YUL BUS CHARTER WEEKEND 2006
Day 1: STCUM 1989 MCI Classic Charter
Day 2: STRSM 1989 Van Hool AG700 Charter
Text and photos by Shanake Mario Seneviratne
As a transit enthusiast hoping to become a transportation historian, I discovered that fellow enthusiasts appreciated the history of buses and bus routes on the island of Montreal and the surrounding region. As a result of meeting other friends with similar interests and various conversations on the Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board, I began seriously thinking about a charter weekend as early as December 2005. I realized that a bus fan charter had not occurred since August 2000, when my friend Richard Hooles organized a GM New Look fan trip. It was his influence and original idea that in turn influenced me to take the plunge and organize YUL Bus Charter 2006.
If we consider that there is little bus variety in the Greater Montreal Area, I felt that it was high time to charter buses that were on the verge of retirement, due to the Ministry of Transportsï¿½ law of taking buses over the age of sixteen off the road. Therefore, I decided to charter a 1989 MCI Classic from the Sociï¿½tï¿½ de transport de Montrï¿½al for six hours, due to the fact that these are the last vehicles on the island to use roll signs, a tradition dating back to the streetcars of the last century. Additionally, and more boldly, I was successful in asking the president of the Rï¿½seau de transport de Longueuil to charter a 1989 Van Hool AG700 for three hours. This is significant because these Belgian-made high floor articulated buses are one of a kind on the North American continent. With Richardï¿½s helpful advice over the course of many months, I was able to plot a route, plan the photo stops, and offer participants the best fan charter experience possible.
Day 1: STCUM 1989 MCI Classic Charter
On Saturday May 6, 2006, Richard and I arrived at Garage Saint-Laurent in order to inspect the vehicle that we were to receive for the charter. We were relieved to see that 59-019 had been parked prominently in the garage. After a quick run through the bus wash and after a mechanic tested out the roll sign, we deadheaded to the Cï¿½te-Vertu metro station STM bus terminal, the start and finish point for the participants.
59-019 was manufactured in September 1989 by Greyhound Canada Inc. for Motor Coaches Incorporated and was originally assigned to Garage Namur (closed in 1995). It was subsequently moved to Garage Saint-Laurent.
The pictures at the 470 platform display the particularities of the bus that we find interesting. Naturally, we rented the bus because of the working roll signs; Hors-Service (out of service) is prominently displayed. In addition, this bus also has a working Balios electronic disc which can display the pictograms of R-Bus, Metrobus, and Express through LEDs. These were installed originally on certain series of Classics coming from Garage Namur, and the first deliveries of the 59 series (59-001 to 59-020) had this garage as a home division. Namur previously offered Cï¿½te-des-Neiges bus service before operations were transferred to Garage Saint-Denis, and the Balios electronic discs were issued expressly for the first incarnation of 545, R-Bus Cï¿½te-des-Neiges. This bus was also selected due to its original STCUM livery, as seen with the corporate logo as well as the ï¿½white stripeï¿½ along the sides of the bus. It is interesting to note that the run number box at the front of the bus is from the original delivery, but the rear route numbers are not.
We departed the terminal and essentially followed the 171 Henri-Bourassa route between Cï¿½te-Vertu and Henri-Bourassa metro stations. On Henri-Bourassa Boulevard, we stopped just east of De lï¿½Acadie Boulevard and signed the bus as 180 De Salaberry, a Garage Legendre route. The reason why I chose this particular route was because the metroï¿½s orange line extension from the west was supposed to terminate at De Salaberry. Instead, the metro now ends at Cï¿½te-Vertu, precisely where the charter began. It seemed fitting to sign our charterï¿½s first stop with a route that would have terminated at a major transit hub. During the charter, the participants were eager to sign the side and rear rolls accordingly, while Richard and I handled the front roll sign with caution.
We proceeded east along Henri-Bourassa Boulevard until Clark Street, where we turned northwards to the former terminus of 53 St-Laurent, another Legendre route. According to the STCUM 1988 Network Map, Clark and Lighthall Streets were the turning facilities for this route ï¿½ the 53 did not go to Henri-Bourassa metro station in the 1980s as it does now. It seems quite fitting that this 1989 bus follows the routing from its era! At this point, the rain was beginning to fall and this was a good opportunity to take a picture of the original STCUM logo.
