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2006 01 30
Finding Lost Montreal Part 3
By David Hammonds
The third installment in a periodic adventure series for urban sleuths.

A Redundant Subway?

The Berri Street Subway, completed in 1893, is easy to find since it is still in use today, but with hindsight it should never have been built! It carries the bed of the eponymous street from rue St Antoine to rue de la Commune. Overall it was 335 feet (101 m) long with a masonry arch carrying rue Notre Dame forming the centrepiece. Elliptical in section, the arch had a span of 45 feet (13.7 m) and an original rise of about 14 feet (4.3 m). It had room for two streetcars to pass plus two horse drawn vehicles. The western abutments, still support the north and south ramps which lead up to Notre Dame street from St. Antoine and de la Commune respectively.

A recent visual inspection of the arch voussoirs and wall ashlars showed no signs of distress after some 110 years of continuous service. Construction of the subway involved protracted negotiation with the Hospice St Charles, later Hospice Porte au Ciel, whose modernized facade still fronts onto 459 rue St. Paul est. Until the matter of the land was resolved, several redesigns of the subway works had been necessary.

The more inquisitive observer might ask “Why build a subway at the end of the viaduct?” The answer is that the subway was planned and started before plans for the huge railway terminus were announced. Otherwise the viaduct could have easily been extended to do the work of the subway arch.

Ornate Ironwork

Notre Dame Street Viaduct
, completed in the late 1890s, was originally a steel structure. The steel structure was finished with ornate detailing typical of the Victorian-era. It was over 50 feet wide, with room for two, 8 feet (2.5 m) wide footpaths and a roadbed of 36 feet (11m), with twin tracks in the centre for the electric streetcars.

Amazingly there was a new CPR passenger station, 200 foot (60 m) long, at its west end, which has disappeared. The viaduct survived until it was replaced some 100 years later by the present replica structure. Over 30 feet (9m) high, it traversed the railway tracks, platforms and freight yards which provided passenger service from the late-1890s until May 1951 and freight service, until the tracks were lifted in the 1980s. The area is currently being re-developed with residential projects.
[email this story] Posted by Alexandra McIntosh on 01/30 at 05:53 AM

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