Wednesday, July 26, 2017

West Toronto Diamond Grade Separation

West Toronto Home Page

The last Visited to the site was on December 20, 2015

The Diamond in 2005 (Click for full size)
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2013 Bridge 1 in Place
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On a cold winter day in March 2014, a strangely unearthly quietness filled the air for the first time in 131 years as CP (Canadian Pacific Railway) trains travelled through the West Toronto Junction (North Toronto subdivision) while the trains were crossing the West Toronto Diamond.

This ghostly quietness was caused by the lack of the traditional clickety-clack, thumb de thumb sound as the trains crossed the Metrolinx Weston Subdivision tracks diamond that run almost 90 degrees to the CP tracks.

The diamond was not there anymore, and neither were the Weston Subdivision tracks. CP were running their trains a lot faster though the junction with the West Toronto Diamond gone.

On or about March 15, 2014, the current line for the Weston Subdivision was taken out of service when the line was relocated to the first double track grade separation fly-under tunnel of the CP tracks to the east of it. The diamond crossing at Old Weston Road that crossed the Weston Subdivision from the MacTier Subdivision to the Galt Subdivision leading to the Lampton Yard had been also been removed.

All the existing track for the old Weston Subdivision beside the new fly-under tunnel was removed since it was in the way of the excavation of the 2nd tunnel.

NOTE: Due to the the weather we had for this past Winter, the plan March work wasn't done until May 23-26 and June 28, 2014. You can read about it on the 2014 bridge move and the Fly-Under page in detail there.

In 1882, Ontario Quebec Railway (OQ) was building a line across the northern area of Toronto to gain access to Toronto from the east. They purchased land in the village of Lampton Mills for a yard and maintenance facility. Ontario Quebec Railway would become a paper company for CP in 1883 after CP sign an 999 year lease for it. It cease to exist in the 1990's after the courts rule in favour of CP to absorbs it 100%.

Up to 1882, The Junction only saw the Grand Trunk Western Canada Line (now Metrolinx Weston Subdivision) and the narrow gauge Toronto Grey and Bruce Railway (TGBR) as North-South lines with the Credit Valley line curving off to the west which is now the Galt Subdivision.

Both the Credit Valley and Toronto Grey and Bruce Railway would become part of CP in 1884.

Since Ontario Quebec Railway had to get to the west side of the north-south tracks for the Grand Trunk line built in 1856 as well the TGBR, a number of diamonds had to be built to allow OQ to cross those tracks which created the clickety-clack, clickety-clack, thumb de thumb sound as the trains passed though the diamond for each track.

It is unknown when the MacTier Subdivision cutting off from CP North Toronto Subdivision took place, but it was not where it is now. Up to the 1960's, the MacTier Sub cut off the Old Bruce service track north of the North Toronto Sub, south of Old Weston Rd and it crossed all the tracks to connect with the Galt Subdivision on the south side along with interchange with CNR (Canadian National Railway), now CN Rail. In 1963 when CP opened its new yards in Agincourt, located on the east side of Toronto, to relace its downtown Toronto, Parkdale and parts of the Lampton yards, it spelled the doom of the Old Bruce service track as well the MacTier Wye. The Old Bruce Service track south of the CP mainline is today the Railpath for cycles and pedestrians.

When the MacTier Wye along with the Old Bruce Service track were removed from service in 1960's, the Wye at Old Weston Road was built.

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By Old Time Trains

Some time in 1980's after the Old Weston Road bridge was removed, the wye and the diamond crossing for it was rebuilt in its current location.

On April 08, 2009, Metrolinx purchased the Weston Subdivision from CN Rail for $160 million for the 26km corridor with many more corridors to follow in the coming years.

On September 1, 2013, a major milestone for the West Toronto Diamond took place with the elimination of this diamond when the first Deck Span Bridge was moved into position for the Toronto West Diamond Grade Separation.

People don't realize how hard it is to build the Toronto West Diamond Grade Separation since the work has to be done next to four different live railway lines on a 24/7 basis, and most of the work is out of public view in the first place. People riding the GO and VIA could see this work if they were looking out the window as they past the site. All work must stop up to 5 minutes before a train is to pass the site, depending on what track it is on and the amount of trains passing the area. An hour or two can be lost per day for all this stoppage.

