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 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 120 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.

About the Author

Anthony Clegg was born in Toronto and made his home in St. Hilaire on Montreal’s south shore. He began his career with Canadian National Railways in 1942, as a draftsman and cartographer.He is an associate of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association and was for several years Editor of Canadian Rail magazine. Anthony Clegg’s writing include Mount Royal Tunnel, and — with Raymond Corley — Canadian National Steam Power. He collaborated with Omer Lavallee to write Catenary Through the Counties, as well as Cornwall Electric — the Insurance Company’s Streetcars.