Joint Winter Olympics for Montreal and Lake Placid

LakePlacidMontrealOlympics

Both Lake Placid (1932, 1980) and Montreal (1976) have hosted the Olympics.
What if they made a joint project too host another?
What better way to connect them than the old New York Central railroad.

Well, we can all dream!

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1980ArenaCAM

1980 Arena CAM

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vancam

1980 Van CAM

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A King's View

Montreal, Big City to the North

Passenger activity in Montreal is concentrated at Central Station. Amtrak, VIA and one of Montreal’s commuter rail lines are centered here. There is a tunnel under Mount Royal which makes it a station as opposed to a terminal which the Amtrak rider might presume it to be. As well as much modern equipment, there are box cab electrics and old cars reminiscent of New York Central suburban service in the 1950’s.

The station is built underneath the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, the Hilton Bonaventure and an office building. The waiting room and ticket sales area are located in the middle of a shopping center. It seems strange to be walking through a store listening to an announcer call a train for Rouses Point, Plattsburgh, Fort Edward, Saratoga, Albany and New York City. There is a good deal of gate security at Central Station so one must not expect to just walk down to one of the platforms easily.

Central Station, which belongs to the Canadian National, is part of an underground complex that touches shopping centers, METRO (Montreal’s subway) and Windsor Station. Windsor Station belongs to the Canadian Pacific and now sees only one commuter line which runs westerly along the St Lawrence River to Rigaud. It is a fortress-like structure and is quite deserted as trains now stop away from the station. It is mostly used as an office building. Amtrak and VIA have deserted it for Central Station. The fact that tracks stop away from the trainsheds and force passengers to walk to the station in inclement weather doesn’t make it the greatest of stations anymore.

The commuter line from Central Station runs to Deux-Montagnes and has been operated by a regional authority since 1982. This trip takes a little over 45 minutes and makes 12 stops. There are 56 daily trains with 40 on Saturday and 18 on Sunday. The box cab electrics cover rush hour service and usually park below the Hotel Bonaventure when not running.

A rare and diverse fleet of electric locomotives and multi-unit cars runs under 2400-volt DC catenary. Although some have recently been retired, Montreal’s commuter line has included six pre-World War I Canadian GE box-cab motors, nine European-built mainline electrics from 1924-1926, and two GE steeple-cabs from 1950.

Montreal electrification was originated in the decade before World War I by the predecessor Canadian Northern Railway as a tunnel and terminal project to reach downtown Montreal from the transcontinental main line north of the city. The reason for the electrification was the 3-mile tunnel through 760-foot-high Mount Royal. Completed in 1918, the electrics operated over an 8-mile route to Cartierville. The electrification was extended to Deux-Montagnes in 1925 and Montreal-Nord in 1946. The service to Montreal-Nord was discontinued in 1969 and replaced with the new METRO line to Henri-Bourassa. Electrification got an expanded role in 1943 when the new Central Station was built. Electrified trackage was more extensive then as all Canadian National mainline traffic and switching was handled by electrics. Dieselization ended this need and electrification across the Victoria Bridge was ended.

The electrification seems properly situated to continue an important role in the transportation network of the city. The residential areas north of the city have grown steadily and important real estate projects in the vicinity of Central Station continue. Modernization proposals generally suggest integration into the METRO system (high performance rolling stock, high level platforms, rapid transit type fare collections, additional stations, and more frequent service).

Montreal is a booming international metropolis where temperatures plummet or soar dramatically from one season to the next. The city has tamed the climate with a weatherproof underground city which gives priority to the pedestrian.

The broad, colorful concourses are lined with boutiques, restaurants and myriad retail outlets. The passageways are vast, airy and dotted with greenery. They are choice spots for the events of daily living in Montreal. Beginning in the 1960s, many major buildings and a complex subway were begun.

Now integrated in this underground web are two railway stations, a bus terminal, over 11,000 parking spaces, six major hotels, 1,200 housing units, a university, three department stores, 25 banks, 25 theaters, two exhibition halls and a convention center. 2,900,000 square meters of space are connected by 12 kilometers of protected corridor. As well as universal use of the metric system, everything is in both French and English. Some areas of the city “forget” the English— like suburban rail timetables.

The agency which operates the suburban electric service (STCUM Rail) also operates a unique subway system and the bus system. In numbering the routes for the subway system, “3” was reserved for a possible incorporation of the Mount Royal tunnel into the system.

