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Goodbye, Streetcar Rails

- EvilGentleman - Wednesday, May 24th, 2006 : goo

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For many years now, the streetcar rails in downtown Montreal have been entombed under the asphalt of the streets, only surfacing in the spring when the potholes would expose the metal underneath.

There had been talk of resurrecting the streetcar service in the downtown core for some time now, with many feeling it would be both convenient for commuters and good for tourism, if antique styled streetcars were used.

Well, forget about it.
image 12108
Rails protrude from Sainte-Catherine Street just east of the Forum as they are being extracted from the ground.

image 12109
A city crew pushes the extracted rails to the side for eventual disposal.

image 12110
Another view down the street, with rails awaiting disposal

image 12111
The debris made from ripping the rails out has not been hauled away yet in this shot

image 12112
Piles of railroad ties that the streetcar rails rested on sitting in front of a bus stop near one of my classes.

Most North American cities are very young compared to European ones, with much less to offer in the way of history. Montreal has always been proud of its historic side, as it has a lot more to offer than many other North American cities, as far as relics of colonial and even 20th century history goes. But don't worry, they will fix that soon enough. Soon, Montreal will be indistinguishable from any other city such as Scranton, Saskatoon or Sacramento. This is what they call progress.

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Chris Erb: 24th May 2006 - 21:45 GMT

That's too bad. it would be wonderful to have a streetcar in the city.

On another note, I walked along the boarded up block in picture one with all the paintings. Do you know what is going to be happening to that block? The entire line of buildings appear to be abandoned and some of them are quite nice.

elaine: fools.

EvilGentleman: 25th May 2006 - 09:33 GMT

As far as I know, the block you are referring to (the north side of Sainte-Catherine between Lambert-Closse and de Chomedy) has closed down simply due to the fact that the Forum closed in 1996, one block to the west. Without the traffic from the Forum to keep them alive, they simply went out of business, the most recent casualty being Harvey's restaurant last year. The only surviving business is the Bombay Palace Restaurant, and I wonder how long they will be able to keep afloat, since that block is mainly known for Native panhandlers nowadays.

I remember ten years ago, most of that block was still alive and well. Starting from the west end, there was the Texan Reastaurant on the corner of Lambert-Closse, which had walls full of Montreal Canadiens memorabilia from all the members of the team who used to eat there after games and practices. Next was Harvey's, then the Bombay Palace, then a few middle eastern grocery stores and convenience stores, as well as a laundromat and I think, a hair salon.

The east end of the block was occupied by the Seville Theatre, which according to opened in 1929 and closed in 1984. It seated 1148 people. The article says that the east wall collapsed in 2001, but I remember for a fact that it collapsed in 1995. Up until that point, there had been talk of declaring it as a historic site and restoring it. After the wall collapsed, the restoration idea died away. There has been talk recently of Concordia University buying up the block to build a student residence tower there, but as far as I know, it is still just talk. Here is a picture of the Seville taken by Gerald A. DeLuca in 1989 and originally posted at
image 12135

Here is a picture of the east wall I took this spring.
image 12136

Across the street, the businesses have suffered much the same fate. I am not sure if the gas station at the corner is still in business, but if it is, I doubt it will stay open for much longer. Next was the Wendy's, which closed in the late 1990's, then the arcade, which closed around 1994 or 1995. Then there is a dressmaker and a photo shop, which have both survived.

The next place was a bar known as Mont Bar, which is where I met my son's mother in 1991. I have so many thousands of memories of that place, I cannot begin to tell them all, but one that stands out in particular was a woman I knew, who was the roommmate of a friend of mine, leaving with the entire Buffalo Sabres hockey team, who had been drinking there. And not to be mean, but she was definitely not the most attractive of women, either. I guess being rich does not automatically give someone good taste. She finally went home two days later, and slept over 24 hours. Other memories include Eddie, who had 19 Stanley Cup rings, from the late 1940's to 1993. He was the equipment manager, but I knew him as a quiet man, and it was not till a few years later that I saw an article in the paper about him that I knew what he did for a living. I miss the days of playing pool in the back room of the bar, or the time the place suddenly filled up with Hell's Angels bikers.Anyways, the bar closed a few years ago and is now an outreach center belonging to the nearby Penetecostal church that owns the south side of the block.

I miss that block so much, it used to be so much fun there. Natives, rock stars and pro hockey players; parades, riots and streetfights. Life in the fast lane, and then some. If those streetcar rails could talk, the stories they would tell.

