Tag Archives: Montreal Transit

Montreal Transit

“Eddie! Come on, Ed. Frank forgot his lunch and you have to take it to him.”

Ed’s heart sank. He had no school today but, instead of playing with his friends, he would have to make his way all the way from Verdun to Montreal West so that he could give Frank the lunch he forgot. It was sitting right there, on the kitchen table when Frank left – and he forgot it again!

My uncle, Frank McHugh, worked as a tramway driver and he drove the tram on the 63 or 64 route that went along Sherbrooke Street West in Montreal. The unlucky little boy who always had the job of taking him his lunch was my dad, Edward McHugh.

Uncle Frank’s full name was Francis Strachan McHugh. He was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1904 and emigrated to Canada with his parents and six siblings in 1912. His younger brother, Edward, was born in 1914. So, by the time Frank had found work as a tramway driver in the 1920’s, Edward was old enough to travel across the city and bring him his lunch.

Thomas McHugh with sons, Edward (left) and James (right). Edward was about eight years old in this picture, about the time he would have carried Frank’s lunch to him.

The first public transportation company in Montreal, The Montreal Passenger City Railway Company (MPCRC) was established in 1861 when the first horse-drawn tramway came into service along Notre Dame Street. The horse-drawn tramway had two employees on-board, a driver and a conductor who collected the fares. The passengers simply hailed the tram when they wanted to get on and signaled to the driver when they wanted to get off.1

Horse-drawn winter tramway on St. Catherine Street (around 1877), Société de transport de Montréal (STM) website, Tramways History

The MPCRC eventually became the Montreal Street Railway Company (MSRC). The MSRC introduced the first electric powered tramway, The Rocket, on September 21, 1892. The electric tramways immediately became very popular as they were much faster than the horse-drawn tramways. 2

By the time Uncle Frank became a tram driver, his employer was the Montreal Tramways Company (MTC). The MTC, created in 1911, acquired all the other transit companies on the island at that time. The citizens of Montreal, concerned that a private company had a monopoly over the public transit in the city, put pressure on the city, and the Montreal Transit Commission was created in 1918 to oversee the MTC. 3


Electric trams, Ste-Catherine Street, Montreal, McCord Museum, Wm Notman and Son, 1895

At the time that Uncle Frank worked as a tramway driver in the early 1920s, it was the peak of the operation of the tramway system in city. At that time, the MTC carried nearly 230 million passengers per year. 4 In 1924, the company published this map of the Montreal Transit system.5


Route map of bus and tramways in Montreal, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, collection numérique

By the mid-1920s, the city began transitioning to buses, with the first major replacement of the tramway in 1936 in the city’s east end on Notre Dame Street. 6 Uncle Frank followed suit and drove the bus that went along Sherbroooke Street West. But by that time, if he forgot his lunch, he was out of luck.

When cars became popular in Montreal in the 1950s, Uncle Frank quit his job as a bus driver and became a taxi driver.


Frank McHugh and his wife, Molly Baxter
.
  1. http://www.stm.info/en/about/discover_the_stm_its_history/history/tramways-history#:~:text=Created%20in%201911%2C%20the%20Montreal,quality%20of%20the%20service%20offered, accessed October 18, 2020
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid
  5. Société de transport de Montréal (STM) website, Tramways History, http://www.stm.info/en/about/discover_the_stm_its_history/history/tramways-history#:~:text=Created%20in%201911%2C%20the%20Montreal,quality%20of%20the%20service%20offered,accessed October 18, 2020
  6. http://www.stm.info/en/about/discover_the_stm_its_history/history/tramways-history#:~:text=Created%20in%201911%2C%20the%20Montreal,quality%20of%20the%20service%20offered, accessed October 18, 2020