By Daniel Garcia, Mark Walton and James Bow.
GO’s First Locos
The first engine that GO Transit bought when it started operations in May 1967 was the GP40TC series. These were essentially a General Motors-built GP40 freight locomotives mounted onto a larger SD40 frame. The extra length was used to house an additional head-end power generator and motor.
To launch service between Pickering and Oakville, the government of Ontario purchased eight locomotives. These featured a 16-cylinder 645E motor engine pumping out 3000 horsepower, with a separate 500 kW engine to power the HEP generator. These locomotives did not have dynamic brakes or safety cabs (these had not been invented yet) and did not have the Dash-2 electrical and control systems that appeared in the GP40 series locomotives a short while later. These cars were unique variants on the GP40 model. Officially, General Motors classified these engines as GCE-430a.
These locomotives were designed in this fashion because, at the time of purchase, the government of Ontario was not sure if the new commuter service would succeed. If it failed, the government of Ontario figured they could more easily sell off these locomotives rather than a set that had been designed more for passenger use. The locomotives were delivered months before the start of commuter rail service, and so were painted midnight blue with a small “CN” logo on the cabs. Canadian National used them in freight service until March of 1967 when they handed over the cars to GO Transit.
These eight locomotives provided the bulk of GO’s rail service until the first GP40-2Ls were purchased. They continued to operate, with rebuilds, until 1988. The GP40TC locomotives were originally numbered 600-6007, but were renumbered 9800-9807 in 1970 for reasons unknown. They were renumbered again to 500-507 in 1975 and retained that number until they were pulled from service. Even retired, they were in good enough condition to be sold en masse to Amtrak (and renumbered 192-199) for work train service. They left GO property later that year. Since moving to Amtrak, they were renumbered from 192-199 to 520-527 between 2000 and 2004, and then were recently shipped off to Norfolk Southern’s Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona, Pennsylvania to be rebuilt into GP38H-3 locomotives.
The GP40TC HEP units produced a very shrill whine, which residents near Willowbrook Yard found extremely annoying. At the start of GO service in 1967, the locomotives were at the east end of the trainsets, as today. GO installed lineside power at Willowbrook so they could shut down the HEP units during long layovers there. In 1974-75, GO had CN’s Pointe St. Charles Shops in Montreal (later AMF Technotransport, now Alstom) install sound deadening material in the HEP end of the GP40TCs, and reversed the trainsets so the loco was on the west end, away from homes near Willowbrook. Later, the trainsets were reversed again, with the locomotives at the east end.
The GP40-2L(W)s that replaced the GP40TCs were ordered without HEP units, thus requiring separate auxiliary power/control units (APCUs) to provide head-end power. Even with the extra space afforded by the longer SD40 frame, the GP40TCs HEP units were cramped and difficult to maintain. A separate locomotive unit for an HEP generator, it was thought, would provide more space and make things easier to maintain.
Workhorses of the Fleet
In spite of the problems with the GP40TC’s HEP units, the fact remains that the locomotives provided diligent service to GO Transit for over twenty years, and continued to operate for another twenty years after being sold off. The government of Ontario may have been hedging their bets when they purchased these units, but they got a quality product that served GO Transit well.
Fleet List (8, All Retired)
- 500-507, 1967, General Motors (renumbered from 9800-9807 in 1975, previously renumbered from 600-607 in 1970)
GP40TC Series Locomotives Image Archive
- Amtrak Photo Archive
- Canadian Rail, May 1975 #280, page 144
- Dorin, Patrick C. The Canadian National Railways Story, Superior Publishing Company, Seattle (Washington), 1975.