Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tram & Streetcar Montreal

I have seen many sites about trams & streetcars, but I don't remember this one, it has an interesting story on some of Montreal's Tram history,'s longer than a normal post,so I suspect scrolling through it maybe easier,there's a couple of photo's, and the 'epilogue' briefly summarises the whole era:


A Retrospective History of Montreal Streetcars
A Centennial

The year 1992 marks the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by Columbus, the 350th anniversary of Montreal, the 125th birthday of Canada, and, most importantly, the centennial anniversary of the introduction of electric streetcar operation in Montreal, Canada's largest metropolis in 1892.

The following provides a retrospective history of one of the more interesting electric street railway operations in North America. Electric operations began on Wednesday, September 21, 1892, and continued until August 30, 1959.

Electric Power Replaces Horse Power

The advent of electric technology, coupled with Montreal's severe winters, contributed to the decision to electrify the city's transportation operation which, since May 1861, had been soley provided by "horse power" on the approximately 30 mile system, using about 300 passenger vehicles and 1,000 horses.

In early 1892 a decision was made by the then Montreal Street Railway Company (MSR) to commence electrification. A five-mile one-way loop bounded by Bleury, Park Avenue, Mount Royal, St. Laurent, Rachel, Amherst and Craig (now St. Antoine) was ready by mid-September 1892.

The system was designed to operate on 550 volts D.C. using a trolley pole to collect the positive current. The MSR signed an agreement with The Royal Electric Company of Montreal to supply electricity to the system and to equip several cars with traction motors.

Among the 25 single truck cars available for the first day of electric service was No. 350 - "The Rocket", built by the Brownell Car Company of St. Louis, Missouri, which was selected to be the initial car to provide electric service in Montreal. ["The Rocket" was subsequently set aside by the MSR and was restored by the Montreal Transportation Commission in 1956. It today resides at the Canadian Railway Museum (CRM) at St-Constant, Quebec].

After a less than ideal trip on that first day ["The Rocket" derailed at each curve due to the sharpness of the curves and its long wheelbase], the MSR and its successors provided almost 67 years of faithful.service to Montrealers.


From its meagre beginning, the system expanded to approximately 12.5 miles of electrified track by the end of 1892 and to 64 miles by the end of 1893. By October 1894 the horse car operation had ceased and the entire MSR system, comprising some 75 miles of track in the city core, was operated with electric cars.

To complement the MSR operations, the Montreal Park & Island Railway (MP&ffi) operated suburban service in the Cartierville and Back River areas, and to Lachine, with operation over MSR tracks to provide suburbanites run-through service to the city core.

Similarily in 1896 the Montreal Island Belt Line Railway Company commenced operation at the eastern end of the island of Montreal and later to the northeastern part of Montreal.

The MP&I was absorbed by the MSR in 1901; the Montreal Island Belt Line Company, renamed the Montreal Terminal Railway about 1900, was acquired by the MSR in 1907. The two absorbed companies, however, operated as separate companies until 1911 when all three companies were consolidated to form the Montreal Tramways Company (MTC).

The MTC was to last until 1951 when the company was expropriated by the City of Montreal which continued to operate the streetcar system under the auspices of the Montreal Transportation Commission until the end of streetcar service in 1959.

A Most Progressive System

During the beginning of the 20th century, Montreal had one of the more progressive street railway systems in Canada and, for that matter, in North America. For example, MSR car 890 was the first streetcar in the world designed for Pay-as-you-Enter (PAYE) fare collection that was successful. This was accomplished in 1905 by lengthening the conductor's platform, installing dividing rails and two doors instead of the usual one in the rear.

Four double truck open observation cars were built locally (two in 1905; two in 1924) for use in touring around Mount Royal, a mountain located in the centre of the city. Other street railway jurisdictions in Canada such as Vancouver, Quebec City and Calgary looked to the Montreal cars in the design of their respective open observation cars. The "Golden Chariots", as they were affectionately known, operated each summer from 1905 to 1958 with the exception of the summers of 1943 and 1944. All four exist today in museums.

Major Streetcar Purchases

The formation of the MTC in 1911 resulted in a total of 232 track miles in the system and an assortment of ageing streetcars. The new management almost immediately purchased new rolling stock consisting of 125 two-man cars numbered 1200 to 1324 built by Canadian Car & Foundry and Ottawa Car Manufacturing Company between December 1911 and June 1913. In 1913, a further 200 cars were ordered from the same manufacturers - the Ottawa cars were numbered 1325-1424 while the CC&F group comprised numbers 1425-1524. The 200 cars went into service over the period 1913-1917.