The METRO is the essential element in a rapid, comfortable mass transit system. On rubber wheels, it glides silently under the city, ensuring connections between all major indoor points. Service began in 1966 and it still looks new and is still expanding. Its stations were designed by various architects and each contains several works of art.

The track and subway of the METRO was influenced by hard rock and the need to avoid underground utilities and building foundations. Pneumatic tires have excellent adhesion when dry, which is good for rapid acceleration and steep grades. Many Montreal subway grades dip down when leaving a station, run deep and then rise to meet the next station. These grades, some of them 5 and 6 percent, would be less practical for conventional steel wheels. Other stations (L’Allier for instance) remain very deep and require two and three sets of escalators to reach street level.

The METRO trains are sky blue with a white belt below the windows. Their sides are smooth, free of rivets or fluting, and have large picture windows. The cars are somewhat smaller than other rapid transit vehicles, but the interiors have adequate seating and standing space. Because the cars never leave the underground, their condition remains excellent; however frequent washings are required.

The rubber-tired ride equals the comfort of a steel-wheeled car and the acceleration is remindful of an electric trolley coach. Noise levels are low in the station areas but the whine of the tires rolling on concrete planks in the tunnels precludes normal conversation.

The trains are composed of motor-trailer-motor sets with control compartments at the ends. In practice, two or more three-car sets are coupled together. Because of the design, trainmen cannot pass through between each three-car set. When running, the trains are not turned at the end of the line so a trainman in the forward control compartment runs the train while a trainman in the rear compartment takes a break. It is interesting to see a train go through a station with the rear trainman reading a newspaper.

The map in STCUM Rail’s cars all indicate a projected “regional METRO” which would include the commuter lines as well as some METRO extensions. Since the Quebec government is subsidizing at least $5 million annually, it will be interesting to see what additions and improvements will be possible.

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LakePlacid1992

In the last few years, a lot has been done to restore but not much has been said about Lake Placid to Montreal rail service

On June 24, 2000 a news story (Montreal Gazette) stated that Montreal and Lake Placid officials will meet to consider a joint bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics. This could be great news for more rails! Having been involved with rail transportation for the 1980 Winter Olympics, this could be a tremendous thing providing Montreal-Lake Placid rail service (track cut in 1960 Gabriels to Malone, 1962 Lake Clear Junction to Gabriels, and 1983 Malone to Canadian border) was restored. Biggest problem we had in 1980 was that the rails went to Utica (no real airport). Closest other airports were Albany and Syracuse (not international) so Adirondack Railway depended on Amtrak from New York City. The 86-mile (that was the newspaper’s figure, not mine, it must be from the border?) Montreal-Lake Placid distance is really nothing for a high-speed line (and it would help Montreal commuter service too). The real clincher would be rail to Mont Tremblant (imagine an Olympics using both Whiteface and Tremblant).

The schedule for Utica to Montreal on the New York Central Adirondack Division (sometimes referred to by its prior name Mohawk & Malone) just before discontinuance was Fall, Spring, Winter trains 4 (Southbound) and 5 (Northbound) went to Montreal up to 4/26/53 after that only Malone to Montreal commuter service existed until at least 4/27/58. In Summer, trains 3 (Northbound) and 2 (Southbound) also continued to Montreal (until 1952). In Winter, they only went as far as Lake Placid. All Utica to Lake Placid service died in April 1965. Last freight from Lake Clear (Saranac) to Malone ran in 1960.

In the April 29, 1956 timetable, mileage was shown as Adirondack Junction 9 miles from Montreal; Malone 65 miles; Lake Clear Junction 107 miles. Commuter train #32 left Montreal at 4:35 pm and arrived in Malone at 6:40 pm. Train 4 left Malone at 7:45 pm and arrived in Lake Clear Junction at 9:05 pm. Train 26 ran on Saturday from Malone to Montreal. Train 5 left Lake Clear Junction at 6:30 am and arrived in Malone at 8:10 am. It missed commuter train 25 which left at 5:10 am and arrived in Montreal at 7:20 am. Train 35 ran on Sunday from Malone to Montreal. The connection from Lake Placid to Lake Clear Junction was about 16 miles and took 40 minutes.

