Photo du jour: Mountain tram

Before the construction of the voie Camillien-Houde and Remembrance Road on the mountain in the 1960s, the quickest way to get up was by tramway. For decades, the number 11 tram line, the predecessor to today’s number 11 bus, trundled up the slopes of Mount Royal.I’m not entirely sure what happened to the streetcar tracks. There’s an even bigger mystery, too: in the STM archive photo above you can see that, at one point, the trams passed through a tunnel. Is it still there? If not, what happened to it?

19 comments

  1. Hard to believe that it wasn’t so long ago that Montreal has such an extensive tramway network. Sadly, I feel that this renewed interest in trams and the Mayor’s plan for an initial line running from Berri to Peel street via Griffintown is merely a novelty and less of a way of addressing congestion or being eco-friendly for that matter.

  2. In working on the Wikipedia article on Mount Royal, I read that the currently road bisecting the mountain approximately follows the route of the 11 tram. That would make sense, given the some clearing had already been done — and no signs of the tram rails remain elsewhere on the mountain.

    This, of course, is distinct from the Montreal Funicular Railway, a much older project that brought sightseers up the steep face overlooking Jeanne Mance park. For this route, photos show streetcar track running roughly along the path of today’s Duluth street, ending at a station at the base of slope where passengers transferred directly onto a funicular car.

  3. Oh, and as for the tunnel, my guess — and just a guess — is that it might be the section where the road has today been blasted through high rock walls, after the lookout facing eastern Montreal, heading up hill?

    If so, the tram would now be approaching today’s horse stables and the cemeteries, to the left of the photo?

  4. Shawn, I remember reading something that effect on metrodemontreal.com’s forum a few years back, that the tunnel was blasted when the voie Camillien-Houde was built.

  5. The roads were a big mistake. They should never have let private automobiles on Mount Royal. Of course they could still be banned, but don’t hold your breath,:P

  6. It looks like the photo’s taken from where the car lookout is on the mountain road. The little singletrack heading up to the left of the tracks is probably where the stairway leads up from the lookout to the smaller trail along the ridge of the escarpment.

    There’s a lot of stuff in that area though; if you poke around the slope below the car lookout (which has a good turn or two when the pow is fresh), you’ll find all kinds of debris (pipes, metal, and bricks, likely dumped there when the tunnel was dismantled) and even some mysterious openings in the earth that provide an excellent air conditioning service on a hot, humid, summer day.

  7. The Above Reader is Correct. The Tramways Tunnel was Removed when voie Camillien-Houde was Constructed c. 1959. There is a Deep Curved Rock Cut where the Tunnel was. Tramway Cars last Operated thru the Tunnel in 1957, from Parc Avenue to Lac des Castors.

    Another Streetcar Route No. 22 Operated from Cote Des Neiges to Lac Des Castors and there was a Loop Track there for Both Routes.

    As there Cars did not Loop at Cote de Neiges to Prevent Traffic Congestion Wying the Cars on busy Cote des Neiges, they were fitted with Motorman Controls, Headlights and Trolley Poles at each end.

    One Winter my father and I Sleighed from Lac des Castors to Parc Avenue down thru the Tunnel on the Tramway Tracks as this Route did not Operate in Winter.

    At one time you could take an Interurban Streetcar from McGill Street in Downtown Montreal across Pont Victoria on the Downstream Side to St Lambert and to Marieville and Granby! on the Montreal and Southern Counties Rwy.

    Good memories from long ago before the Automobile Ruled all.

    http://www.stm.info/en-bref/tramways/reperage/S6_exploitation2.htm

  8. Thanks for that, cdnlococo. Sledding down through the tunnel at night! God, how much fun would that be?

    The inter-urban street car to Granby amazes me, too. But that far, it couldn’t have been electrified, right? The car would have had to have been self-propelled, I should think.

  9. Yes, the Montreal and Southern Counties was Electric from Mc Gill St to Granby until 1951, then cut back to Marieville.

    A Diesel Train then went to Granby from CN Central Station.

    In 1955? the Tracks were Removed from Mc Gill Street over the Victoria Bridge to St. Lambert, and the Downstream Side of the Bridge Reverted back to a Road.

    The Electric Cars last ran in 1956.

    There used to be a Car Barn adjacent to the CN Tracks in St Lambert across from the CN St. Lambert Station.

    In Montreal the M&SC and Montreal Tramways shared the SAME Track East of the M&SC Station, but each had their own Trolley Wire as Voltages not the Same.

