February 11, 1939 Railway Age Vol. 106 No. 6

Montréal terminal improvement project revived by C. N. R.

Program on which work was suspended in 1931, is to be continued on modified basis—To spend $3,000,000 in 1939

The Canadian National is now reviving in a considerably modified form, plans for the construction of extensive terminal improvements at Montréal, Que., including a central passenger station, which were first announced nearly a decade ago, and plans to proceed with the work immediately. Originally, the project contemplated the expenditure of approximately $50,000,000, and work on certain of the improvements embodied in the plan was undertaken early in 1930. Because of the onset of the depression, however, construction activities were suspended in 1931, after about $15,000,000 had been spent. Completion of the project on the basis of the modified plan will involve an additional expenditure of about $12,600,000, of which approximately $3,000,000 will be expended during 1939.

For many years, the Canadian National has recognized the need for improving and modernizing its passenger and freight-handling facilities at Montréal. The question of providing adequate passenger-station facilities has presented a particularly pressing problem. Following its formation the C. N. R. continued in service at Montréal the passenger-handling facilities of three of its constituent lines, these facilities being for all practical purposes entirely independent and disconnected. They include the Bonaventure station which is located in the southern section of the city and handles traffic from and to the south, east and west; the Tunnel station which is centrally-located in the city near the south portal of the double-track tunnel under Mount Royal, and which serves trains moving to and from the north and west; and the old Moreau Street station in the eastern part of the city, which handles traffic from and to the north and east. Not only have the widely-separated locations of these stations presented operating disadvantages, but they also have the disadvantage of being antiquated and out-moded in design and construction. The company also faces a somewhat similar situation in regard to its freight-handling facilities in the city.

Original improvement program

After several years of study and planning an improvement program was promulgated in 1929, which had as its objective co-ordination and modernization of the company's passenger and freight facilities within the city. The principal improvement contemplated in this plan was a central passenger station which was to be located on the site of the old Tunnel station, where it would be considerably nearer the central business district of the city than the Bonaventure station and also conveniently situated with respect to the hotel, department store and theatre districts. Not only was the station to embody extensive facilities for the handling of passengers, mail, baggage and express, but it was to be surmounted by an office building in which were to be consolidated the company's offices which at that time were housed in 17 different buildings.

A part of the Canadian National trackage in Montréal, showing the features of the modified plan on which work will be resumed.

From the south the new station was to be reached by means of a viaduct that was to connect at its southerly ·end with the Victoria bridge across the St. Lawrence river, over which traffic is handled from and to the Maritime provinces. The plan also envisaged electrification of the terminal tracks as far north as Eastern junction for the electric operation of all trains to and from the north and west, and also electrification of the terminal tracks to the south, across Victoria bridge to St. Lambert, for the electric operation of trains to and from the south and east.

Other improvements proposed in the original plan included the construction of a cut-off to permit passenger trains to and from the west that now enter and leave Bonaventure station, via St. Henri, to operate into the new station via the new line and the tunnel under Mount Royal. Another cut-off was planned to permit passenger trains from and to the northeast to operate into and out of the new station via the tunnel, and also to provide a much-needed connection between the various yards and tracks located in the eastern part of the city and those located around Turcot in the western part. Other improvements contemplated in the original plan included a new coach yard at Point St. Charles, and a new enginehouse and coach yard on the tunnel line near Eastern junction.

Construction progress

These improvements were authorized during the latter part of 1929 and work on them was undertaken shortly thereafter. The first actual work involved the demolition of buildings along the right-of-way leading to the Bonaventure station to provide space for a new fruit terminal, and the construction of a number of grade separations along this line. Excavation work on the site of the proposed central passenger station was undertaken on September 15, 1930, and before the work was suspended on October 15. 1931, a total of 4,000,000 cu. yd. of earth and rock had been removed. Other work on the site of the proposed passenger terminal involved the widening of Dorchester street and the building of a bridge to carry this thoroughfare across the station site, this bridge being opened for traffic on November 15, 1931.