Going back into history, both the Delaware & Hudson Chateaugay Branch and the NY Central started operations from Saranac Lake in 1893. D&H ceased service in 1946. NYC quit passenger in 1965 and freight in 1972. D&H sold to NYC their 9 miles from Saranac Lake to Lake Placid in 1946. Yes, another route to Lake Placid existed from Plattsburgh (where Amtrak from Montreal goes now). The D&H Chateaugay branch times were not great. In 1908 an express was 2 hours 25 minutes. In the 1940’s when D&H rerouted over NYC via Lake Clear Junction, times were about 4 hours. Service ended in 1946 and the line cut to Lyon Mountain. Passenger service there ended in 1948. In 1966, the D&H abandoned Lyon Mountain to Dannemora. Dannamora to Otis Jct (near Plattsburgh) was abandoned in 1981. The mileage from Plattsburgh on this branch was: Dannemora 20 miles, Lyon Mountain 36 miles, Plumadore 50 miles (D&H abandoned Plumadore to Lake Clear Junction in 1940 because a parallel route over the NYC was used); Saranac Lake 72 miles; Lake Placid 82 miles.

So, laying a track from Malone to Lake Placid wouldn’t be excessively hard, given that a train could go there from Mirabel Airport just North of Montreal easily. The train from Mirabel would go to E.J. Tower onto the St-Laurent subdivision, then towards Malone either through Adirondack Junction and Valleyfield, or through Laprairie/Delson. And, likewise, laying a track from Sainte-Adèle to Mont-Tremblant wouldn’t be to hard, either.

Would this line be run by an international authority (isn’t the St Lawrence Seaway Authority already international?) What about currency? Will they have vending machines in Lake Placid and Malone that accept Canadian money? Or will we have an absurd situation like the SNCF’s (French national railway) Ventmiglia station, which because it is located in Italy, does not take french money for payment (although all neighborhood stores and cafés do).

The New York Central wanted to keep their crews and trains in the US. So the lucrative commuter service from Beauharnois onward was served via Malone to keep US crews in the US and not because of any GREAT demand for Montreal-Malone service. The main reason the equipment tied up in the United States was to avoid paying customs duty on it. American equipment could only spend so much time in Canada before duty became payable. (The reverse was also true for Canadian Equipment in the U.S.) This customs business is a complicated subject. I think the equipment had to be on it’s way back within 36 hours of its being “released” or emptied.

As described by the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society: The old New York Central line was built by Dr. William Seward Webb, a self-made millionaire who married Lila Vanderbilt, the daughter of New York Central Railroad President, William H. Vanderbilt. Dr. Webb figured the best way to access Nehasane Park, his large hunting preserve to the north, was by train. In 1890, he financed a railroad into the Adirondack wilderness. The original survey for Webb’s “Golden Chariot Route” was laid out from Herkimer to Remsen, then north to Thendara, Tupper Lake, Lake Clear Junction and on to Malone, then down through Chateauqay to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Most of the work was by hand and black powder was used to blast through the native granite of the Adirondack Mountains. The first through train ran from New York City to Montreal on October 24, 1892. The railroad later became part of the New York Central System and it provided freight and passenger service from New York City and Utica to Montreal and Lake Placid.

Malone to Montréal Commuter Service

From New York Central: St. Lawrence, Ottawa and Adirondack Divisions Employee Timetable – Effective April 29, 1956

 

Station Stop Miles from Malone A.M. Train Times P.M. Train Times Comments
Malone 0.0 5:10 6:40 Station open weekdays
Constable 5.29 5:20 6:20 Flag stop; 67-car siding
Athelstan 14.09 5:34 6:09 Northward passenger trains stop for customs inspection
Huntingdon 17.93 5:41 6:03 Station open weekdays; crossed CNR at grade; 68-car siding
St. Stanislas 24.61 5:53 5:51  
Valleyfield 30.19 6:03 5:43 Station open for freight only; 62-car siding
Cecile Jct. 32.07 6:07 5:39 Not a stop; crossed CNR at grade
St. Timothee 35.34 6:13 5:34  
Beauharnois 43.92 6:27 5:22 Station open weekdays; 79-car siding
Maple Grove 45.69 6:30 5:19  
Bellevue 47.16 6:34 5:16  
Woodlands 48.86 6:39 5:12  
Chateauguay 50.92 6:44 5:08  
The Heights 52.25 6:47 5:05  
Kanawaki 55.97 6:52 4:58 Flag stop
Adirondack Jct. 56.33 6:55 4:56 Flag stop; 51-car siding
Montreal West       Not a stop; but appears on map
Montreal 65.73 7:20 4:35 Windsor Station

Morning train 25; Evening train number 32

Speed limit was 55 with exceptions (yards, etc)

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IrvingTrustCoTrain

Special Train to 1980 Winter Olympics

Transportation for the 1932 Olympics was a “piece of cake”. The full resources of the New York Central System brought not only passengers, but also snow for the Olympic events. But by 1980, the rail system in the United States wasn’t what it used to be. Amtrak ran nearby on its run between New York and Montreal and you took a bus the last leg of the trip. The old line between Utica and Lake Placid had been fixed up and reopened. But there was also another private train that brought spectators to the Lake Placid Olympics.

