Montreal·Photos

'It's terrific': Montreal Metro marks 50th anniversary

These days, not many people would say they hop on the Montreal Metro for fun, but that’s exactly what Montrealers were doing 50 years ago today.

Metro was hailed as a way to enrich the city, called a quick ride and comfortable, too

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      These days, not many people would say they hop on the Montreal Metro for fun, but that's exactly what Montrealers were doing 50 years ago today.

      Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger, then the Archbishop of Montreal, was on hand to bless the brand new subway system before passengers boarded the trains for the very first time.

      It was hailed as a way to enrich the city while offering a quick and comfortable ride for commuters.

      "It's terrific," one young man told a Radio-Canada reporter on opening day, flanked by two of his friends.

      "We've made the trip three times and we just can't believe it."

      Building a Metro

      In 1953, the Montreal Transportation Commission unveiled a proposal to build a metro, but city officials voted against it.

      The plan was finally put in motion by newly elected mayor Jean Drapeau and Lucien Saulnier, the president of the executive committee, in 1960.

      Construction on the Metro began May 23, 1962. The project would cost $213 million.

      At the height of the construction, more than 5,000 workers toiled at job sites across the city.

      Montrealers rode the metro just to see what it was like on its opening day, Oct. 14, 1966. (Archives de Montréal)

      Beauty and substance

      Montreal was the 26th city in the world to open a metro, but one of the first Western cities to prioritize aesthetics in its design, said Matthew McLauchlin, creator of the website metrodemontreal.com.

      Many systems had decorative touches, but the idea of each station being a beautiful public building was relatively new for western cities. It was already seen in places such as Moscow and St. Petersburg, he explained.

      A scene from 1964: building the Metro tunnel underneath Berri Street, north of Roy Street. (Archives de Montréal)

      The network was much shorter than it is now, going from Atwater to Frontenac stations on the Green line and from Bonaventure to Henri-Bourassa stations on the Orange line when it first opened.

      The metro opened on a Friday. In its first weekend, it registered one million rides.

      Artist Jean-Paul Mousseau uses ceramic to create a display at the Peel Metro station in 1966. (Archives de Montréal)
      The STM has planned a day of festivities to mark the anniversary at Place-des-Arts station.

      With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak

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