Podcast – After five decades in rail industry, Rob Fuller talks shop one last time

This week on Between the Lines: A Metrolinx Podcast, director of rail operations Rob Fuller takes listeners into GO Transit’s Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility and talks about the changes he’s seen in the rail industry in the last 50 years and where GO service is heading in the future.

‘Can’t don’t live here.’

Those words hang above the desk of Metrolinx director of rail operations, Rob Fuller, at an office at the GO Transit Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility in west Toronto.

Rob Fuller in front of a microphone with a mask on
‘Can’t don’t live here’ is a credo – one that highlights the need to get the job done, no matter what. (James Wattie photo)

It’s a mindset that is clear to anyone who has worked with Fuller in his 50 years in the rail industry.

He started his career in 1972 as a machinist apprentice, which Fuller says is a “railway way of saying you’re a diesel mechanic.” He even remembers working on one of the very last steam engines to pull a GO Train.

A CN 6060 steam locomotive pulling GO passenger cars (on the right) is seen at Richmond Hill GO Station in this photo dated April 29, 1978.  A yellow Ontario Northlander train is on the left.
A CN 6060 steam locomotive pulling GO passenger cars (on the right) is seen at Richmond Hill GO Station in this photo dated April 29, 1978.  A yellow Ontario Northlander train is on the left. (Doug Page photo – railpictures.ca)

Listen to Rob Fuller discuss his career, the project he is most proud of and what’s next for GO Transit here:

Episode 17 – Fifty Years in Rail: Talking GO Transit's past & future with Rob Fuller Between The Lines: A Metrolinx Podcast

On this week's episode: we talk with Metrolinx's Director of Rail Operations, Rob Fuller. He takes us into the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility and talks about the changes he's seen in the rail industry in the last 50 years and where GO Transit service is heading in the future. Watch: Rob Fuller takes us through the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility Host: Matt Llewellyn (@mattrolinx) Guest: Rob Fuller, director of rail operations Producer/Social: James Wattie (@jameswattie) Learn more at blog.metrolinx.com Credits: Czar Donic / Red Red Shoes / courtesy of http://www.epidemicsound.com Dusty Decks / Golden Crates / courtesy of http://www.epidemicsound.com Nylonia / Last Question / courtesy of http://www.epidemicsound.com — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/metrolinx/message
  1. Episode 17 – Fifty Years in Rail: Talking GO Transit's past & future with Rob Fuller
  2. Episode 16 – #AMAwithAMA – Who is Train Guy, can TBMs be reused and more!
  3. Episode 15 – Tunnel Boring Machines
  4. Episode 14 – #AMAwithAMA – Your Light Rail Transit (LRT) questions answered
  5. Episode 13 – Navigating market volatility in transit

Looking back on a career

In the 1980s, Fuller ran a rail yard control centre. Then he was a shop supervisor on both the afternoon and day shifts.

“Did I start off as a railroader? No, I was a farm boy. But I’m a railroader now.”

Rob Fuller, Metrolinx director of rail operations

By 2006, he was working as a general manager with Bombardier when the company was bidding on a new contract to operate GO Transit service.

Less than a decade later, with Metrolinx, he was tasked with getting the Union-Pearson Express up and running.

Rob Fuller chats with two workers in the control centre office setting
Rob Fuller chats with the workers in the control centre. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

“Those two years, getting ready for that service to be delivered June 6, 2015, we were heads down working,” Fuller told Between the Lines host Matt Llewellyn.

“You don’t often get a chance to do something like that. I hold that one near and dear to the heart for sure. The day we turned the service on was one phenomenal day.”

Group shot of men at a train station
Rob Fuller (second from the left) attends the first day of UP Express service in Toronto. (Metrolinx photo)

Now, after 50 years, Fuller is set to retire. So, what is he going to miss most?

“The sky’s the limit when you think about what the future [of GO Transit] brings.”

Rob Fuller, Metrolinx director of rail operations

“There’s not one thing I’m not going to miss. It just becomes part of your life – it becomes what you do. I’m hoping that all the things I’ve got planned are going to fill up that void, but there’s a whole bunch of stuff that I do everyday: talking with people, thinking through problems, challenging ourselves to do better… and it’s all of that stuff. It’s a full meal deal, basically.”

Watch Metrolinx director of rail operations Rob Fuller as he takes the Metrolinx podcast team around the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility:

Story by James Wattie, Between the Lines podcast producer & editor