Considerable progress was also made on the construction of the viaduct between the proposed new station and Point St. Charles. For a distance of seven blocks south of the station, this viaduct was designed as a six-track structure of reinforced concrete construction, with steel bridge spans over all intersecting streets. From the end of the concrete structure to Point St. Charles the viaduct design called for structural steel construction, while from the latter point to the bridge the tracks were to be carried on an earth embankment. By the time that work was suspended on the viaduct in 1931, the greater portion of the rein forced concrete structure had been completed, and during 1933 the space underneath this portion of this structure was fitted up as offices and now houses various departments of the Canadian National, which hitherto occupied rented space in various buildings. It is estimated that the use of the viaduct for office space has resulting in a saving in rentals of $170,000 per year.

The modified program

It has now been decided that the company should proceed with the completion of the terminal on a modified basis by stages as conditions warrant, taking advantage of any favorable factors which may prevail from time to time. In broad outline the present improvement program retains essential features of the original scheme, although in a number of respects it is substantially modified. The plan for a central passenger station is retained, this structure to be located as originally planned in the vicinity of Dorchester street directly in line with the Mt. Royal tunnel. When completed, this station will handle the traffic now entering the Bonaventure station. the tunnel station and the McGill Street station of the Montréal & Southern Counties Railway, an affiliate of the Canadian National. Trains of the latter company operate into and out of the city over the Victoria bridge.

Detailed plans (or the station have not yet been drawn, but it will consist essentially of a one-story structure, with facilities for handling mail, baggage and express located beneath the track level. Present plans do not envisage the construction of an office building over the station but it is planned to provide a sub-structure of sufficient capacity to carry any type of superstructure that future developments may make it desirable to build over the station. It is pointed out that this will leave the way clear for the development of air rights in the vicinity of the station area.

The modified plan calls for the completion of the viaduct connecting the central station with the Victoria bridge. From the station this viaduct will extend in a southerly direction to Point St. Charles from where one set of tracks will turn west to a connection with existing east-and-west trackage while another set of tracks will turn east to a connection with the Victoria bridge. The original plans for the construction of cut-off lines to permit trains from both the west and east to enter the city through the Mount Royal tunnel are not being considered for the time being. Instead, trains from the west that now enter the Bonaventure station, will leave the present main line into Montréal at St. -Henri and will proceed around the loop to Point St. Charles and thence over the viaduct into the station. Thus, completion of the present project will permit abandonment of the Bonaventure station by transferring its activities to the new central station, thereby making it possible to improve and extend freight facilities located in the vicinity of the Bonaventure station.

Trains from Laurentian points and Northshore St. Lawrence points, which now use the Tunnel station, will use the new station and will continue to enter the city through the Mount Royal tunnel. The service of the Montréal & Southern Counties Railway will be discontinued between Montréal and St. Lambert, which is located on the south side of the St. Lawrence river opposite Montréal, and in its place the C. N. R will provide rapid service between St. Lambert and the central station, which will be closer to the heart of the city than the 'McGill Street station. The tracks of the M. & S. C. across Victoria bridge will be removed and replaced with a roadway for vehicular traffic.

General plan showing the relationship of the new passenger facilities and the new lines proposed in the original Montréal improvement program.

A feature of the original plan that has been retained in the modified program is that involving electrification of all the main-line passenger trackage of the road within the Montréal area serving the central station, The electrified territory will include the viaduct connection between the Victoria bridge and the central station, and also the main-line trackage westward from Point St. Charles as far as Turcot yard. In addition. it is planned to proceed with that phase of the original program calling for the construction of a new coach yard at Point St. Charles, completion of which will permit the extension of the Turcot yards in such a manner as to facilitate inbound and outbound freight movements.

As mentioned previously, it is planned to undertake work on the modified improvement program immediately and to expend about $3.000,000 on the project during 1939. Work to be carried out during the year will center largely on the site of the future passenger station and will involve in general the preparation of the site for the erection of the station. It is also expected that the viaduct from tile central passenger terminal to the Victoria bridge will be completed in 1939, with tile exception of a bridge over the Lachine canal.