Peter: 25th May 2006 - 12:57 GMT

this is a great entry, eg. i love entries like this.

ive seen em rip up quite a few rails like this in nyc... its the final passing of an already-gone era, unfortunately. what i wouldnt give to be able to take a streetcar/trolley to from downtown ... oh well.

i love riding my bike around old parts of the city that still have cobbled streets and trolley tracks that dead-end at random places...

Catherine Penfold-Waxman: 25th May 2006 - 20:40 GMT

"roommmate of a friend of mine, leaving with the entire Buffalo Sabres hockey team.... She finally went home two days later, and slept over 24 hours."

All I can say is, "Waccawaccabowwow" (porn music). Which reminds me, it's fleet week here in NYC. I must go and oggle sailors tomorrow night.

EvilGentleman: 25th May 2006 - 20:46 GMT

Yeah, I took extra care not to mention Melanie's name, just in case she reads this.

EvilGentleman: Oh, shit...

Catherine Penfold-Waxman: 26th May 2006 - 13:32 GMT

She's going to pull your fingers off for writing about what I hope is one of her fondest memories.

EvilGentleman: 26th May 2006 - 13:42 GMT

It's ok. Melanie is a seldom-used middle name anyways. Most people know her under a different name. I only push boundaries within reason. I would never mention what Indian Reserve she came from, or the fact that I once dated her sister. What kind of man do you think I am?

Lincoln White: 28th May 2006 - 19:58 GMT

I live in this neighborhood and have been watching the removal of the rail. I found your site hoping to find where there's a Wendy's nearby... that one is still listed in the phonebook!

Reading such a personal history of this area was fascinating, thank you.

Chris Erb: 28th May 2006 - 20:44 GMT

So you were looking for a Wendy's and instead learned the history of your neighbourhood? I love the internet.

EvilGentleman: 29th May 2006 - 02:58 GMT

The nearest Wendy's to the downtown West End is on Decarie near Queen Mary, so far as I know. It is located very close to the Snowdon Metro station, which is the western junction of the blue and orange Metro lines. Damn it, now I want a Frosty...

Montreal ran electric streetcars from 1892 to 1959, but the tracks in these photos were probably decomissioned in the early or mid 1950's

Chris Erb: 29th May 2006 - 03:44 GMT

Were they paved over or were they still exposed?

EvilGentleman: 29th May 2006 - 07:53 GMT

They were paved over, but only by a centimetre or so. In many places, the road had worn dowm to expose parts of the rails, and lots of the potholes were very shallow with metal shining at the bottom. There are some really good pictures of this at

Al: 10th Jun 2008 - 19:12 GMT

Kinda sad. I liked seeing the streetcar rails heaving through the roads every spring. Oh well... if you want to ride a streetcar, go to Toronto.

Mike: 14th Jun 2008 - 21:38 GMT

I remember the streetcars on St Catherine. The stopped running in September 1956 and were replaced by busses. Before then I used them as my form of transportation ( I was 15 at the time.) I would ride them all over Montreal. One of the fun trips was the Cartieville line to the amusment park, Belmont Park. I left Montreal in 1957 so the only mode of transportation I knew (except for about 3 months) was the streetcars.

Andrew Dawson: 23rd Oct 2008 - 21:46 GMT

Well given the damage of the rails, they would have to be relaid any ways.

What a lot don't realize was just how dumb the city was by not continuing streetcar srevice. Trams are much cheaper to operate, cleaner than buses and can carry more people.

Andrew Dawson: 23rd Oct 2008 - 21:51 GMT

As for track work, in Europe things have contiuned to advance.

There are new ideas for rebuilding tram track, faster & cheaper.

Ray M. Lyons: 13th Feb 2009 - 13:45 GMT

That is wrong what was done to history.. Why remove all the tracks, what was wrong with the street cars? Why not bring them back? They are a landmark, part of our history.. I rode them as a kid, and I loved them, same as the train, I drove them and loved them too.. Why do these politicians stick their noses into things that are history and leave things alone that are wrong and to their advantage? If politicans do what they want, they should be fired.. They are elected by us, yet, they do what they want..
Please bring back the street cars and the trains, less polution that way, think about it!

EvilGentleman: 19th Oct 2009 - 07:02 GMT

I had to delete the long-closed Wendy's in this area from the database of my Tom-Tom GPS. I'm shocked that they have all the traffic cameras upadated, but missed the closure of Wendy's years ago.

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