A special train made up of five private cars cobbled together by both Amtrak and Delaware & Hudson Railway operated five round trips on time between New York City’s Grand CentralTerminal and Plattsburgh, New York to transport the New York City based Irving Trust’s guests from around the world to the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games.

This train was made up of five private cars: a diner / entertainment car, two sleepers for passengers and crew, the Virginia Beach sleeper lounge with 6 double-bedrooms for passengers (a private car), and an open platform business car on the rear (the D&H’s). The train’s passengers boarded at 5 PM enjoying cocktails and dinner as the vestabule doors slammed shut and the special rolled north out of Grand Central Terminal at 7:00 PM for the overnight run northward. The returning southbound run was mostly in daylight and evening that provided the oustanding vistas along the Hudson River.

Any train movement in Winter can be challenging, but this train ran on-time over Conrail to Schenectady, then the Delaware & Hudson.

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The New York Central entered Montreal over the Canadian Pacific’s bridge across the St Lawrence River. This bridge, parallel to the Mercier highway bridge, is still in service. In February, 2006, high winds caused six cars to “almost” topple off the bridge.

See the Railroad Bridges of Montreal on Google Earth©

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CantonTrain02

CSX Montreal Line

New York Central operated to Montreal both out of Utica (abandoned) and out of Syracuse. The Syracuse connection continued through Penn Central and Conrail. It got into the hands of CSX, who is looking at “outsourcing” it to a short line.

CSX recently had representatives from 7 different shortlines in Massena, NY touring the line. Top contender at this point is RailAmerica, but other lines are present. Others include NY & OG (Vermont Railway), Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, NYS&W, Finger Lakes Railway.

Rail America recently purchased the Massena Terminal Railroad from ALCOA, so RA is automatically in a good position to consummate the deal.

I’m not sure how or where they’ll get the motive power to run the line, but they’ll need AT LEAST 4 heavy haul motors to perform all the jobs that need to be done on a daily basis, and that’s being conservative. An average road train through here easily exceeds 10,000 tons, and there are 3 or 4 of them per day. And probably 5 or 6 “short runs” or as they’re called down South “Locals”.

2nd contender is probably the Susie-Q, but might be an interesting bout with MM&A. MM&A has expressed interest in running van trains on the line jointly with the CN. In the trackage’s present condition, I’d say that’ll never happen, unless they get a shot in the arm of cash-money.

NY State has set aside $200 Million in the ’06, and is prepared to put an equal amount aside next year for “shortline rehabilitation grants”.

A $50 Million price tag has already been estimated to get the track between Fort Covington, NY and Syracuse, NY back to track speed standards, as well as lay more yard track in Massena and Watertown, and potentially go to automatic signaling of some sort. I don’t know about the track segments in Canada.

There was talk of selling the Montreal Branch (Massena to Adirondack Junction) at the very least to a short line operator for years, even before the 1999 take over of Conrail. Only once did I read ona forum that the Montreal Secondary (Massena to Syracuse) was possibly up for sale.

Vermont Rail System has proven to be a very efficent railroad in Ogdensburg.

If the Montreal Maine & Atlantic RR got a hold of the Montreal lines, they would likely find it better to relay that stolen rail in Kahnawake so they can have a fluid movement from their existing running rights over CP, instead of adding more costly rights over CN from Montreal to Cecile Junction.

Beyond Massena, it’s now CSX to CNR Montreal Yard: over CSX (Montreal Branch) to Valleyfield, QB, then CNR Valleyfield Sub to Coteau, and CNR Kingston Sub (nee Cornwall Sub) to Taschereau Yd (nee Montreal Yd).

CSX pretty much abandoned, for all practical purposes, the Montreal Branch north of Beauharnois, whereby they lost their connxn with the CPR, and St. Luc Yard. Thus, they now run over CNR North of Valleyfield.

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