Great Feats of Montréal Engineering

Found this neat episode of some old program about engineering mega projects in Québec – excellent background, technical info and old-school cool stock footage of the Métro’s construction.

Random tidbits:

The Métro was first conceptualized in 1910.
The rubber tires are inflated with Nitrogen (lasts longer, more give than air).
The original 26 stations were completed in less than four years.
There have only ever been two major fires in the system, neither of which killed any passengers.
The last major fire happened in 1974.
The entire system is electric, and current used not only powers the trains but also regulates their speed and position between each other.
The entire system is unheated as the trains and passengers create heat which is largely sealed within the system; thus ventilation is required year round.
Twelve workers lost their lives during the construction of the original system.
Rock and earth removed from the tunnels was used to enlarge Ile-Ste-Helene and create Ile-Notre_Dame, for Expo 67. This plan itself was based on a project proposed by the provincial professional architectural order in 1909.

In any event, take a gander, it’s a hoot for boulevardiers, hipsters and Metrophiles alike.

But in watching this I can’t help but ask myself – how did we get it done all those years ago?

I fear the nothing but the appearance of potential inconvenience is all it takes these days to derail any serious talk of expansion or upgrades to the system.

Perhaps we were able to accomplish so much back then because we really wanted the Métro, because it was an idea well marketed. And heck, maybe working several tens of thousands of people on a three-shift per day cycle year round may have played some role in keeping costs down, production up and inconveniences palatable.

We should take stock of how wimpified we’ve become – having the balls to build the Métro required the public’s appui, and we took the risk knowing how great the payoff would be.

Our city has grown considerably since the provincial government established a moratorium on new Métro construction in the mid-1980s. The extension into Laval took too long and cost too much, doubtless a victim of the rampant corruption in the province’s construction industry.

And our uninspired troglodite of a current premier has only said she would support an extension into Anjou and St-Leonard of three stations, which is in effect a repetition of the same mistakes made when we ventured into Laval.

If we want the Métro to grow, we have to plan to build a lot on a fixed and tight schedule, employing many people over a short period of time while streamlining equipment rentals and bulk materials. Dragging it out can (and has) made Métro expansion prohibitively expensive.

Anyways – hope you find this as inspiring as I do.