    In later years, the M&SC Station became a Cool Restaurant named ‘Il Etait Une Fois’ Or ‘Once Upon a Time’ en Anglais, and it’s Interior had all sorts of Memorabilia on the Walls and Ceiling.

    The M&SC Ran as a Railway on Train Orders and had their own Electric Locomotives and Freight Service.

    There was a Connection at the St. Lambert end of Victoria Bridge for Freight and Coal Interchange from CN to M&SC.

    http://www.trainweb.org/elso/msc.htm

    Diesel Train at Granby. Note Trolley Wires.

    http://www.imagescn.technomuses.ca/railways/index_choice.cfm?id=55&photoid=85021655

    P.S. We had to WALK thru the Tramways Mountain Tunnel with the Sleighs, as no Snow fell inside it. There was not that much Gradient, so we really walked most of the way to Parc Ave., then took a Streetcar home.

    I was Scared sh**less a Streetcar would show up while we were in the Tunnel, like the Twin Streetcar Tunnels on Wellington St. beneath the Lachine Canal East of Bridge St.

  10. Yes, the Montreal and Southern Counties was Electric from Mc Gill St to Granby until 1951, then cut back to Marieville.

    A Diesel Train then went to Granby from CN Central Station.

    In 1955? the Tracks were Removed from Mc Gill Street over the Victoria Bridge to St. Lambert, and the Downstream Side of the Bridge Reverted back to a Road.

    The Electric Cars last ran in 1956.

    There used to be a Car Barn adjacent to the CN Tracks in St Lambert across from the CN St. Lambert Station.

    In Montreal the M&SC and Montreal Tramways shared the SAME Track East of the M&SC Station, but each had their own Trolley Wire as Voltages not the Same.

    In later years, the M&SC Station became a Cool Restaurant named ‘Il Etait Une Fois’ Or ‘Once Upon a Time’ en Anglais, and it’s Interior had all sorts of Memorabilia on the Walls and Ceiling.

    The M&SC Ran as a Railway on Train Orders and had their own Electric Locomotives and Freight Service.

    There was a Connection at the St. Lambert end of Victoria Bridge for Freight and Coal Interchange from CN to M&SC.

    http://www.trainweb.org/elso/msc.htm

    P.S. We had to WALK thru the Tramways Mountain Tunnel with the Sleighs, as no Snow fell inside it. There was not that much Gradient, so we really walked most of the way to Parc Ave., then took a Streetcar home.

    I was Scared sh**less a Streetcar would show up while we were in the Tunnel, like the Twin Streetcar Tunnels on Wellington St. beneath the Lachine Canal East of Bridge St.

  11. Yes, the Montreal and Southern Counties was Electric from Mc Gill St. to Granby until 1951, then cut back to Marieville.

    A Diesel-Haulled Train then went to Granby from CN Central Station and Electric Passenger and Freight Service continued Mc Gill St. to Marieville until 1955.

    In 1955 the M&SC Tracks were Removed from Mc Gill Street over the Victoria Bridge to St. Lambert, and the Downstream Side of the Bridge Reverted back to a Road.

    The Electric Cars last ran from St Lambert to Marieville in 1956.

    The M&SC Car Barn and Shops were on the East Side of the CN Tracks between the St. Lambert Station and the Victoria Bridge.

    The Upstream Loop of the Victoria Bridge for the CNR and the Vehicle Traffic was Completed for the Opening of the Seaway 1959.

    In Montreal the M&SC and Montreal Tramways shared the SAME Track on the East Side of the M&SC Station, but each had their own Trolley Wire as Voltages not the Same. The Station faced Rue D’Youville on the South Side.

    In later years, the M&SC Station became a Cool Restaurant named ‘Il’y Etait Une Fois’, and it’s Interior had all sorts of Photos, Signs and other Memorabilia on the Walls and Ceiling. Lovely Burgers!

    The M&SC Ran as a Railway on Train Orders and had their own Electric Locomotives and Freight Service.

    There was a Rail Connection at the St. Lambert end of Victoria Bridge for Freight and Coal Interchange from CN to M&SC Car Barn and Shops.

    There were Electric Substations along the Route to Granby.

    http://www.trainweb.org/elso/msc.htm

    Diesel Train at Granby. Note Trolley Wires.

    http://www.imagescn.technomuses.ca/railways/index_choice.cfm?id=55&photoid=85021655

    In 1966 the CN ran an Excursion to Granby and Waterloo for Rail Foamers using Branch Line Diesel 1800. A Great Time was had by all.

    A Local Library should have a copy of ‘Catenary Through the Counties’ Clegg Lavalee 1966.

