Going above and beyond safety at the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility to keep transit moving

Trains aren’t the only thing that need maintenance, our rail yards themselves need a lot of upkeep too. At the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility, this upkeep happened two stories high above the locomotives and coaches that roll in daily for tune-ups, fueling and cleaning.

On any given day, crews at GO Transit’s Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility work round-the-clock to get 28 trains serviced, cleaned, fueled up and ready to hit the tracks.

Making sure the locomotives and train cars receive regular maintenance is key to ensuring GO Trains run on time and GO customers get to their destination with ease.  

But it’s not just train cars that need regular work, train facilities themselves need regular maintenance too. And the glue that keeps maintenance operations moving are powerful heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units located across seven buildings that make up the Willowbrook facility in Etobicoke.

These HVAC units make all the maintenance and repair work to the GO rail fleet happening inside the facility possible, including safety inspections, oil and coolant changes, seat replacements, cleaning, and light engine repairs.

“It’s of paramount importance to keep our passengers safe, every day,” said Emma Hamilton, Metrolinx maintenance & reliability specialist.

“This project demonstrates our commitment to safety, as an organization that cares about every person, no matter if it’s a Metrolinx employee or an outside technician working at our facility.”

With this work taking place in or near the large locomotive engines, the units are constantly running to keep the air inside the rail yard clean and safe for Metrolinx staff.

With HVAC units running 24/7, regular maintenance on them is required and this means staff and contractors must work high above on rooftops and around potential hazards.

To keep this work as safe as possible, a major safety upgrade – going above and beyond requirements – was recently completed on all the roofs at the Willowbrook rail yard.

view from the roof of the train facility with the new warning lines installed and trains in the distance
A view of the new guardrails and warning lines on top of a roof at Willowbrook Rail and Maintenance facility as maintenance work on the GO trains fleet happens below. (Metrolinx photo)

“The Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility is made up of many complex HVAC, mechanical and electrical systems with thousands of moving parts,” said Kevin Hill, Metrolinx senior manager, rail fleet maintenance.

“To be reliable, efficient, and safe for our customers, the equipment must be kept in good working order and regular maintenance is the essential ingredient to achieve this.”

photo of the HVAC unit on the roof
The HVAC systems up close. It took 11 weeks or 620 hours to install 21,000 kg of equipment, including guardrails, warning lines, ladders, fall protection signage, and trip hazard stickers. (Metrolinx photo)

But accessing this essential equipment can be hazardous work without the proper safety protocols in place.

The recent installation of 2.6 kilometers of guardrail and warning lines will keep those working two storeys up both day and night safer so Metrolinx can continue to provide reliable service to GO Train customers.

Interested in learning more about the Willowbrook Maintenance Facility? Check out this story on the origins of this vital transit building.

Story by Heather Glicksman, Metrolinx communications coordinator with files from Emma Hamilton, Metrolinx maintenance & reliability specialist