Marc Dufour
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Exploring the Tunnel ventilation shaft

The tunnel, right at the ventilation shaft

followed by a brief historical explanation of the tunnel and the vicinity of the old terminal.


At a, one can see the opening towards the ventilation shaft. The shaft itself arrives in b, the vertical concrete wall, right behind the railing c.

Beyond the shaft (but hidden by it), is another opening identical to the one seen here.

It is actually that hidden opening you can see in this picture.

Note the two catenaries and the feeder wires directly anchored in the ceiling vault.

During the tunnel construction, between 1914 and 1917, two headings were driven from the ventilation shaft.

On the right, is a picture taken during the boring of the tunnel. Note the pilot gallery through which the rubble was evacuated.

The completed tunnel, just before laying the tracks.
   Here, we are a few hundreds of meters from Portal-Heights (now Canora), at the northern portal of the tunnel.
   At each end, the tunnel is doubled, most probably because of the shallow depth. You can see the two single-track tunnels in the background.
   Tunnel finishing varies enormously. Here, it is half-lined; tunnel walls are bare-rock, but the ceiling vault is in concrete. Elsewhere, like right at the ventilation shaft, the rock has been left bare, and in other places, the whole tunnel is lined in concrete.

Pionner in modern tracklaying methods?

Next right: Cross-section of the double tunnel.

Notice the walkways on either side of the central division, at the height of the car floors, to allow an easy evacuation in case of problem. One will think that theit width of less than 50cm (18 inches) would have caused more problems...
  Notice also in the right half-tunnel, whose wooden track crossties are buried in the concrete. A precursor of the modern dual-block ties that are a standard fixture for the most modern lines?
  Let's not forget that this plan dates from 1914!
  (The tunnel was built with to the traditionnal method depicted on the left).

Those wide variations are explained by the various geological conditions met during construction; the rock strength varying according to it's composition.

(1 mille = 1600 mètres; 400 pieds = 122 mètres)

Below, you will find this geological cut adjusted so the vertical scale is the same as the horizontal one. The ventilation shaft location is marked in red. As you can see, before being equated to the great Alpine tunnels, the Mount-Royal tunnel has a lot missing...

Or you can download a more accurate document (Acrobat).

The tunnel emerged downtown, in the old "Tunnel Terminal" station, a most handsome building, located at the corner of Lagauchetière ans Inspecteur streets, exactly where now is the Central Station parking.
   The building was, alas, demolished around 1960, when the CN Hearquarters building was built.

On the right, a view taken at the corner of Lagauchetière and Inspecteur streets, looking towards the true north ("Montréal north" being is in reality towards the northeast)

Above: the "Tunnel Terminal", looking towards the south

All suburban-bound and Canadian Northern Railway-bound trains left through those 6 tracks. There was no southern connection, despite what the plans posted further down say.

  • The viaduc carries Dorchester street, since then widened into a boulevard, and renamed René-Lévesque.
    Note the access stairway, as well as the lower floor planned for an eventual subway...
  • When Central Station was being built, the church visible on the left was dismantled stone by stone and rebuilt besides the Collège Saint-Laurent, some 10km away...
  • The Central Station concourse building is located on the south of Dorchester, and extends from the east of the church until the end of the station grounds.
  • The Queen Elizabeth hotel was erected on the location of the houses between the cut and the cathedral.
  • The picture is taken from a building situated on the south of Cathcart street (the old Ciba-Geigy building, since demolished)
  • Place-Ville-Marie is erected in the portion at the north of Dorchester, and incorporates the site of the building from where the picture has been taken.
  • The pointed roof building, on top at right, is one of the sides of the Marie-Reine du Monde, cathedral, a scale replica of Saint-Peter of Rome built in that location by mgr Bourget, for the sole and only purpose of pissing-off the english.
  • During the 60's, Inspecteur street has been cut at Saint-Jacques street, more on the south, and Mansfield street was extended southwards towards Saint-Jacques, some 50m more to the west from the old alignment of Inspecteur street.

Pictures come from the book"The Mount Royal Tunnel " by Anthony Clegg, published in 1963 by Railfare (32 pages).

That book can be still found rather easily in north-american railroadiana bazars.

Mr Clegg also wrote several books about most notably the Montréal streetcars as well as the Montréal & Southern Counties, an interurban on the South Shore.

Let's hope he'll forgive me for lifting his pictures and plans...

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