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2006 01 31
Finding Lost Montreal Part 4
By David Hammonds
The fourth and final installment in a periodic adventure series for urban sleuths.

Finding a Phantom Tunnel


Last, and not least in our search is the Brock Street Tunnel, dating form the mid-1890s. With its approaches, it was 905 feet long (270 m) with a real tunnel 666.5 feet (200 m) long, semi-circular in section with a span of 30 feet (9.2 m). Sadly, it has long been abandoned and its remnants are much harder to find for all save a determined urban sleuth. The north portal and abutments are still in place, but tunnel access is precluded by a squatter-proof iron grille. It is half buried and all but hidden from view at the foot of a steep slope of earth upfilling, on the south side of a ramp which leads off the Ville Marie expressway towards the Molson brewery. To get your bearings stand to the south and opposite the west end of Radio Canada building near rue Panet.

It passes through the glacial till a soil which forms the “island” and afforded a roadway 30 feet, 9m wide. Lined with three feet of brick it carried Brock Street, an extension of rue Beaudry on a 2.3% descent to harbour level, some 10 feet below the present level of the later harbour front. It was probably the first tunnel to be driven in virgin soil in the Montréal area, and it was to remain the only one for the first 25 years of its existence, when the huge 3.2 km lonMount Royal rail tunnel was completed in 1918.


If one could walk through it today, one would pass under an old Montreal Fire Hall, on the north side of Rue Notre Dame, which has recently housed offices of the Cirque de Soleil. One would then pass under the former Molson’s bottling plant, under what is now the waste ground of former freight yards, emerging at the south portal close to the river.

Pinpointing the location of the southern portal is difficult, but its parapet wall would have been located just south of the line of today’s rail tracks, a little to the east of the former Harbour Board Cold Store, which itself has been recycled as a condominium block. The portal was much grander than was customary because it was extended well beyond the excavated face as a bridge to carry the harbour front rail tracks. Integral with it, and equally lost, were a pair of steel mitre-type lock gates, each 18 feet (5.4 m) wide and 14 feet (4.3m) high, which were closed across the portal to prevent damage by ice “shoves” during the spring break-up. Redevelopments in the second half of the 20th century have further reshaped the area with some upfilling and reworking of the ground.

Design and construction of the tunnel, subway and viaduct was supervised by Stuart Howard, under the direction of city engineer Percival W. St. George. The hand-dressed ashlars and voussoirs of the abutments, approaches and portals, of both the tunnel and the subway, are of Black River limestone, won from dimension stone quarries, such as that at Pointe Claire, which today serves as part of the course of Beaconsfield Golf Club.

[email this story] Posted by Alexandra McIntosh on 01/31 at 06:09 AM

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