A live account of visiting every station on the island of Montreal before the REM opened.
Further thoughts on this challenge are in this blog post: What I Learned from Visiting Every Montreal Station in a Day.
Original Mastodon thread was here, but unfortunately the thread breaks in several places, although you can pick up the thread by opening the last item on the page which isn’t a reply.
On the first bus of the day, and the first of two which will get me to Point-aux-Trembles, the island’s most eastern station.
1. No human should be waking up at 4:20am.
2. Happy my day pass validated successfully! It’s going to be getting a lot of mileage.
3. I feel like I’m going so far off the beaten track, will there be coffee?
One thing I learnt is the Opus day pass isn’t valid for any specific day. It’s just valid for 24h from the moment its first activated by tapping it on an Opus reader somewhere.
Same principle as a single ticket which is valid for 90 minutes from the moment of activation.
The upshot is you can buy a day pass earlier in the week if you know you’re going to need it on a specific day 👍
First bus down – and the only night bus on this trip (unless things go really badly) – which brings me to Honoré-Beaugrand Metro station. I’ll be visiting here again later today.
Lots of gulls around here, and they’re noisy.
Next bus is the 186 which will take me to Point-aux-Trembles.
The Transit app will likely be my best friend today, especially for the odd connections.
And we’re on bus #2 now which will take me towards New Brunswick (although not that much towards it… just a bit towards it)
This part of the route to the east of where the Metro ends includes the separate town of Montréal-Est (Montreal East) and is an enclave within Montreal.
This whole area is a transit desert in-spite of the number of people living here, and a number of plans over the years to build trams or light rail have sadly not come to anything.
Here we are, first station of the day!
Incidentally, this crossing didn’t have a working pedestrian button on the other side. Not sure how it’s feasible to cross it safely when there’s more traffic 🤷♂️
Aside from a bus and its driver, I think I’m the only person here right now.
This first train only goes part of the way into town, so I’m going to take the following train.
What to do in PaT for 45 minutes?
Hey Mastodon, you’re about to get *a lot* of photos of Point-aux-Trembles station…
Out of the sunset, a train arrived (just not my train)
In case you were wondering, Point-aux-Trembles is in Canadian National’s Grou subdivision. A little reminder that it’s the freight companies owning most of the track passenger trains run on.
There are some exception to this though. For example, venture East towards Repentigny and where this line loops back along the North Shore it’s fully owned by exo up to Mascouche.
The station building is modern and quite nice, if a little on the utilitarian side. There’s not a lot here in terms of facilities though. Coming from England, it’s hard to imagine a commuter station without a little cafe.
In the surrounding areas, there’s really nothing. Just your car-centric suburbia.
Well, there is one thing worth seeing out here, and I’ll come to that in a moment…
And inside the station is what you’d expect. Clean, some abstract artwork on the windows and a ticket machine with departure board. Just needs a little cafe…
There’s a loooooong corridor connecting the station building to the platform.
And the one thing I mentioned worth seeing here? There’s a giant park which borders the river. You can see the edge next to the station.
The ticket validators. I can confirm my day pass works on exo for the first time ever! Is this what true freedom feels like? 🤔
Some views of the platform. That odd structure in the middle? It’s an accessibility feature so people who can’t climb the stairs onto the train can access the train via level boarding.
These trains have doors at multiple levels anyway to handle the different platform heights across the system (rail in North America can be weird sometimes)
Opposite there’s a wooden platform, presumably for emergency use. The main platform is bidirectional.
And finally, this exit takes you directly from the platform into the park! It’s madness this station has no weekend service. Imagine how useful it would be for a day out in nature?
(as an aside, when I venture out into exo territory I seem to notice a disturbing number of swastikas graffitied in various places)
OK, train arrived in two minutes. I’ll give Mastodon a break from the onslaught of photos for a while.
For reference, I’m currently at the eastern edge of the island. I’ll finish the day on the westernmost edge. It’s also a big island.
First train of the day!
exo5 is taking me along Montreal’s north shore. It’s fast and comfortable, and it’s madness this line isn’t running at least every 30 minutes 7 days a week. Madness.
I’m going to hedge my bets that almost everyone will get off the train at Sauvé station, and the remaining stragglers will leave at Ahunstic.
I’ll explain why in a bit, although some of you may already know the answer.