  12. One must remember that the generation that lived through WWII wanted a big change from the past and sought it in science and the modern. Whatever was old fashioned was subject to destruction. This was also the attitude of the then Mayor of Montreal, Mr. Drapeau who wanted to modernise Montreal, and was proud to be able to drive up the mountain in the latest technology of the future, his Ford Monaco. The trams had ceased operation in Montreal 1959, and the tunnel on this mountain, built around 1929, was blasted away.

  13. Hi,
    I’m from Melbourne, Victroria, Australia, although I have never even been to North America, I have followed this story. There are plans for the return of trams to Montreal, but are they actually considering real tramways (like we have in Melbourne) or standard LRT. Some questions I might ask since I couldn’t find the answers are:

    *What was the track gauge of the tramways of Montreal?
    *What were the minum curve radius and maxmium gradient?
    *What was the wheel profile?

    I would suppose that the previous Montreal tramway newtork used unidirectional trams, and if so, is there any issue with possibly adopting it today?

  14. From the geometry of the track and the tunnel entrance, I believe this view is of the west end of the tunnel, where the highest point on Camilien Houde is found. The cemetery would be on the left, and the other end of the tunnel would be where the lookout parking lot is now located.

  15. Let me answer your question, in the first person, I rode the tram several times over as a teenager of 15-16 in the very early 50s; it was my “shortcut” to get to Cote des Neiges, when I didn’t want to use the #29 Outremont PCC streetcar (another one of the trips I frequently made because I liked streetcars).

    The name of the game, was also to use only 2 tickets and make the trip as long as possible, possibly with a 3rd (paper) transfer, if I goofed it up; I lived several miles away in Montreal East.

    The old #1 “Mountain” streetcar started at a loop, corner Park Avenue and Mont Royal Ouest. still there but a bit re-landscaped today (view Google Earth).

    From there, the tram turned clockwise and ascended ascended steadily along what is now Voie Camillien Houde (a former longtime Montreal mayor) and through the tunnel to a point near Lac des Castors, aka Beaver Lake.

    It might be of some interest that only dedicated trams were used, that had enhanced brakes and the #11 was always a 2-man brown car

    At Summit Loop the streetcar turned around, and I then transferred to #93 Remembrance Road tramway and, after a short visit to St Joseph shrine and then, Upper Westmount (where the elite lived), I took the #65 Cote des Neiges bus to the Montreal downtown core.

    It was to the chagrin of many that they destroyed the tunnel to make way for the Voie Camilien Houde, but at the time, it was considered “progress” and the city was getting rid of all their streetcars. Unfortunately, when the tunnel was demolished, I had joined the military and posted out of province.

    For the record, the Golden Chariots never operated through the tunnel for safety reasons; it was judged to be a safety hazard, and some people in the upper tier would be tempted to touch the live (trolley) wire.

    Both the Mountain #11 and Remembrance #93 were exceptionally enjoyable, the car windows could be opened.
    93 was the shortest and most level; but, as the #11 climbed up the grade on the “Mountain” (all of 200 ft high), a fairly good view of the Montreal rooftops appeared in short order. There was no special fare, both streetcars were part of the regular system, but the Golden Chariots were 25 cents; a lot of money then for a student. without income, except what my parents gave me from time-to-time, so I found myself merely admiring them.

    BTW, I couldn’t access the picture, but I remember the tunnel in use, vividly.
    I’m now 84 and have been a tram fan since age 4, when I got “lost” inside a loop; with mother a mere 6 ft away.

  16. My fun as a youngster of 15 in 1950, was to get on the #11 to Beaver Lake, then on the double-end trolley to Côte des Neiges. From there, I would take the #65 bus, back to downtown.

    Though I eventually worked downtown at 17, I was afraid to take the M&SC, so that I wouldn’t be stranded at the other end, but I remember them vividly

  17. To Myrtone, yes there are evidently still plans to establish a few street level light-rail lines, one presumably beginning somewhere east of the Jacques Carrtier Bridge on Notre Dame Street East to run perhaps as far as de Boucherville Street where container trucks enter one sector of the Port of Montreal’s Container Terminal. Otherwise, we have the REM light rail network under construction and due to open in 2023. This will be an above-ground network similar to Vancouver’s Sky Train, the above-ground feature being more convenient by avoiding ground-level snow building in winter. See: https://rem.info/en

    Incidentally, Myrtone, I rode every tram line in Melbourne a few years back just to re-ingrain myself with long-lost childhood memories of our old streetcars, that era of which came to an end in 1959, not to mention riding Sydney’s new light rail line in the beginning of 2020.

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