Sunday, August 23, 2009

50 Years ago next week Streetcars Stop

Today's Gazette has a story re: the Streetcars........are they coming back ? Who Knows,but it was 50 years ago next week,that they stopped running.


        here's the Gazette story to go with the picture:


With only a week left before the 50th anniversary of the end of tramway service in Montreal, the last remaining tramcar still operating in the metropolitan region is being prepped and polished for its busiest day since 1959.

That day will come on Sunday, Aug. 30, when thousands of people are expected to visit the Canadian Railway Museum in the South Shore town of St. Constant to mark the anniversary and participate in some special activities.

For Montrealers of a certain age who actually rode on the old trams, nothing will be as special as the opportunity to ride on the museum's star attraction - its handsome, yellow-and-maroon Montreal tramcar that was built in Ville St. Pierre in 1928.

This is the tramcar that carried visitors for a ride on a short rail loop around the museum from 1987 to 2004. But wear and tear forced it back into the "carbarn" for four years of renovations carried out entirely by volunteers.

Since the spring of last year, the newly refurbished version of the very same tramcar has been back in service and thrilling visitors old and young alike. But museum officials expect that the Aug. 30 anniversary will see the yellow-and-maroon tramcar experience its heaviest daily ridership levels since its last day of regular service in Rosemont on Aug. 30, 1959.

"There are a lot of Montrealers who come to the museum and climb aboard for a ride and find that they are travelling back in time," museum president Stephen Cheasley says.

When the old Montreal Transportation Commission was created in 1951, it was given the dual mandate of carrying out feasibility studies for a subway system for Montreal, and of getting rid of trams altogether by 1961.

Until 1951, a private company, the Montreal Tramways Company, ran transit service in Montreal. By the time the public sector took over, there was growing public discontent with tramcars.

Growing automobile use after the Second World War put a lot more cars on downtown roads, and motorists found that slow-moving trams running down the middle of streets were creating traffic headaches.

And yet now, a full 50 years after the demise of trams, the administration of Mayor Gérald Tremblay and other municipal leaders are lobbying for a return of new modern trams.

To mark the 50th anniversary, the railway museum will be lending one of the tramcars in its collection to a group that is staging an anniversary event in Old Montreal.

The tramcar will be showcased Saturday, Aug. 29 and Sunday, Aug. 30 at the foot of Place Jacques Cartier. Inside the nearby Marché Bonsecours, an exhibit relating to the tramway's history- and possible future - in Montreal will be held.

On the grounds of the South Shore railway museum itself, activities will include a special presentation in front of the first electric tram used in Montreal in 1892. There will also be a demonstration showing electricity passing through a trolley pole, with a light source signalling the movement of the electrical current. Children will be invited to colour miniature tramcars made from carton and then join them up with string for a parade through the museum.

Outside the museum, the star of the day will be the yellow-and-maroon tramcar that has been back in service since spring of last year.

Older visitors who climb aboard for a ride will recognize the trademark rattan upholstery on the seats. Rattan is an organic material, a sort of reed that can be weaved, like straw. It is also the same yellowish colour as straw.

With no more rattan commercially available in North America, volunteers who carried out the tramcar's restoration had to go all the way to China to find a supplier, according to Daniel Laurendeau, vice-president of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association.

Another striking aspect of the renovated tramcar interior is the rich wood panelling, restored to its original cherrywood and mahogany. Riders will also notice the retro advertising signage running down both sides of the car, above the windows.

There are ads for Dow beer, Canadian General Electric's Radiolas, Farmer's Milk evaporated milk and the Simpson's department store, among others. Elsewhere, there are separate English-only and French-only signs warning that spitting is prohibited.

"In the early 1900s, some cars had smoking sections in the back and a lot of people chewed tobacco then, so there were spittoons, too," Laurendeau said.

"But then when smoking ended and the spittoons were removed, people didn't follow suit - the spitting continued. So heavy fines had to be threatened to put a stop to that."

It's hard to imagine anyone spitting today inside of this one and only tramcar still operating in the Montreal region. The two-toned beauty stands as a shining example of a Montreal icon that is long gone - and maybe soon to return.


Diane Roberts said...

Oh My God...50 years? Boy does that make me feel old Les, I can remember the streetcars as if they were yesterday....Diane

Les F said...

no again Diane the stories of the streeetcars are old,not HF&RV

Juanita Berry said...

I rode the streetcars to work in the forties. One stopped at the corner of wellington and Rielle where I lived. Great times. Juanita, California

Diane Roberts said...

I like that Les, I think I'll stick to your version!...Diane