More trivia about the exo5 line. It doesn’t just carry commuter trains out towards Repentigny and Mascouche. It also carries Via Rail out towards Shawinigan and beyond. A long way beyond. Those trains I think only run two or three times per week, giving you some more insight into the quality of rail services in Canada.
Here’s my stopping pattern by the way. This line will take me into the heart of downtown Montreal.
Passing through the town of Saint-Leonard, and some of the streets are named after famous cities. London, Paris and Rome are ones I’ve spotted so far.
We’re approaching Sauvé, and as predicted some people are getting ready to hop off.
Why? Because this train will now take over an hour to get downtown. The faster option is to get off here, and connect with the Orange Line which will make the same journey in about 25 minutes.
So, what’s going on?
exo5 is a relatively recent line which until recently had a different alignment.
After Ahunstic it would branch of and join the Deux-Montagnes line taking the tunnel under the mountain to reach Gare Centrale (Central Station) in downtown.
It didn’t take long, but then the Deux-Montagnes line closed to be taken over by the REM when it opens in a couple of years.
So this now means the train just takes a very convoluted route around the mountain to reach Gare Centrale from the south. It will take around an hour to go a relatively short distance as the crow flies.
However, it’s an opportunity to do some track bashing and travel an uncommon route.
When the REM opens, exo5 will connect with it at a new interchange north of the mountain. This should be even quicker than the Orange Line for most people and I’d imagine the journey from the new station to downtown on the REM will take less than 15 minutes.
A view of the mountain from the train, and may I say it’s a beautiful morning.
Blurry photo of the REM line looking northwards. This would have been the Deux-Montagnes line and the one this train would have joined before the closure.
The train is now going through the absolutely giant rail yard near Côte Saint-Luc. We’re almost West Island, which gives some idea of the diversion needed to avoid the mountain. And we’re moving very slowly. The track doesn’t feel like it’s in very good condition.
Currently near Lachine, so exceedingly off-piste for a train serving the East.
We’ll soon be following the same tracks as intercity trains arriving into Montreal from Ottawa and Toronto.
On the final approach to Gare Centrale. I really need coffee.
It’s a very grainy photo, but here’s an actual REM train running in test! They seem to run very close together so seems like the network will have a lot of capacity in-spite of the short trains. Hopefully we’ll all be able to ride some of them in a few months.
I’m in to Montreal a bit early. Interestingly enough the next train back to Mascouche isn’t until this afternoon.
But for now, coffee and then it’s time to start tackling the Metro.
Also, exo5 ✔️
One of the more challenging lines to complete!
Time to tackle the Western arm of the Orange Line.
It’s quite a walk between Gare Centrale and Bonaventure. I remember in my first visit to Montreal when I’d arrived bleary eyed off an overnight train from Moncton, I had trouble figuring out how to get down to the Metro.
Plan is to take a train all the way up to Côte-Vertu, and then head back to Lucien-L’Allier to tackle the next exo line.
Thankfully I’m travelling against the direction of rush hour.
We must be thankful for the Metro’s full coverage of cellular service, even in the tunnels. Take that London Underground with your Wifi which is only at stations and not even free! 📱
Made it to Côte-Vertu in Ville Saint-Laurent, one of the two termini of the Orange Line.
Time for a breakfast snack then it’s back downtown again.
There’s this cute square just to the south of the station replete with grass and this foxy sculpture.
Although the current terminus, go bit further north of Côte-Vertu and you’ll find a future REM station at Bois-Franc.
There’s been talk of extending the Orange Line by one stop to make a connection. This is made easier by recent work to build a new underground train depot just north of the current terminus.
Connectivity is everything if you want a good transit network. It seems like a no-brainer to do it.
Time to get back on the train.
Currently half way between Vendôme and Place St-Henri, and I believe originally there were plans to put in a station in between at Westmount. But the good people of Westmount didn’t want a station in their town, so it never happened.
Who says no to better transit?
Incidentally there’s also a now disused Westmount station on the surface between Vendôme and Lucien L’Allier on the exo track. I think it closed a long long time ago.
If I have a chance to snap a photo from the train later, I will.
Some random stats.
I believe the longest section of tunnel in London is near my old stomping grounds on the Northern Line between East Finchley and Morden. It might even be one of the longest continuous stretches of tunnel in the world.
