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Imagining the past through commuter rail


Publié le 28 juin 2017

Photo of Huntingdon Station, 1910.

©© McCord Museum, Montreal, Canada, 2007

While I’m thankfully not subjected to the Montreal commute regularly, when I am caught in traffic on the Mercier, I think about how nice it would be to take the train.

I know by way of my father who is somewhat of a railway buff, that back in 1950 there were two commuter trains that left Malone, NY in the early morning and arrived at Montreal Windsor Station for 7 or 8 am.  These trains had stops at Athelstan, Huntingdon, New Erin, St. Stanislas, and Valleyfield before continuing through Chateauguay and over the railway bridge that parallels the Mercier. Three return journeys left Montreal at half-past 4, 5 and 6pm. It all sounds so very civilized, doesn’t it? One can only imagine how Homeland Security would deal with a cross-border commuter train today.  

In any case, it seems a shame for the Haut-Saint-Laurent that it was discontinued around 1952. Today, the successor to the old New York Central, the CSX, goes from Massena to Valleyfield via Huntingdon and then over the Saint Lawrence River before heading into the Montreal along the lakeshore. Sadly, it doesn’t carry passengers anymore. Who knows whether the AMT will ever see the commercial viability for a commuter train that might follow a similar route from Huntingdon to Valleyfield to Coteau Junction and into Montreal, like the one from Dorion into Gare Lucien-L’Allier. I know my commuter pals sure would appreciate it.

Imagine, from the 1890’s to the early 1950’s it was also customary for a new bride and groom from Huntingdon to board the overnight train and set out for their honeymoon in the Big Apple. Newlyweds could leave Huntingdon in the evening and arrive at NYC’s Grand Central Station first thing. A passenger coach would take you to Malone, where you could transfer to a sleeping car for the full luxury of rail travel. Those were different times. Mind you, that’s the funny thing about progress, isn’t it? Sometimes our forward motion seems to travel in exactly the wrong direction.