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Railway History by Anthony Clegg

The Mount Royal Tunnel

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The Mount Royal Tunnel: Canada's First Subway, Tony Clegg, 100 pp., 8 x 10.5, History, July 2008

ISBN: 978-1-897190-41-8 (paper) . . . $29.95




The Mount Royal Tunnel

An illustrated history of the electrified railway tunnel and station complex still serving Montreal.

This story had its start in the pre-World War I railway building boom, when Canadian Northern Railway set out to provide Canadians with competition to the Canadian Pacific and Grand Trunk railways. Since those competitors had already established entries into Montreal from the east, west, and south, CNoR decided that entering downtown from the north, even though a four-mile tunnel through Mount Royal would be required.

The Mount Royal Tunnel describes the building of CNoR’s huge complex that became today’s Central Station, and the site for downtown Montreal’s massive complex: Place Ville Marie, Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Place Bonaventure, CN headquarters, and other large office buildings. The clean-running electric locomotives hauled trainloads of commuters to the CNoR’s 'Model City' development (Town of Mount Royal) and other suburbs to Montreal’s northwest, with change-overs made to steam locomotives (later diesels) to take inter-city trains to Ottawa, Toronto, and the western provinces.

Anthony Clegg’s book describes, in detail, how the tunnel was constructed and equipped for electrical powering of trains … what the trains that ran were like, and where they went … how the post-World War I period caused government takeover of CNoR, becoming Canadian National Railways … insights on how the increasing traffic led to new multiple-unit self-propelled commuter trains … the decline in inter-city traffic, and how that led to the line being completely reconstituted as a commuter line … with CNR finally exiting the commuter operations entirely, turning them over to the municipal AMT, who completely reengineered and modernized the line’s electrification, infrastructure, and power substation facilities.

Over 130 photos illustrate the construction of the tunnel, the line, and the Central Station complex. Locomotives and passenger cars, including various multiple-unit cars and trailers, as well as line cars, are featured. Maps and selected equipment diagrams are included.

Critical Comment

Here, the late Anthony Clegg examines in some detail the construction and operation of Montreal’s Mount Royal Tunnel, whose electric suburban service trains are now being operated by AMT, the Agence Metropolitaine de Transport. Author Clegg was no stranger to Canadian railways, having been employed by Canadian National, a member of the Canadian Railway Historical Association, the past editor of Canadian Rail Magazine, and the author of several books on various Canadian railway subjects. In eight chapters of text material, 12 appendices, a color coded map of the Montreal terminal area, and a wealth of historic and contemporary photo illustrations, the author presents a complete history of the tunnel, the downtown Tunnel and Central Station properties, as well as the electric locomotives and MU-cars utilized on the Mount Royal line. Of particular interest were the author’s excellent 1940s and 50s era photos of Central Station under construction and his action shots of the electric trains at various locations on the line to Deux Montagnes.

– David J. Mrozek, The Michigan Railfan, July-Aug. 2019

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