That record however is beaten by the Orange Line between Montmorency and Côte-Vertu.
I’ll have to double check the numbers later to confirm.
At Lucien L’Allier, home of the Canadiens! Montreal’s beloved hockey team.
And now I’m back on the big-boy trains as it’s time to attempt exo4.
I’ll be heading from Lucien L’Allier to Lasalle.
Critical I don’t overshoot my stop or else it’s game over. This is not a line where it’s going to be easy to double back making it another potentially tricky route to complete.
Also, if I’d missed this train the next one isn’t for 2h 45m, so effectively it would have ended the challenge.
I was probably a bit cocky taking a relaxed breakfast break earlier.
So, this section of line I’m currently on between Lucien L’Allier, Vendôme and Montréal-Ouest (Montreal West; Yet another enclaved town in its own right) is traversed by three exo routes, all of which I need to visit today.
However, I won’t need to do this stretch again as I’m covering those three stations now. It’ll mean later on when I do exo2, I can pick the train up at Parc (which is good as it doesn’t go any further into town during the day!)
I don’t have time to get off here today, but I think Montréal-Ouest is by far the quaintest station on the exo network, and one of (I think?) only two stations which retain their original historic buildings.
Trains coming through here used to go all over Canada.
First ticket inspection! Can definitely confirm now the Zone A pass works.
If you’re wondering what it looks like inside the big boy trains.
(P.S. I’m playing catch-up again with a bunch of photos, so prepare to be spammed)
There’s a bunch of old Via Rail carriages gathering dust. I’m wondering if these are ones which have been replaced by their new sets?
Passing over the lovely Lachine Canal.
So, I didn’t miss my stop! We’re right by the Saint Lawrence river, so at the limits of the island and my Zone A pass.
Lasalle seems to have retained its original station building. I think the station gets quaint points for that, and it’s wooden platforms. Just needs a steam train to feel complete.
And now back waiting for a bus to take me to Angrignon to connect back to the Metro.
And it’s the best bus stop ever, because it has amazing views of the river and this incredible rail bridge.
The train I just got off will continue over this bridge and through Kahnawake, which is a self governing territory of the Mohawk Nation.
Some more photos before my bus arrives.
It’s really turning out to be a lovely day. As much as I’d like to stay here and chill, it’s time to press onwards.
Forgot to mention:
Even the express buses ‘round these parts take the long way.
Back on the Metro again at Angrignon, which is the Westernmost station on the Green Line.
It’s one of my favourites in terms of architecture, not least of which because it allows daylight down to platform level.
In fact, I find all the stations on this branch of the Green Line have really interesting architecture.
So, this next part of the journey involves working my way up to Parc via the Green, Orange and Blue lines.
If you’ve never seen the inside of a Montreal Metro “Azur” train, they are a sight to behold.
I’d go so far as to say they’re one of the best deigned subway trains in the world.
At Lionel-Groulx, which is one of the best interchange stations in the system. It’s possible to switch between the Green and Orange lines by just walking across to the other side of the platform in this spacious environment.
A complete contrast to the claustrophobic rotational symmetry of Berri-UQAM, which we’ll visit later.
A short hop to Snowdon which is another cross-platform interchange station, although complicated by the fact this is the last station on the Blue Line, so one of the platforms is exclusively for disembarkation.
The lighting gives this station a kind of eerie moodiness.
An older MR-73 arriving at Snowdon, which will take us to Parc for some more exo shenanigans.
I am le tired.
At Parc now. Long ago this was one of the big rail termini in Montreal, and at the top of the escalator appears to be a waiting room, perhaps with facets of the original station still in place?
This (I think) would have been the original station building. Today, a corner of it allows access to the Metro station.
And we’re now at the other Parc station to do exo2!
This time of day, trains only run as far south as Parc where they turn around and head north.
During peak hours, they would continue down to Montréal-Ouest and on to Lucien L’Allier.
This is my favourite of the exo lines. It’s not frequent but it’s regular and it goes all the way to Saint-Jérôme, which is a long way to the north.
In my mind this makes it the region’s only truly regional rail service.
Today there are a few people with suitcases and quite a few people with bikes, no doubt heading up to Saint-Jérôme to pick up the P’tit Train du Nord (https://ptittraindunord.com/)
However, in our case we’re only going a fraction of the route as far as Bois-de-Boulogne.
