yard. As Metrolinx looks ahead to 2031, and sees a limit to the number of trains that can be run through Union Station, they looked into ways to handle the additional demand that was expected over the next two decades. Consultants submitted their report in 2013, and among the alternatives suggested was a proposal to build a satellite station on the space currently occupied by North Bathurst Yard.

Satellite train stations are not uncommon in large metropolitan areas — Chicago, for instance, has four separate downtown stations serving commuter rail trains and their passengers. The station at North Bathurst could serve trains on the Kitchener and Barrie lines, freeing up needed space at the western approach to Union. Passengers from these trains would be ferried to Union and to other points in the downtown core by an extension of the Downtown Relief Subway Line.

While this proposal received high marks from Metrolinx, it remains unfunded, and only a proposal. However, as demand for GO Train service increases in the years to come, extraordinary measures may have to be taken to handle that demand, including replacing North Bathurst Yard with a second downtown Toronto GO station.

North Bathurst Yard Image Archive

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