On the night of the Diamond Bridge Span move, CN sent their nightly local freight down the MacTier Sub and back into the Lambton Yard on the North Toronto Sub before the mainline was closed. The CN local used the Wye track a few hours later to head north with crews stopping to allow the train though the construction zone.

In fact, this is the key critical point of all the work on the Georgetown-Kitchener Line Corridor Expansion that is costing $1.2 Billion to build. It would eliminate the stopping and waiting point to allow GO Transit and VIA Rail trains to cross CP tracks since CP trains have first rights to cross the Weston Subdivision at this point. It would add more track capacity to run more trains than the current peak time for GO Transit and the four daily VIA Rail trains. It would also provide for future expansion of the east-west GO Transit Future Crosstown Line along the CP North Toronto Line corridor. The new grade separation would see the current single track north of St Clair Ave and the double (currently 1) track at the diamond upgraded to four tracks (three will be used at first with the fourth being added when needed) to service GO Transit/VIA Rail service as well the new Union Pearson Airport Express line (UPE) that will operate every 15 minutes starting in 2015.

The total cost to build this grade separation is about $400 million dollars under the control of MRC (McCormick Rankin Corp) who were retained by Metrolinx to provide management service, supervision, scheduling and awarding contracts for everything from all utilities work to working with all the railways involved in this project.

by MRC
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Even before the real work started on building the grade separation, various utilities had to be relocated from the corridor as well as upgraded, and that had an impact on both GO Transit and CP lines at various times.

The Environmental Assessment (EA) for the project started in 2005 and was given final approval on October 8, 2009 with various conditions by the Minister of MTO.

Work on the double twin track tunnel started back in January 2009 when Anchor Shoring and Caissons Ltd and Bermingham Foundation Solutions joined forces to place 2,440 910mm diameter [35.8 inches] caisson interlocking piles ranging from 11meters (m) [36 feet] to 24m [78.7'] long for the two twin tracks tunnels. That is another story with many issues for another day.

Grascan Construction Ltd was awarded a contract as the general contractor to provide all civil work to build the two tunnels for the grade separation in September 2011, with work starting in 2012 for the first tunnel.

One of the first things that had to be done once construction had started was cleaning all the piles, so rebar frames up to 23m [75.5'] long could be placed in them with concrete being poured after they were placed to support the retaining wall. Some piles had to be removed and replaced as they were damaged during the installation.

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Excavation started at the south end near Dupont for the 2% grade slopping ramp with back braces along the piles so bracing tubes could be placed to support both retaining walls as the ramp went down to the low point of 9m [29.5']. It was done this way until the top of the walls were built and the final bracing between the wall at the top was in place.

Work also started at many other sections on the north side including the 2% ramp by St Clair Ave W.

During the EA stage and various community meetings, there was talk about how the tunnel bridges would be built on site and then pushed into position. How it was to be done then and in September was different.

A number of locations saw temporary bridges built to support CP (Canadian Pacific Railway) tracks over the retaining wall areas so crews could work under them in building these walls. In some cases, 15.4tonne [16.97 tons] U shape liners were used to not only support the tracks, but Old Weston Rd itself.

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These temporary bridges allowed the building of the lower level retaining wall that would support the moving of the bridge itself as well the placement. The top of these walls had steel and aluminum bronze slide paths to guide the deck span into position.

The current double track for the Weston Subdivision in this area was reduced to a single track as well relocated to the west to allow the building of the first tunnel in 2011. At the same time, GO Transit cancelled the mid-day service to Brampton due to low ridership, but having an impact on the construction work. It is to return in 2015 in a new format.

The West Toronto Grade Separation project can be class as the major pinch point for GO Transit Georgetown-Kitchener Line and the most importance project for upgrading this corridor.

The operation of the line is governed by how well GO Transit and Via Rail trains cross CP Rail lines at the West Toronto Diamond since this CP busy lines for moving train to/from the United States by the way of Buffalo New York or Windsor Ontario.

This Diamond is under the control of CP Rail where all traffic on the Weston Subdivision must get permission to cross the CP tracks. Even though CP has agreement with GO Trains to all GO Trains across their tracks at various time for peak service, it can't always comply with the time frame. If a GO train is late arriving at the area, CP may have trains crossing those track causing GO trains to have to stop and wait until the CP train has clear the block. In some cases, CP trains need to cross the Weston Sub ahead of the GO or Via trains as crews are almost out of time to operate a train on line without going dead trying to get to the yard. If the crew goes dead, both the train and crew will stop where they are and wait until a new crew shows up and this could be hours later.