We returned on our eastbound journey on Henri-Bourassa Boulevard, and it wasnï¿½t very long until we approached the Henri-Bourassa metro station STM bus terminal. This is a major transit hub and is normally busy even on weekends, but it was uncharacteristically quiet when we arrived! The bus entered the terminal and looped around to the 159 Metrobus Henri-Bourassa flag, shared with route 30 Saint-Denis/Saint-Hubert. Passengers waiting for the 30 got a surprise to see a rush hour route pull up to their stop! This line above all others at this important bus hub struck me, since the exposure for this route is written in shorthand and displayed our location appropriately. This was an opportune moment to test out the Balios disc, and it is seen signed (albeit poorly) with the Metrobus logo. It was also an excellent chance to show off the gold-coloured roll sign, reserved explicitly for Metrobus routes. This route, also operated by Garage Legendre, is the only one to offer rush hour service to Henri-Bourassa metro station STM bus terminal. Essentially, we would follow the 159 routing as far as Pie-IX Boulevard, which is another reason why we had our bus display this particular route.
Before we arrived to Pie-IX Boulevard, I decided that we should detour along Gouin Boulevard via Papineau Avenue to the northern terminus of 45 Papineau, situated on De Saint-Firmin Street. Richard informed me that Garage Mont-Royal once had a few buses from the 59 series, and it seemed appropriate enough to stop at the northern end of this important Garage Mont-Royal route while en route eastwards.
Once again, we resumed our seemingly ceaseless voyage eastwards along Henri-Bourassa Boulevard until we reached Pie-IX Boulevard, where we turned south and stopped immediately after the ramp. The purpose of coming all this way along Henri-Bourassa Boulevard was for the charter to follow the entire original routing of Garage Frontenacï¿½s 505 R-Bus Pie-IX, which originally travelled from this location south to Pie-IX metro station. Therefore, we are near the former northern terminus of the 505 when it was inaugurated in June 1990. Historically, this is the first R-Bus line created by the STCUM, and ran along Pie-IX Boulevard on contra-flow reserved bus lanes until July 2002. The 505 now offers curb-side service as a result of the reserved lanes being out of service due to fatalities. Montrealï¿½s first R-Bus line was conceived as a temporary bus service, paralleling what would have been metro line 7 under Pie-IX Boulevard and extending into Montreal North. The stops along Pie-IX Boulevard indicate where future metro stations of line 7 would be constructed. It offers weekday limited-stop rush hour service in the direction of the peak flow in conjunction with the local and highly patronized route 139 Pie-IX. Although plans for metro line 7 have seemingly been abandoned, the 505 remains a popular and faster alternative to the 139 to the present day. In this picture, the R-Bus reserved lane diamond is prominently displayed with the Balios electronic disc. Truthfully, designated 505 buses from Garage Frontenac never used this product, as the majority of Classics (and likely some New Looks) were equipped with flashing amber arrows that were operational when it was in contra-flow service. In addition, a unique window sign made expressly for the 505 is used.
Upon arriving at Pie-IX metro station, the bus stopped near the 505 PM stop on Pierre-de-Coubertin Street, but we signed the bus as 139 Pie-IX, the flagship route of Garage Frontenac. During the afternoon rush hour, it is not unusual at this location to see a long line of Classics idling prior to entering revenue service. This location afforded us many panoramic shots with the Olympic Stadium in the background. The Pie-IX metro station window sign, as seen on some of these pictures, are actually intended for 139X employee extra shuttle buses.
The charter routing now was directed towards downtown Montreal via the SPS (service provisoire de surface/temporary subway shuttle) routing of the green line between Pie-IX and Peel stations. Along Hochelaga Street, I hastily decided to stop the bus after we passed Joliette metro station because layover space in the environs of the station is generally full and restrictive to our photography. We signed the bus as Garage Mont-Royalï¿½s flagship route and one of Montrealï¿½s busiest and frequent lines, 67 St-Michel. Unfortunately, I forgot to place one of the 139X window signs which displayed St-Michel metro station on a blue background.
