On the Way to Montreal, Published 10 December 1929
Many people have taken the train to Montreal, but nobody ever seems to have written about It. This commonest ot trips has been unsung by poets and unhonored by scriveners who have meanwhile, dilated lavishly on the loveliness of the south, the hardships of the north, the future of the west, and pre-Confederation glories of the east. It's about time somebody said something about trip to Montreal.
Montreal, according to its own admissions is a city of million people, situated on an extinct volcano now familiarly known by Jacques Cartier's label, Mount Royal. It to 113.3 miles by Canadian Pacific short line, 116.5 by Canadian National main route, 120.3 by North Shore Canadian Pacific, and 113.5 by Canadian National Tunnel Terminal. It to more than three hours by car snd two days by boat.
As you leave Ottawa, you fly past the gas works panorama and railroad yards ol the New York Central, before crossing the Rideau and cutting loose in good earnest. Going by Canadian Pacific, you slip past a number of stations. English tn their name, but now as French as Gaspe. Blackburn. Navan, Leonard. Hammond. Bourget (formerly The Brook), Pendleton, Plantagenet. Alfred. Caledonia Springs and McAlpine are all in name as English as five o'clock tea or broad a's. It is an Ironic touch that the first English town has a non-English name, Vankleek Hill being named after that inhabited nob in Prescott county, about a century ago. Now not a Vankleek can be found, beat about the town as you may.
Meanwhile, if you travel by Canadian National (and here the writer emulates the circus equestrian and rides two horses at once you pass first, the now cobwebby spa at Carlsbad Springs, once famed for its water, but now gone back in prestige like its rival. Caledonia Springs, which was a bigger place hundred years ago than it is today.
So we come to the mythical junction of South Indian, where the old line from Rockland used to join the main route by means of what courteously was described as a train. But the sobriquet South Indian jarred the finer susceptibilities of the folk thereabout, and the lofty-sounding Limoges now replaces it. This to the spot where they spilled the Irish President Cosgrave few years ago.
There are good towns on this line, the old Canada Atlantic under the direction of its owner, the late J. R. Booth, building wisely. The best of all these is Alexandra, where Gaelic may yet be heard, and which more truly seems to typify the county town of the united counties than the commercial Cornwall.
At Glen Robertson, a really and truly junction to seen, the C.N. from Hawkesbury shooting in a 21-mile spur. Then the line continues east, allowing the traveller a view of Rigaud mountain far off to the left, before banging across the CP. Montreal-Toronto line near St. Polycarpe.
Reverting to the CP- the train passes Stardale, a shanty the size of a switchman house, built on a little hummock, and after stopping at St. Eugene, rips into Rigaud. This French educational town has near it, Dragon, which blew up in 1917 when T.N.T. was being made there. The ruin can still be seen.
It ts hard to find any scenery anywhere much prettier than the brief vista afforded the traveller as at reduced speed, he skirts Two Mountains Lake at Hudson. Towering beyond the lake are the twin Laurentide hills, with fertile acres nestling at the foot. A little lighthouse, white by day and cheerful flash of light by night stands out in contrast, while the islands that fleck the watery expanse give the picture kinship with these overdrawn and over-colored postcard conceptions of Swiss lakes. Hard by is also the home of foot-packed Oka cheese.
Then both railroads shoot out Into a magnificent expanse of line fences, and together they run Info Vaudreuil. This is where the fun begins. As often as not. there to a race between the trains, and the inequalities of schedule fore-ordain in the passing of one train by another. If not, perhaps a friendly freight will provide fleeting rivalry, as it rolls merrily along. If one train has a local stop to make, it therefore has a faster schedule, and the passengers have the thrill of passing and being passed. There are always great racing diversions along here, and one glimpses Dorval race track, the wish rises that some of the "bangtails" could have given the holder of uncollectable stubs just half as good a run for his money.
Then the backyards of Montreal, viewed over your shoulder from the CN, or in panorama from the CP. Westmount on the left, followed by coach yards, box car, and first thing you know, red cap is making off with your carpet bag.
Of course, you can take the day off and go North Shore. Unfortunately, both the North Shore and Tunnel route are much more picturesque, but slow locals, lack of parlor cars and eating facilities more or less bar anything but hardy travellers of the Byrd or MacAlpine type, and then one does not always think to bring along a book to keep a diary. However, on behalf of those whose zeal for penetrating this rural fastness has been whetted, comfort can be proffered. Firstly. the Canadian National will some day use this as the main line to Winnipeg and Vancouver. Just as they employ a continuation of it from Federal to North Bay at present (This part about using the Tunnel Terminal line to Citizen scoop!) Secondly, the Canadian Pacific already has added a parlor buffet car once a day via North Shore, and operates into Windsor Station. With the developments at Montebello. It is predicted a fast train will be put on in a year or so .At least. If that information did not come from President Beatty. tt was told the wnter by cook in a CP. dining car. It therefore looks that as if within this generation, fast trains luxurious trains, will serve these little known routes.
The history of these lines, properly told, should make good reading, particularly dealing with the old days of crazy rivalry, eight-foot drive wheels, and less-than-two-hour trains After a decade of slow scheduling, the railways are snapping back now to something like fast time, and two-hour and forty-minute runs are the order on both lines in one particular pair of rival Limiteds.
Those wanting to hear about the Montreal trip by boat or car will have to wait.