Métro history

MR-63 train at Crémazie station (1966)

The first métro system was opened in London in 1863. It was in fact a network of steam trains travelling through underground tunnels. It wasn’t until the 1890s that the first electrically powered underground transit system appeared. In Montreal, there was talk as early as 1910 of constructing tunnels to facilitate the tramway traffic around the downtown area. However, the economic crisis of the 1930s stopped that project from happening. The Montreal Tramways Company revived the idea in 1944 with a true métro project, however the Second World War and the discussions concerning the municipalization of public transportation kept them from moving forward with it.

In 1953, the new Montreal Transportation Commission proposed its own métro project. The first phase involved construction of a 12.5 km line under Saint-Denis, Saint-Jacques and Sainte-Catherine streets, at a cost of $117 million. All it required was the approval of Montreal’s elected officials, but they postponed the project out of an excess of caution. Meanwhile, the City of Toronto forged ahead with its own plans and inaugurated its first métro stations in 1954. The success of the Toronto Subway proved that freeways could not solve all of the urban traffic problems. Montreal needed a métro, but who would finally dare to make this project a reality?

Click on these STM Archives pictures to enlarge them.

1944 project   1944 project   1953 project   1953 project

The election in 1960 of the duo formed by Jean Drapeau and Lucien Saulnier marked the beginning of realizing the Montreal métro. The blueprint presented on October 20, 1961 called for three lines: line 1 (green) running east-west, line 2 (orange) running north-south, and line 3, running under Mount Royal. In the end, line 3 would be eliminated in favour of an entirely new line (4 - yellow) running under the St. Lawrence River to service the site of the 1967 World Fair. On November 3, 1961, The City of Montreal allocated $132 million to build the métro. Construction of the initial network was entrusted to the City and its Bureau du métro, which was headed by senior engineer Lucien L’Allier.

The basic principles that would make the Montreal métro famous were quickly decided: first métro to run only on tires, an entirely underground network, and a different architectural design for each station. The first contract was awarded in April 1962 and on May 23, work began on Berri Street, south of Jarry Street. The following year, the cost of the project increased to $213 million, mainly due to the addition of line 4 (yellow). The contract to build 369 MR-63 métro cars was awarded to the Canadian Vickers company, which delivered the first cars on August 24, 1965. At the peak of the construction, there were more than 5,000 people working at the extensive job site.

Click on these STM Archives pictures to enlarge them. Note: photos of the construction of the métro's initial network are at the City of Montreal Archives.

1962 project   1962 project   Métro car mock-up, 1963   Métro station mock-up, 1963

Youville Plateau, 1965   Youville Plateau, 1965   Youville Plateau, 1965   Youville Plateau, 1965

The first 20 stations were inaugurated on October 14, 1966 with Mayor Drapeau and Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger in attendance. A million people tried the métro during its first weekend of operation. The initial network, completed in spring of 1967, had three lines with 26 stations: the green line, from Atwater to Frontenac; the orange line, from Henri-Bourassa to Bonaventure; and the yellow line, from Berri-De Montigny (Berri-UQAM today) to Longueuil. Over 130 million trips were recorded in the first year, the same year as Expo 67 which drew more than 50 million visitors; the Île-Sainte-Hélène (today’s Jean-Drapeau) Station alone handled 418,000 people in one day.

The work to extend the network began on October 14, 1971, exactly five years after the métro opened. The Bureau de transport métropolitain (BTM) of the Communauté urbaine de Montréal (CUM) oversaw the work, which was partially financed by the province. The green line would be extended to Honoré-Beaugrand Street and Angrignon Park, and the orange line to De Salaberry Street. A new line, (5 - blue) would also connect Ville Saint-Pierre with Montreal North. However, inflation and construction delays ballooned the cost from $430 million in 1971 to $1.6 billion in 1975. In May 1976, the province imposed a moratorium on all extensions, which would be partially lifted during the following decade.

Click on these STM Archives pictures to enlarge them.

Control Centre, 1966   Control Centre, 1966   Control Centre, 1966   Control Centre, 1966

Control Centre, 1966   Control Centre, 1966   Control Centre, 1966   Control Centre, 1966

Control Centre, 1966   Control Centre, 1966   Tracks at Youville, 1966   Nettoyage d'un train, 1966

Métro car undercarriage, 1966   Métro train, 1966   Métro station being cleaned, 1966   Dust collection train, 1966

Fare collection train, 1966   Track maintenance, 1966   Track maintenance, 1966   Métro tunnel, 1966

Métro tunnel, 1966   Métro inauguration, 1966   Métro inauguration, 1966   Métro inauguration, 1966

Employees visit, 1966   Employees visit, 1966   Employees visit, 1966   Employees visit, 1966

Employees visit, 1966   Employees visit, 1966   Going to Expo, 1967   Going to Expo, 1967

Going to Expo, 1967   Expo-Express, 1967   Général de Gaulle's visit, 1967   Visitors at Youville, 1968

Visitors from China, 1969   Kiosk at Berri-De Montigny Station, 1969   Kiosk at Bonaventure Station, 1969   Kiosk at McGill Station, 1969

Kiosk at Saint-Laurent Station, 1969   Christmas in the métro, 1970   Métro extensions being announced, 1971   Métro extensions underway, circa 1971

In March 1971, the métro ran all night for the first time when Montreal was paralyzed by the “storm of the century.” Two major fires, one in 1971 in the tail-tracks section of the Henri-Bourassa Station and the other in 1974 between the Laurier and Rosemont stations, led to improved network safety measures. In 1974, Bombardier won the contract to build 423 MR-73 métro cars, which were delivered starting in July 1976 and put into service in December that same year. The green line was extended to the Honoré-Beaugrand Station in June 1976 and to the Angrignon Station in 1978. Meanwhile, auto-pilot operation was implemented starting in November 1976.