Having trains going dead on the main line starts the snowball effect of backing up other train trying to get to the yard before they reach operation time limited before going dead as well.

The current Weston Sub is a single track north of St Clair Ave W to Bramalea and double track south of St Clair West.

With GO transit moving toward all day service on their lines 7 days a week with hourly service at first on some and then move to 30 minutes like it is today on the Lakeshore Line, there will be more traffic crossing CP tracks then compare to now that it will have an impact on service for everyone. At the same time, a new service to the Pearson Airport is to start in 2015 that will see trains crossing this diamond every 7.5 minutes creating an operation nightmare. Once the full service is in place for the Georgetown-Kitchener Line by 2031 or about, there will be train crossing CP tracks about every 3 minutes.

Since the current Weston Sub can't handle the plan service come 2015 let alone 2031 along with increase of CP train traffic, something had to be done about the diamond.

The only way to do this was to grade separate the diamond.

Because CP trains need a .07% grade to get under the Weston Sub, there wasn't enough room in CP North Toronto Subdivision to do this as CP had their Lambton Yard on the west side of the diamond and had the cut off for the MacTier Subdivision on the east side for trains going to western Canada, the Weston Sub would become the grade separation line.

Since Via Rail and GO Transit trains use short trains and could use a 2% grade to get under the CP tracks, it was the main choice regardless the confined area to put it in between St Clair Ave W to the north and Dupont Rd to the south.

The other option that was looked at was doing a fly over of CP tracks, but there was too much opposition to it that the idea was kill for it.

Base on the number of trains plan for the Weston Sub and trying to keep the Union Pearson Line sperate from the GO line, it was decided to have 4 tracks in the Weston Corridor.

In 2005, the Federal Government in partnership with Lavel announced the new Airport line known as Blue22. It was met with strong backlash from the residents along the line, especial in the Old Town of Weston along with other parties.

The EA got underway in 2005 with both parties unwilling to meet on a agreement on this plan as well GO wanting to upgrade the corridor for more service, the plan bog down. One of the stubbing block was having full control of the Blue and how it was being finance, let alone the trains would not be stopping at any of the existing GO Stations in the corridor.

A few years later, the Blue plan die with GO transit taking over the plan which was still opposed by the original parties. GO Transit decided that their Airport Service would stop at the existing GO station, but the fare to use it would be higher which was met with a backlash and still exist today.

When the number of trains were announce that would run on this corridor, a stronger opposition to the plan to the point the parties started to demand that all train in this corridor be electrify in place of the desiel power trains due to health issues.

The electrification of this corridor as well the other GO transit corridor is long over due considering GO Transit did a study on this idea back in 1990's and felt it wasn't worth doing it. The Lakeshore was the line looked at mostly since it was the busies line that operated hourly 7 day a week while the other lines only seeing a few train at peak time.

The other govern factor for not going electrification was CN Rail who own all the corridors other than the Milton Line that was own by CP Rail with GO paying a fee to run trains over their track. Both railroad were not interested in paying the cost to upgrade the corridors for electrification as well having it high enough to run autrorack and double stack container cars under the wires. It also meant someone had to pay for the lowering of the roadbed for the tracks or building new overpasses so electrification could take place.

September 01, 2013, a major mile stone took place with the movement of a new 4 track bridge for CP Rail was move into position that weekend. You can read more on it here or from the drop down list.

September 28, 2013, the bridge for Old Weston Rd and CP Rail Wye twin track was move into postion and you can read more about it here or from the drop down list.

May 23, 2014, the Weston Sub crossing cease to exist at 7:04:41 when the last train for the day for the line cross CP Mainline for the very last time. Over the weekend, tracks at both ends of the new grade separation Fly-Under where being relocated to the new track 1 in the tunnel so trains would start to use the new Fly-Under on Monday, May 26, 2014. The existing tracks would be removed to start excavating the 2nd Fly-Under Tunnel. You can read more on it here

June 28, 2014 saw the full removal of the old Weston Sub Diamonds as well the tempory bridge supports for CP Mainlines to allow the 2nd CP bridge to be moved into position that day. You can read more on it here