Metrolinx and GO explain possible trains

GO Transit has posted the slides from the May 27 community update. The slides may alleviate concerns community members had.

As most Weston residents know, GO Transit is studying whether it should electrify the trains that run through our community. Community activists and citizens are quite convinced of the benefits of electrification: quieter, cleaner, faster trains. GO Transit is less convinced that electrifying the train system makes sense.

The slides from the recent meeting show the many different possibilities that GO is considering. They are:

  • Diesel
  • Electric
  • Biodiesel
  • Natural Gas
  • Hydrogen
  • Combination fuels
  • Maglevs
GO locomotive
GO locomotive

Community residents found the proliferation of alternate fuels in the study baffling. GO had said it would study and discuss electrification—not futuristic maglevs.

The slides make clear, though, that most of the possibilities are non-starters. Natural gas, biodiesel, hybrids, and maglevs are not “commercially viable” or proven technologies, according to GO.

Yet while that leaves only two kinds of fuel (electric and diesel) there remain several kinds of engine to consider. Locomotive-hauled carriages (LHCs) are the trains Westonians will be familiar with: massive, noisy engines pull passenger cars. This is not the most modern design, though, and GO is considering the other possibility.

Instead of having a single, huge engine at the front of the train, most modern trains (called “multiple unit” or MU trains) have engines spread throughout the cars, directly the under the passenger compartments. The TTC subways are like this, of course; they have no large engine in front of the train. Multiple-unit trains are more elegant, cause less wear on tracks, and scale to demand well.

There are, then, four likely kinds of train for GO:

  1. Electric locomotive hauling carriages (Electric LHC)
  2. Electric multiple unit (EMU)
  3. Diesel locomotive hauling carriages (Diesel LHC)
  4. Diesel multiple unit (DMU)
Multiple unit (MU) train
Multiple unit (MU) train

However, only the electric and diesel LHCs are compatible with the passenger cars that GO has now. Thus, GO would likely choose only between locomotives, and would forgo the multiple-unit trains.

One intriguing possibility remains. On page 27 of the presentation, GO says that dual-mode locomotives are in development. Dual-mode trains would be able to travel through both electrified and non-electrified sections of track by switching between diesel and electric motors.

Author: Adam Norman

I am raising my two children in Weston.