Weekend shutdown – Metrolinx continues major upgrades on one of Canada’s busiest stretches of rail

After several weekends of construction, considerable progress has been made on overhauling a well-worn section of GO Transit’s Lakeshore West line – specifically vital components and pieces of equipment that keep vehicles rolling. But getting this work done takes more than big pieces of machinery, it takes dedicated people too.

GO Transit’s Lakeshore West Line carries more people than any commuter rail line in the country – it’s also more than 50 years old.

So there’s a lot of heavily worn bits of track, switches, and signals that need upgrading to accommodate planned future service increases.

That’s where Raquel Mendes Moreira and the Metrolinx corridor maintenance team comes in.

Mendes Moreira, originally from Brazil, moved to Canada in 2017 to find her dream job in the rail industry. She’s an engineer by trade with experience working in the Brazilian rail sector but came to Canada with no guarantee of work.

Metrolinx project coordinator Raquel Mendes Moreira pictured in full personal protective equipment.
Metrolinx project coordinator Raquel Mendes Moreira in full personal protective equipment. (Metrolinx photo)

She and her wife decided to move to all the way from sunny Brazil to Kitchener, so she could attend Conestoga College.

“I’ve been preparing for this job all of my life,” says Mendes Moreira. “I knew it would take a little bit of luck, but if I was given the opportunity, I knew I was ready.”  

Shortly after finishing up at Conestoga College, a door opened at Metrolinx. Mendes Moreira wasted no time. Given the opportunity to join Metrolinx and pursue her passion, it was an easy choice.

Mendes Moreira has been working on general rail maintenance across the GO Network since 2018. In just a few years, she’s worked her way up to become the project coordinator on the major Lakeshore West track project overhauling the Canpa controlled location.

Want to learn more about the Canpa switch project, click here to read an explainer on Metrolinx News.

A new signal bridge is installed over the tracks
With the Lakeshore West corridor partially shutdown for the weekend, crews are able to work around the block to get the new signal bridge installed. (Metrolinx photo)

“It’s always good to feel part of something big, that will make an impact for the entire Lakeshore West corridor,” says Mendes Moreira.

Work on the project began late last year, but Mendes Moreira says that was just the beginning. She notes that this year crews will be installing 10 turnouts and hundreds of metres of track.

What’s happening in 2021?

A major phase of the work on the Canpa switch project happened just last weekend (Mar 12.).

The construction meant that much of the Lakeshore West GO Train service was modified for the entire weekend. Although ridership is much lower due to the COVID-19 pandemic, closing a large section of the train equivalent of Highway 401 is no easy task.

Mendes Moreira says construction crews were installing a signal bridge – which had to be custom built to cross five tracks. There are currently only four tracks in the area, but it was designed to accommodate future expansion of the Lakeshore West line.

A signal bridge is a large steel structure, that goes up and over the tracks and connects to the signal lights, like streetlights that drivers are used to, but in the case of the railway define the speed the train may go.

The new custom-built signal bridge waiting to be installed above the Lakeshore West tracks
The new custom-built signal bridge waiting to be installed above the Lakeshore West tracks. (Metrolinx photo)

Coming up in April, Mendes Moreira says another major phase of work will take place over the Easter long weekend. Two crossovers and one turnout will be installed – all using concrete rail ties – a first in Canada. They are also installing nearly 500 metres of track.

The work is taking place over the long weekend to give crews that extra day to get all the work done while that section of track is shutdown.

Mendes Moreira says that while she misses the hot Brazilian sun, with work heating up on her passion project this spring, she says it’s all worth it.

Story by Scott Money, Metrolinx media relations senior advisor