Montreal's progressiveness in updating equipment and the use of all steel cars continued unabated with the acquisition in 1914 of 25 two-car trains. The cars, built by J.G. Brill Co. of Philadelphia, included 25 motor units (1525-1549) and 25 non-powered trailers (1600-1624). These cars were initially deployed on the much used Ste. Catherine St. line. In 1917 additional orders were placed with Brill for 50 motor unite (1550-1599) and 50 matching trailers (1625-1674), with the trailers equipped with a pair of motors on the lead truck for added traction. The success of the two-car operation resulted in the delivery of motor cars 1800-1824 and powered trailers 1675-1699 from CC&F in 1924.

While the MTC was very progressive in the development and use of new transit technology, it was nevertheless slow to incorporate the use of one-man car operation. After experiments using Birney cars, the company was convinced that one-man operation would be practical and an order was placed with CC&F in 1925 for 50 cars (1900-1949), followed by orders for 15 (1950-1964) in 1928 and another 40 (1965-2004) in 1929. Included in the 1929 order were six double-ended versions (2600-2605) primarily for service on the Bordeaux and Montreal North lines.

Thus Montreal had both one-man and two-man car operations. Montrealers throughout the years could distinguish what type of car was approaching by noting the car paint scheme. The one-man car with front entrance was painted in cream with red trim while the two-man car with rear entrance was painted in green with cream trim.

With an increase in revenue and traffic in the 1920s, the MTC decided to further increase its rolling stock and retire some of its older cars. After much deliberation, company officials decided to proceed with the extensive use of both one-man and two-man cars as opposed to additional two-car operation. The 2100 series of two-man cars built by CC&F was introduced in 1927. These cars were smooth riding and very popular with the public. During 1928 and 1929 additional two-man cars were purchased, bringing the 2100 series to a total of 140 cars (2100-2239).

Twenty-five two-man car multiple unit cars (2650-2674 and 2850-2874) were delivered by CC&F in 1930. As well, two two-man, three-truck articulated cars were built by CC&F in 1928 for service on the busy St. Catherine Street, however, they spent most of the service life on the Wellington route.

These additions rounded out major car purchases for some time. Of note, the MTC retrofitted most of its streetcars with unique "dash lights" at the front of the cars. The dual purpose of the lights was to increase visibility for pedestrians and automobiles at night and to enhance advertisements that were appropriately placed at the front. Cars that operated in the suburbs, such as the Cartierville and Lachine lines, sported headlamps.

TOP; No. 350 - The Rocket proceeds west on Ste. Catherine Street as part of the parade to bid farewell to street cars on Ste. Catherine Street on September 2,1956. The Rocker" was the first electric street car to operate in revenue service in Montreal - 64 years before her appearance in the parade. (Montreal Gazette photo, author's collection)
LEFT: Ottawa-built two-man car 1353 poses at St Denis Shops in August 1953. Beside No. 1353 is one of 105 froley buses utilized on four routes in the north-east section of Montreal. (Author's collection)

Miscellaneous Equipment

Like other major street railway systems in North America, Montreal had many specially designed cars to facilitate the operation of its system. They ranged from the previously mentioned observation cars, to prison, funeral, band, pay, training, official, freight, stores, crane and other specialty cars, not to mention the various equipment that comprised the snow fighting equipment fleet.

The MTC also had two electric locomotives (Nos. 1 and 2, later 5001 and 5002) that shunted freight cars from local industries to both of Canada's major railways. This function was mainly performed overnight with minimal interference from streetcars and automobile traffic. These locomotives operated until the end of service in Montreal. Both left the roster in 1963 -No. 5001 was acquired by the Canadian Railway Museum and No. 5002 went to the Branford Electric Railway Association in Connecticut.

Montreal was a unique city in that it was the only Canadian city with two prison cars. The specially built reinforced steel cars were owned by the Quebec government but operated by the MTC between 1915 and 1925. They transported prisoners between the old courthouse in downtown Montreal (near today's St. Antoine and St. Laurent Streets) and the Ahuntsic wye near Bordeaux jail on Gouin Blvd.

On the lighter side, Montrealers could view a Band car plying the streets with the MTC employees' band merrily playing the crowd's favorite tunes. It was officially retired in 1928.

Montreal also operated two funeral cars between 1910 and 1927 to transport the deceased to Hawthorn-dale Cemetry located at the east end of the island. During the height of the influenza epidemic of 1918 it was not unusual for the funeral cars to transport up to ten coffins per trip.

Up until the 1940s Tramway employees were paid every two weeks by cash. The unnumbered Pay car would visit each carbarn to allow employees to pick up their wages. A second pay car, No. 3011, was used to transport fareboxes to and from head office on Craig Street (now St. Antoine). When the company started paying employees by cheque in 1948 the cars were subsequently retired and scrapped.

