Riding the Rails in 1941

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Considering the mayor’s enthusiasm over bringing back tramways to Montreal—the city’s new transport plan, unveiled yesterday, proposed three new lines that will be built over the next several years—I thought it would be fun to take a look at this old tramway route map from 1941. What I find most fascinating is the way it’s possible to tell, from looking at where the streetcars go, why neighbourhoods and commercial districts developed as they did.

As in pretty much any other city, Montreal’s tramway network funnelled streetcars into major streets and transit hubs. Often, important business districts sprung up around those hubs. Five streetcar routes and one bus line met near the corner of Queen Mary Road and Decarie Boulevard at what was called the Snowdon Junction. It’s easy to see why Snowdon became the west end’s downtown, a bustling neighbourhood of bulky apartment blocks and landmarks like the Snowdon Theatre and a Reitmans department store. Nearby, a commercial district arose where the number 3A streetcar travelled along Monkland Avenue, before turning onto Grand Boulevard and heading up to Somerled Avenue. Even today, nearly half a century after the last streetcar was removed from service, the Monkland retail strip ends abruptly at Grand.

Although some of today’s buses follow the same routes as the long-gone tramways, the opening of metro lines in the 1960s and 70s was accompanied by a drastic reconfiguration of Montreal’s transit system. Streets once served by several streetcar and bus lines, like Notre Dame in St. Henri, became marginalized as their transit connections were removed. It didn’t help that some metro stations were located far away from traditional main streets, as is the case in Hochelaga, where the metro is a good seven-minute walk from Ontario Street.

Thanks to Marc Dufour for the tramway route map.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Friday May 18 2007at 09:05 pm , filed under Canada, Maps, Transportation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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