Made it to Bois-de-Boulogne!
Only two people got off (myself included) and there was a lone ticket inspector at the only platform exit.
Annoyingly one stop more and I could have had a direct interchange with the Metro, but the rules don’t allow going outside of Zone A.
So, it’s a bus to connect with Henri-Bourassa for the Orange Line.
I have a thing about Henri-Bourassa Blvd. Its a stroad (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroad) of the crappiest kind, and the buses are heavily used, overcrowded and unreliable. I usually avoid it like the plague because it is the worst.
Back on the Metro. Over the next hour-and-a-bit, we should be able to tick of three Metro lines!
Henri-Bourassa is a curious station.
It’s the only one on the system with an odd number of platforms. One for going north into Laval, another to go south into Montreal and a terminating platform which is only used during rush hour.
The northbound platform is the newest and was added for the extension of the line to Laval. It looks positively futuristic compared to the others which appear more decrepit as they date from an earlier age of the Metro.
We’re heading down to Jean-Talon to get back on the Blue Line and tick it off.
At Jean-Talon, the other interchange between the Orange and Blue lines, but no nice cross-platform interchange at this older station
Next up, Blue Line back to Parc.
At Parc (again).
Now back the way I came to get to the end of then line at Saint-Michel.
Lots of hopping on and off in this bit.
Saint-Michel, and you know what that means?
🟦 Blue Line ✔️
Next it’s back to Jean-Talon and onto the Orange Line to continue heading south.
And now I’ve fully retraced my steps back to Jean-Talon.
Next stop: Berri-UQAM.
Uh oh! Delays on the Green Line. It’s good I don’t need to touch it just yet.
At Berri-UQAM and now it’s the turn of the Yellow Line.
This line has only two stations and I only need to visit one of them (Jean-Drapeau) as the terminus is in Longueuil, which is outside of the island and Zone A.
So, should be a quick win.
Very quick pop outside at Jean-Drapeau for some fresh air.
🟨 Yellow Line ✔️
And for the pedants among you, yes I know I’m not technically on the island of Montreal. But, it’s still in the fare zone so it has to be counted.
Back at Berri-UQAM again for the Orange Line.
Just arrived at Bonaventure, so this means… 🥁
🟧 Orange Line ✔️
Staying on this train though until Lionel-Groulx. Green Line is next.
I’m back at Lionel-Groulx, and this should conclude the manic period of this challenge.
Next up is to ride the majority of the Green Line up to the end of the line at Honoré-Beaugrand.
But… nature calls so I’m going to hop off at Peel since my office is nearby and it has the required facilities.
This might affect my schedule so it’s a bit of a calculated risk. But then not doing it is an un-calculated risk 🤷♂️
… and back on the train at McGill for the long haul up to the East End.
Remember, it’s stations visited which count, not track covered!
Bad news… just as I got on the train they announced delays. The train shut down which usually means they had to cut power to the line.
This could be a problem for making the exo1 connection at 15:52.
… and as soon as I post that, we’re on the move again. Let’s see what happens.
🟩 Green Line ✔️
And now all the way back to Lionel-Groulx 😫
From there it’s up to Vendôme and exo1.
Time to tackle the final boss: exo1.
Last ride on a big train for a while.
Feels good to be back above ground again.
Final destination will be Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue in the extreme west of the island.
So, on the platform there seemed to be Metro levels of passengers. There was a scrum to board the train due to the single doors at the end of each carriage.
What was surprising is the sheer capacity of these bi-level trains meant that even with such a crush of people, there are still plenty of available seats.
I managed to get a shot of Montréal-Ouest this time.
The station also has level crossings at each end of the platform adding to its charm.
Trains departing to the west can go to one of three very diverse destinations making it feel like an important junction in the network.
Why be West Island traffic when you could be on a train?
(photo doesn’t show it clearly, but this traffic ain’t moving)
So, as of 5:35pm EDT:
And challenge completed! 🎉🍾🎊
I’ve now visited every station on the island and I’m now at the westernmost point of the network.
In fact I’m now so far west, equal priority is given to signage towards Montreal and Toronto 🤣
So, I am absolutely shattered.
Thanks to everyone who favourited, boosted, followed or sent me a supportive message. It’s much appreciated.
Now to get back home!
Oh, and finally, best value I’ve ever gotten out of an $11 purchase 👏