CP Commuter trains in Montreal – operations

Good evening. It feels like with the house move and a busy summer that I’ve really been neglecting this space and I’m keen to back into my usual threads. Now that we’re easing our way into fall I’m excited to share something that I really want to learn more about: Montreal commuter operations during in the era just before MUCTC.

My focal point here is the CP Lakeshore operations from Windsor Station (Lucien l’Allier) and westward.

There have been some exciting examples of rolling stock operated on this line and I’ve been buying up prints and slides as they become available. I’ve been bookmarking websites and similar content online for future reference. During the CP years it’s remarkable that while the coach fleet remained relatively homogeneous the motive power was anything but. The classic units on these trains would appear to be CP’s FP7’s. That said I have a nice slide of a maroon and grey RS18 leading a train of gallery cars and I’ve seen shots of sw1200’s, an FPA4 and RS10’s. While later than I’m concerning myself with I’ve also heard of chop-nosed GP-9’s borrowed from CP and LRC engines in AMT service.

The RDC’s. I’m really fascinated with the RDC’s that seem to have been the predominant feature of these services during the late 1950’s and throughout the 1960’s. I guess most commuter trains were RDC operations. The 800-series lightweight cars would have been around too. I wonder what hauled those trains? FP7’s? I don’t know. Maybe you’re readying this and you do. I’d love to learn more and to hear from you.

How did they turn locomotive-hauled trains before push-pull operations started? Trains of 800-series coaches would have been locomotive-hauled but were not run in push-pull operation. With that in mind I’d like to know what happened with them when they needed to reverse at the end of their run. On arrival at Windsor did a switcher pull the coaches and move them onto a new line where a replacement engine would lead the train outbound? Did the entire consist back out of the station carefully to a wye and the entire lot get turned? I remember reading about the Grand Trunk operations into their Bush Street, Detroit station in the seventies. In that example one train pulled into the station. Once it was empty a spare engine coupled to the back of the train and that new engine would be the power for the next train out. Once that train had left the engine that it had arrived with (the old one) became the spare that would cycle onto the next inbound train. Neat system. Did CP try the same gig at Windsor? I imagine that most of CP’s trains were FP7-led so this wouldn’t work. What do you think?

Next steps. I have some timetables and am starting to put together some consist data. I’m thinking about creating some timelines to document what types of motive power were recorded on what trains. As a modeller’s aid this might be really handy when trying to justify the purchase of a neat model.

I’m excited about this and getting back into some commuter rail research.

Here we go!


  1. I recall cab control in the rear car…. Don’t know if it was around for the FP7s though…. I rode the Chicago and Northwestern lines between Milwaulkee and the Navy base…. They had the first double decker passenger sets…. Those were run but cab end control.

    1. Good morning. Thanks for the note.

      Those C&NW cars were really sharp looking. Here’s to hoping that Kato continue on their current commuter rail model schedule and consider releasing them at least in N scale. It was the success of those cars that prompted CP to consider a similar approach for Montreal. Then of course there’s the full C&NW train sets that GO leased to test. I have seen a few photos of these sets with their temporary GO stickers applied.

      Seventies-era commuter rail. Does it get any better?!

      1. Chris, good post, thanks. Did you know that in addition to the C&NW Gallery Cars tested by GO, in 1974 CP also lent GO the Montreal Gallery Cars for a short period in exchange for some single-decker RTC-85s? It was the first time the Hawker-Siddeleys operated in revenue service in Montreal, until 1997 when the AMT began operating a whole fleet of that ex-GO equipment.

        Of course, the first Hawker-Siddeleys in Montreal were the Expo Express trains at Expo ’67, and you probably know that they, along with Toronto’s H1 subway cars, were built on the same basic frame as the GO RTC-85s.

        As for turning the CP commuter trains in Montreal, at the downtown end they were backed out to the Glen Yard (opposite Westmount station and today’s Vendôme intermodal station), looped around a balloon track so that they then faced in the opposite direction with the same locomotive still attached, backed down to Windsor Station and, voila!, the locomotive was sitting on the head end (west). As for how they turned at the Dorion end of the line, I’m not certain, perhaps a wye? Someone who would definitely know is Bill Baird, editor of Canadian Railway Observations. He spent some of his childhood around the Glen Yard. He can be reached at editor@canadianrailwayobservations.com

      2. Thanks Tim. Really great to hear from you.

        I think GO also sent a train set to Montreal on two later occasions. I remember seeing a video on Youtube of GO bilevels in service in Montreal. If I find it I’ll post it here for reference.

        I have a really great back issue of the Canadian Branchline magazine that featured the design and construction of the new RTC85 cars. That magazine was published in the late 1960’s and is a really fun resource.

        Thanks for the info. on turning the commuter trains. That is exactly what I was looking for and answers a lot of great questions. I really appreciate that!

  2. Chris, have you seen the BRMNA book by Ron Ritchie on Montreal’s commuter service? It is excellent, and would answer many of your questions, and introduce some new ones, I’m sure, listed in this writeup:

    Over on the Backshop Yahoogroup, there are three AHM Birney cars for sale for $20 if still interested.

    In my second book, I do cover some of the units leased to AMT by VIA.

    Oh, and another good book would be Trackside Around Montreal by Peel Steven:

    Hope this helps,Eric

    1. Thanks for the note Eric. I really appreciate it.

      I have the BMRNA book already. It would be great if a second volume was ever put together. That Morning Sun book though is news to me. I’ll have to check it out. Another great resource is actually from a magazine you’d sent to me.

      Thanks also for the extra tease from your new book. How is the book coming along? Looking forward to ordering a copy.

      1. Chris, after work it was off to my printer. It’s in his hands now. It should take him a few days to wade through all the material I left with him, but I’m expecting a really great result with wide appeal.

        Updates here:


        Notice the red background, and wait for it to turn green. There will be updates in the meantime, of course.

        Looking forward to more on the Mtl scene from you.


      2. Wow! Just reading through the New VIA Rail Book. You have been busy and I really can’t wait for a copy of the new book now. I’m really excited about this. You’re producing such great work and your enthusiasm for your subject matter is a real delight to read. It’s infectious too! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s