The SPS routing passes Garage Frontenac, and I wanted to offer the participants a little treat by stopping here. While the participants went outside to examine the surroundings that included three 1994 Nova Bus Classics parked outside awaiting a tow to the Crï¿½mazie repair shops, I took the opportunity to take some interior snapshots detailing the intricacies of this particular bus. A look to the rear shows off the rear roll sign apparatus, as well as the raised rear yield priority sign. These shields were raised because certain Namur Classics, destined to be 545 R-Bus Cï¿½te-des-Neiges runners, had folding metal shields installed. When opened, the shield displayed a white diamond representing reserved lane service on a green background. Looking to the front, we can see the side roll box in very good condition (most have acquired rust with age), the front roll sign control panel, and the original fleet numbers. A close view of the historical Cleveland fare box, which dates back to streetcar operations at the beginning of the 20th century, is slowly but surely becoming a rare sighting as these are being replaced by modern electronic GFI fare boxes. The transfer dispenser and the original front run number box can be easily distinguished here as well.
Garage Frontenac was definitely a stop that all participants enjoyed, in spite of the poor weather. First, the bus was signed up as 94 Iberville, a relatively minor north-south route whose southern terminus is only a few metres from its home garage, Frontenac. Directly behind our chartered bus in a few of these pictures is 1997 Nova LFS 17-050 offering service on route 85 Hochelaga, another Garage Frontenac route. This division is among the smallest and the oldest in the bus network. Since one of the entrance doors to the garage was open, I decided to take a quick snapshot here. A panoramic photo demonstrates the two different models of buses used by the STM, with the three aforementioned Classics located at the end of the property. Most of the older installations of the STM have the transit corporationï¿½s ï¿½T-Arrowï¿½ logo featured, and I was able to use the windows overlooking Du Havre Road to photograph the reflection of our chartered bus. Finally, the real 94 Iberville caught up to us! Incidentally, it was also a MCI Classic, but was a 1992 delivery. Unique to Garage Frontenac, this bus sports the amber flashing arrow used for the 505 R-Bus.
On the road again, we continue westwards along De Maisonneuve Boulevard, following the SPS routing. I decided on a quick photo stop at Papineau metro station for 169 Ile Ronde, a seasonal bus service operated by Garage Frontenac to the La Ronde amusement park. Ile Ronde never existed on the auxiliary roll sign, so I had the sign erroneously display Terre des Hommes which would have been more appropriate for line 167. Unbeknownst to me, the sign did have the La Ronde exposure. Unrelated to this, the window sign displays the recent bus shuttle operated between Papineau and Frontenac metro stations when both were closed for renovations over a period of many weeks on two separate occasions.
Finally in the central business district of downtown Montreal, we near the end of our SPS routing as we stopped between McGill and Peel metro stations on De Maisonneuve Boulevard at the corner of Mansfield Avenue. This was among the best locations on the charter to photograph. First, the bus was signed for 420 Express Notre-Dame-de-Grï¿½ce, Garage LaSalleï¿½s only express route. This was a golden opportunity for us to display the express pictogram on the Balios electronic disc. Thus, at this stage, the charter was able to use all three LED functions displayed whenever in revenue service. It is important to note that while Metrobus routes had gold-yellow backgrounds, R-Bus and Express routes did not have green backgrounds and were forced to use the regular white-on-black names. In this case, we are using the N.-Dame-de-Grï¿½ce which is intended for route 138. Following this, in order to acknowledge our SPS routing, we affixed the exceptional white-on-blue Service provisoire de surface. This stop was another opportunity to use a window sign, and the SPS sign displaying Direction Station Atwater was originally used during weekend shutdowns of the green line between Frontenac and Atwater in the late nineties as part of the elaborate Reno-Mï¿½tro (station and tunnel rehabilitation) project.
Anyone hungry? It was time for the promised half-hour lunch break, and we turned southwards to Dorchester Square on Metcalfe Street, an ideal location since it has parking spaces reserved for buses. The surroundings were good since there were plenty of places to dine and relax. The natural beauty of the square also afforded many interesting photo opportunities. While the rear shot of our chartered bus shows off the raised yield priority sign, we can admire the architecture of the nearby buildings. The side shot did not come out nearly as good as I had hoped.