The orange line was extended in successive sections from 1980 to 1986, while the blue line was put into service from 1986 to 1988. However, these would be the last network extensions prior to the opening of the three new stations in Laval in 2007. One other highlight for this decade is Lisette Renaud becoming the first woman to operate a métro train in 1981. On September 11, 1984, the visit of Pope Jean-Paul II resulted in a record two million métro and bus passengers in one day. Finally, the testing of swipe-card readers in 1987 led to a major reduction in passengers’ wait times at the turnstiles. Starting in 1982, the company also operates the commuter train lines to Rigaud and Deux-Montagnes.

Click on these STM Archives pictures to enlarge them.

Henri-Bourassa tail-tracks fire, 1971   Storm of the century, 1971   Firefighters visiting métro tunnels, 1974   Métro's billionth client, 1974

Fire between Laurier and Rosemont stations, 1974   Fire prevention brigade, 1975   Métro emergency vehicle, circa 1975   Butterfly doors, 1975

Building of MR-73 cars, circa 1975   Building of MR-73 cars, circa 1975   Building of MR-73 cars, circa 1975   Métro extension opening, 1976

Métro extension opening, 1976   Métro extension inauguration, 1976   Métro extension inauguration, 1976   10th anniversary of the métro, 1976

First MR-73 car, 1976   Delivery of MR-73 cars, circa 1976   Delivery of MR-73 cars, circa 1976   Delivery of MR-73 car mock-up, circa 1976

MR-73 train, circa 1976   MR-73 train, circa 1976   Métro extension inauguration, 1978   Métro extension inauguration, 1978

Inside a MR-73 car, 1978   Mural inside MR-73 cars, 1978   Mural inside MR-73 cars, 1978   Mural inside MR-73 cars, 1978

Mural inside MR-73 cars, 1978   Jacques Chirac's visit, 1979   Métro extension inauguration, 1980   MR-73 car maintenance, 1980

Escalator maintenance, 1980   Control Centre, 1980   Monthly pass being launched, 1980   Métro operators in training, 1980

Métro operators training, 1980   Terminus supervisor at Angrignon Station, 1980   Information desk at Berri-De Montigny Station, 1980   Track alignment, circa 1980

Métro extension inauguration, 1981   Lisette Renaud, 1981   Bike shelter at Honoré-Beaugrand Station, 1981   Deux-Montagnes Line, 1982

Rigaud Line, 1982   Agrandissement du Plateau Youville, 1982   Bibliothèque à la station McGill, 1982   Plateau Youville, 1983

Métro extension inauguration, 1984   Métro extension inauguration, 1984   Tunnel maintenance, 1984   Métro parts being cleaned, 1984

Métro car being cleaned, 1984   Métro tires being received, 1984   Track maintenance, 1984   Métro musician, 1984

Vendôme intermodal station inauguration, 1985   Métro constable, 1985   Graffiti cleaning, 1985   Métro extension inauguration, 1986

Métro extension inauguration, 1986   Métro extension inauguration, 1986   Swipe-card readers, 1987   Métro extension inauguration, 1988

Métro extension inauguration, 1988   Protective gear for sandblasting, 1988   Battery kit assembling, 1989   Rigaud Line train, circa 1989

The first métro Park and Ride was opened next to the Radisson Station in 1990. That same year, the company began installing neighbourhood maps at all stations. Also that year, the contract to renovate the 336 MR-63 cars was awarded to CN’s shops (AMF). An electronic display system was installed in the MR-73 cars starting in 1991. The first multiservice centre was opened at the Berri-UQAM Station in 1993, enhancing customer service. In 1996, operation of the modernized commuter train lines to Rigaud and Deux-Montagnes was transferred to the new Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT). The 1998 “ice storm” once again underscored the value of Montreal’s entirely underground métro. To ring in the year 2000, the métro and buses provided free service all night.

Long-awaited work to extend the orange line to Laval began on March 18, 2002. The new Cartier, De la Concorde and Montmorency stations were officially inaugurated on April 26, 2007. Meanwhile, in 2004, the STM launched Phase I of the Réno-Systèmes program aimed at maintaining the reliability of the métro’s stationary equipment. In 2005, STM employees started refitting the company’s 423 MR-73 cars. In 2007, the company also opened its new underground fire-prevention training facility (Centre de formation souterrain en prévention des incendies). And the decade ended with the Bombardier-Alstom consortium being awarded the contract to build 468 MPM-10 cars.

Click on these STM Archives pictures to enlarge them.

Neighbourhood map, 1990   Télécité electronic display system, 1991   25th anniversary of the métro, 1991   Multiservice centre at Berri-UQAM station, 1992

Renovation of MR-63 cars, circa 1993   Renovation of MR-63 cars, circa 1993   Renovation of MR-63 cars, circa 1993   Renovation of MR-63 cars, circa 1993

Old Deux-Montagnes train, 1995   New Deux-Montagnes train, 1995   Jean-Drapeau Station, 2001   Métrovision screen, 2005

40th anniversary of the métro, 2006   Opening of the extension to Laval, 2007   Opening of the extension to Laval, 2007   Opening of the extension to Laval, 2007

New underground fire-prevention training facility, 2007   Elevator at Lionel-Groulx Station, 2009   MPM-10 contract being signed, 2010   150 years of public transit in Montreal, 2011

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