Track services

The pocket track at Aldershot station contains a key that will unlock more GO train services to Hamilton



Written by Rosie Hales-Wilson, Metrolinx Corporate Communications

Now complete, Aldershot GO’s new pocket track connection may only be 200 meters long, but it will go a long way toward achieving one of Metrolinx’s top priorities: opening more GO services to Hamilton. Read on to learn more about how the track was tested and why it will eventually mean more service.

Work on adding a new piece of track to Aldershot GO is now complete. But it’s not just any lane – it’s a piece of lane that is key to improving service to Hamilton and beyond.

This new piece of track is only about 200 meters long, but it’s set to have a big impact. It connects the pocket track at Aldershot GO to the Lakeshore West mainline via a section of track called a switch and a switch mechanism (which helps guide a train from one track to another).

Typically, pocket tracks are installed so that trains can be removed from the main tracks, if necessary. They don’t usually connect to the mainline, but that’s where this pocket rail is different.

Unlike most pocket tracks, Aldershot GO’s track has been linked to the main line to support increased service to West Harbor GO in Hamilton in the future.

The new piece of track is about 200 meters long. (photo by Tyson Moore)

Why a piece of track means more service

Prior to the completion of this work, the southernmost track of Aldershot GO had a ‘stub end’ which meant that trains on this track could not go further than Aldershot as there was no connection between this track and the Lakeshore West mainline.

Essentially, connecting the two lanes gives the south lane the ability to head west to Hamilton, which was not possible before. Connecting this track to the main line has created more opportunities to increase service west of Aldershot in the future. The finished track was recently commissioned which means it has been tested and is now ready for use.

Commissioning involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work between Metrolinx’s rail operations team and CN Rail (which owns the tracks west of Burlington) to ensure the new tracks are safe before use.

What exactly is commissioning?

Commissioning requires quiet track, meaning this work needed to take place late at night, after the last train on track 3 had left Aldershot GO for the day.

Bringing the track into service late at night ensures that there is less impact on rail service.

The new signal at Aldershot GO was logged and tested several times throughout the night, to mimic as many different conditions as possible to ensure the track was safe in a number of situations.

To keep the process as safe and efficient as possible, real trains are not used for track commissioning. It is much safer to use small shunts which can be used in conjunction with a software system to mimic physical condition on the track, rather than shunting the trains multiple times. The shunts software reads the impact of the shunting (or, in real life, the train) on the signaling system.

BEFORE: Taken in November 2021, this image shows the Aldershot GO station seen from above. The yellow line delineates the main line and the orange line shows the pocket track which was connected to the main line. (Metrolinx image)
AFTER: Viewed from above, the new pocket track at Aldershot GO is visible, along with the new signal and signal mechanics bungalow (bottom right). (Metrolinx image)

What work happened at Aldershot?

By the time work on this project began in November 2021, the pocket lane serving Aldershot GO’s southernmost platform had a stub end. This meant that trains on this track had to terminate service at Aldershot, as there was no connection between this track and the main tracks at Lakeshore West.

The red-brown metal pieces are called half moons and are used to temporarily indicate where the train stops in Aldershot GO. When used, these parts will be removed so that trains can make the connection between the pocket track and the rest of the Lakeshore West line. (Metrolinx image)

Where the track had a truncated end, bump posts marked the end of the track.

Now, red-brown ties called half-moons are the temporary measure used to indicate the end of the track.

When the pocket track connection comes into service, the half-pipes will be removed to open up the rest of the Lakeshore West line.

A new signal cantilever has also been installed at Aldershot GO to hang above the track to provide signal indication for the pocket track. (Metrolinx picture).

Opening of service to Hamilton and beyond

This new track at Aldershot GO is just one example of the many investments Metrolinx’s GO expansion program has already made on the Lakeshore West line to enable more rail service.

Metrolinx is also working to improve track capacity and work with rail partners to provide service to the future Confederation GO Station.

Over the next few years there are plans to link the two currently stub tracks to West Harbor GO, linking the tracks to the Lakeshore West mainline on the east side of the station.

This work will eliminate the need to reverse GO trains in front of the station to re-align with the mainline, which will add 20 minutes to trips to and from Niagara and facilitate service to Confederation GO GO and beyond.

Read more articles on passenger rail.