Our journey aboard the MCI continued along the original 1992 routing of the 535 R-Bus Avenue du Parc, by following Renï¿½-Lï¿½vesque Boulevard westwards to Cabot Square, Atwater metro stationï¿½s bus terminal. The 535 was operated by Garage Saint-Denis, a tradition continuing to this day. The 545 R-Bus Cï¿½te-des-Neiges, operated by Garage Namur, was eventually merged into the contemporary 535 R-Bus Du Parc/Cï¿½te-des-Neiges. Fortunately, the layover space normally occupied by buses was completely vacant and we were able to take excellent shots of our chartered bus in the precise location of the original 535 stop. Since the first set of numbers inside the side roll box could not go beyond 50, it was signed 80, the off-peak route number for Avenue du Parc. To this day, the 535 remains the flagship bus of Garage Saint-Denis, and their off-peak equivalents rank equally high in terms of frequency and patronage in the STM bus network.
By special request, I deviated from my original plans to travel to Vendï¿½me metro station through the lavish enclave of Westmount. Instead, we would take a small journey through the less affluent neighbourhood of Saint-Henri. I wanted to offer my friends an opportunity to see the remains of Garage Saint-Henri, which like Namur closed in 1995 when Garage LaSalle was opened. However, prior to arriving at the former location of the garage, our driver mistakenly turned back and drove us to Place-Saint-Henri metro station! Although I was baffled for a moment, Richard and I made the most out of the situation. My friend realized that we could sign the bus up as 35 Notre-Dame, an abolished line that once ran out of Garage Saint-Henri and has since been merged into route 36 Monk. This unexpected deviation wasnï¿½t too bad in the end since this metro stationï¿½s bus terminal is equipped with a generous overhead canopy, which protected us from the weather. Furthermore, this station is situated next to the Canadian National Railways (CNR) mainline, and many of the participants were excited to take photographs of a passing freight train.
Having finally arrived at the former location of Garage Saint-Henri (located at the northeast corner of Saint-Jacques Street and De Courcelles Street), we decided to sign our bus with routes that once ran from this division but are now abolished and merged with others. The first route selected was 25 De Lï¿½Eglise, which operated between Vendï¿½me and De lï¿½Eglise metro stations. It has since been merged into the 37 Jolicoeur route. Subsequently, the bus was signed 111 Lafleur, a local line in the city of LaSalle. The 111 has been not been merged into one single route, and many segments of its original routing is now offered by several lines operating from Garage LaSalle. Although I do not have a picture, the bus was also signed as 191 Lachine, although I later discovered that the proper exposure on the roll sign did in fact exist (N. Dame/Lachine), and that Lachineï¿½s exposure was actually meant for the 356 night bus.
Our next stop, the lively Vendï¿½me metro station bus loop, is only a small climb from what used to be Garage Saint-Henri. Although the 105 Sherbrooke is now an important Garage LaSalle line, the 105 with all the other routes in Notre-Dame-de-Grï¿½ce were once run by buses from Garage Namur. Historically, the main NDG lines (102, 103, 104, and 105) travelled to Cabot Square, Atwater metro stationï¿½s bus terminal, before the inauguration of Vendï¿½me metro station in 1981. Today, the 105 remains a busy and popular route shuttling people between the metro and Elmhurst loop, the streetcar turnaround facility of a bygone era.
After leaving Vendï¿½me metro station, we travelled on an unconventional combination of the 102 and 103 in order to arrive on West Broadway facing south, just north of Sherbrooke Street. It was decided to pose the bus at this location for 62 Fielding, since photo conditions are not optimal at Elmhurst loop. It was decided that we should follow one of Garage Namurï¿½s routes from end to end, since we did after all charter a Namur bus. The 62 has since been absorbed into Garage Mont-Royalï¿½s important cross-town route 51 ï¿½douard-Montpetit.
Here is another picture of our bus signed with 62 Fielding; this time, we are actually on Fielding Street. The wide median and nearby park afforded many chances for a good photo. The bus was subsequently signed as 51 ï¿½douard-Montpetit.