Montreal had two training cars - No. 1054 which operated until 1949 and No. 1177 which operated thereafter. In addition to classroom instruction, these cars were used to instruct prospective motormen and conductors. Car 1177 was donated to the Seashore Trolley Museum at Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1963 and was recently scrapped with many parts salvaged for use in the restoration of other cars.

Prior to the heyday of the automobile it was convenient for tramway company officials to use car 1024 to undertake inspection tours or to show visiting officials from other transit properties Montreal's system. The car was used up to 1927.

In addition to the aforementioned specialty cars, Montreal also had freight cars to transport bulk materials, cranes, welders, rail grinding, tool, tower and stores cars. This equipment was used in the daily upkeep of the vast streetcar system in Montreal. Given the severity of Montreal's winters, the MTC had an array of equipment such as sweepers, rotary plows, salt and sand can to combat the elements.

Peak and Decline

After the major acquisitions of streetcars between 1911 and 1930, the onslaught of the depression necessitated implementation of stringent economic measures. No more large acquisitions would occur. It was at the height of the depression when the MTC system reached its peak of almost 320 track miles with approximately 1,000 passenger cars on the roster. During the period of 1917-1918 the system had reached its peak in passenger cars with over 1,200 on the roster.

During the latter part of the 1930s a few of the outlying streetcar lines in Montreal were replaced by buses, and it was thought that this trend would continue.

The PCC car was designed and constructed in the mid-1930s, however, the MTC had no need for these new and modern cars because of the acquisition of some 300 new cars between 1928 and 1930. The high cost of the PCCs and advances in bus technology were also contributing factors not to purchase the PCCs.

The advent of World War II, however, resulted in very heavy use of public transportation, brought on by restrictions on
the use of gasoline, diesel oil, etc. To meet demand, 50 second hand streetcars were acquired by the MTC in 1941-1942, including 39 from the Springfield (Massachusetts's) Street Railway Company, 6 from the Schenectady (New York) Railway, and 5 from the Alabama Power Company in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Because of war restrictions, only 100 of the St. Louis Car Company's PCC production was alloted to Canada. Of this allotment, 25 PCCs were to be purchased by Montreal. This was subsequently reduced to 18 and in March 1944 cars 3500-3517 were introduced on the Outremont #29 line. The purchase of these cars was to be the last order for streetcars for Montreal. Within 15 years of the arrival of the PCCs, the public transportation system in Montreal would be totally operated by buses.

Ah - winter in Montreal! A 2100-series car pauses on Windsor Street at St Antoine, beside Canadian Pacific's Windsor Station, on February 1, 1951. (Montreal Gazette photo, author's collection).

PCC 3507 travels west on Craig Street and will turn south onto McGill Street in this 1950s photo. No. 3507 was one of 18 PCCs acquired in 1944 to help meet heavy wartime travel demand, and spent the majority of their active years operating on Outremont - Route 29. (Author's collection)

 The City Takes Over

Because of the rapidly expanding suburbs and the need to serve these areas, coupled with the requirement to overhaul existing equipment, the city of Montreal created the Montreal Transportation Commission. On June 16, 1951, the Commission assumed responsibility for public transportation. At the time Montreal had some 260 miles of track and over 900 active streetcars. The Commission's main mandate was to develop a master plan for rapid transit in the city. By 1953, the Commission submitted a plan to the city which consisted of a proposal for a subway system. Initially it was viewed that an all-bus system in Montreal would suffice for the short term. The objective was to replace streetcars with buses as soon as possible. Rather than completing the task in ten years as originally envisaged the work was completed in under seven years.


Two major parades marked the end of streetcar service in Montreal. The first occurred on Labour Day, September 3, 1956, to mark the introduction of bus service on Ste. Catherine Street the previous day. A parade of historical trolleys (most now reside at the Canadian Railway Museum) proceeded from Harbour Street in the east to Atwater in the west. The parade was viewed by an estimated 200,000 people.

Just short of three years later the streetcar to bus conversion program had been completed. On August 30, 1959, a parade similar to that held on Ste. Catherine Street took place in the east end of Montreal. Included in the parade on that rainy afternoon was No. 350 - "Rocket", and PCC 3517, Montreal's newest streetcar. No. 3517 was the last car to enter the ceremonial gate at the Mount Royal carbarn before the gates were closed, bringing to a close 67 years of faithful streetcar service to Montrealers.

After the cessation of service, most cars were systematically destroyed, however, the MTC did set aside representatives of various classes of cars and work equipment for museum use, and the 18 PCCs were held for a period for possible sale. Today, 21 pieces of MTC street railway equipment are preserved at the Canadian Railway Museum near Montreal, and another 14 Montreal veterans are at museums in Maine and Connecticut -reminders of street railway equipment utilized in Montreal.

1 comment:

Les F said...

the above article written by Tom Grumley ,can bee seen at this link:
..there's several more pages ,& links to links etc etc as well as plenty of photo's