Helen Gault Pole relocated

A familiar old feature to west siders and OTrain users is no more.

We shall miss it (not). Sniff sniff.

gault pole

When the original OTrain (now, Trillium Line OTrain) was built back in 2001, city staff were under pressure to do the demonstration project on a shoestring budget.

I gather from old hands that were present back then, that a decision was made by Helen Gault at the city to route the track around an existing utility pole in the middle of the field. This was done to avoid the cost of moving said pole. Again, old hands tell me that cost was $300 or $500 … or some such trivial sum. Look at the above picture, taken by Mr Google from the Albert Street overpass, to see the bendy track and the guilty pole causing the deviation.

Local train buffs and city critics promptly named it the Helen Gault Commemorative Pole.

When the city decided to install continuous rail, charged to us by the centimetre, they kept the silly curve instead of fixing the un-necessary longer routing. Helen Gault’s pole lived to see another day.

But what did I see yesterday?

Can it be true?


Yes, the Helen Gault Commemorative Pole is gone ! Vanished ! Disappeared !

What could hold up those wires?


Ahh, a new pole has been installed somewhat to the east.

After 16 years, the track could now be straightened.
Except … the track is being relocated further west to the new OTrain Platforms to be built on the west side of the cut and under the west end of the new Bayview Station.

However, hope springs eternal. See those green paint markings on the pathway? They indicate a sewer line. It appears to be directly under the pole. And a number of the sewer lines here are being relocated starting in January 2017. Will the tale of the persecuted perambulating pole continue? Will Helen Gault’s pole finally find a permanent home?


9 thoughts on “Helen Gault Pole relocated

  1. At least Helen did not try to institute a poll tax , unlike a politician in England whom I thought she resembled. I’ll cry not for the memorial pole, all the same.

    1. To give the engineers the benefit of a *wee* bit of doubt. That pole was almost exactly on the South edge of the old Wellington Viaduct alignment – where the CP Rail line took a hard left turn as well (you can barely see the old rusty rails on the left side of your second photo).

      Here’s the Google Maps satellite view. https://goo.gl/maps/zHutBQ6LYE32

      So I’d speculate that there were some rail/city/utility jurisdiction issues that probably factored into that decision as well – and might have slowed down the original pilot project had they not gotten “creative” with that angle.

  2. I remember a city official actually telling me that it would take so long to move that pole that O-Train would have to be shut down for days to complete the work. I looked at him and laughed!

  3. I’ve never ridden on the OTrain. I just don’t go where it runs but I know a lot of people really like it. The curve around the now gone pole seems really small. Is it really that big a deal? Does it cause major problems? Just interested as it seems leaving the pole in was a really hated decision.

    1. The curve meant trains had to slow down and speed up again. Over time it cost the city far more in extra fuel costs than they saved by not moving the pole in the first place. It’s a symbol of the city’s short sighted stupidity.

    2. Yes, the track curve there is quite obnoxious in its effects. A train arriving would have to brake to slow down to take the curve and then power up again to climb into Bayview Station. A train leaving Bayview would have to brake on the way out, which of course is downhill. In both directions then the effect is to kill momentum: with a straighter track, a train coming in could just have coasted up the hill while a train going out would be able to start getting underway in earnest right away, with a downhill assist.

      The time savings on the original schedule would have been enough to insert a station at Gladstone. Since the passing track at Carleton is closer to the north end of the line, southbound trains tended to get there first, but only by half a minute or so. But if you add to that the time savings at the pole curve, you’d have had enough extra time to add a stop at Gladstone.

      That’s a time issue, but as Scott has already written, there was also of course a fuel use issue, and to some degree a brake and brake pad use issue. I did some calculations many years ago and we paid for that pole in extra fuel costs within a couple of years of operation. Given the higher fuel costs in the last few years, we’ve likely been paying for it at least once a year.

      In fairness, the issues the curve caused were largely linked to the fact of Bayview Station being up on an embankment, but that was done for the convenience of passengers and to eliminate the need for steps and extra long paths and such.

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