Upon arriving at the eastern terminus of the 62 on Queen Mary Road east of Cï¿½te-des-Neiges Road, we changed our bus into another authentic Garage Namur line, 166 Queen Mary. This route has changed hands over its history, been handed down from Namur to Saint-Denis, and finally LaSalle. The infrequent 166 was created in 1981 when Snowdon metro station opened and the old 65 Cï¿½te-des-Neiges bus route, the frequent predecessor of the 166, was abolished.
One of the priorities for the charter was to have a 545 R-Bus Cï¿½te-des-Neiges photo stop, since Garage Namurï¿½s 59ï¿½s spent a lot of time on this route as well as its off-peak route, the 165. Thus, we travelled north on Cï¿½te-des-Neiges Road and Laird Boulevard to the northern terminal of the 545, Mont-Royal train station. The original terminus for the 165 and is now on the west side of the station; buses no longer need to make a bridgehead over the CNR tracks. As explained previously, the original 545 from 1992 travelled separately from the 535 aside from its shared segment on Renï¿½-Lï¿½vesque Boulevard. Namurï¿½s flagship buses were the two Cï¿½te-des-Neiges routes that the division provided service for, and when the garage closed its doors, the 165 and 545 (merged into the 535) were transferred over to Garage Saint-Denis. It is unfortunate that the 1989 auxiliary roll signs did not have special green R-Bus exposures, so we used the regular exhibition intended for the 165. The side roll box was signed 165, since 545 was not possible. After our photos at the Mont-Royal train station loop, we returned southwest on Laird Boulevard to Jean-Talon Street, with Garage Namur as our destination. The faï¿½ade still remains. The bus was signed as 92 Jean-Talon ouest. Ironically, it appears that although the 92 passed right in front of Garage Namur, this route was always based out of Garage Legendre!
After departing Garage Namur, we travelled northwards along Dï¿½carie Boulevard to the Du Collï¿½ge metro station bus terminal. The bus loop is highly active during rush hour, as a result of many rush hour routes serving the surrounding industrial parks. This photo location was planned as a bonus stop, in case that we had time to spare. As a usual rider of Garage Saint-Laurentï¿½s 214 Des Sources, I selfishly desired to have this exposure signed up! Interestingly enough, the 214 initially travelled to De La Savane metro station before it was modified to its current terminal. Fortunately, by this time the rain had ended and we were able to take a group picture with 118 Du Collï¿½ge signed up in the background. From this point, we returned to the Cï¿½te-Vertu metro station slightly ahead of schedule, where the participants got off and ran to take pictures of 60-006 leaving on the 215! I asked our operator to do a ï¿½farewell loopï¿½ around the terminal so that the participants could take photos or a video of the bus from a location of their choice. Richard and I left aboard the chartered bus signed 216 Mï¿½tro. Pointe-Claire with the participants waving good-bye as we returned to Garage Saint-Laurent.
Day 2: STRSM 1989 Van Hool AG700 Charter
On Sunday May 7, 2006, the charter participants met at Terminus Centre-Ville, the downtown hub for all buses arriving from the South Shore. Arrangements were made for the group to be picked up from the 90 Express Chevrier platform, since this line does not operate on weekends. The charter was fortunate to have the services of a volunteer driver, who also happens to be a cousin of the charter participants. We had excellent weather during the day, and prior to our departure, our operator gave us a welcome speech and briefly explained the history of the AG700 with the STRSM. The day before, I surprised the participants by announcing at the end of the STM charter that I arranged for our collective permission to deadhead with the driver to Longueuil garage, where we could take pictures of retired buses located at the rear of the premises. About half of the participants took advantage of this generous offer.
Prior to the charter, I was granted access to Longueuil garage to inspect the AG700 buses prior to reserving one for the event. I was offered 8-907 and 8-919. 8-907 was chosen because it had working roll signs and was in very good condition, especially the exterior, whose counterparts had taken quite a beating during its decade and a half of loyal service. 8-919 was practically eliminated from the start, since a Balios LED electronic display was installed on this bus as well as its sibling 8-920, which removed the authenticity of chartering a genuine articulated bus from 1989. As well, it was crucial that we discover what was written on the 1989 RTL roll sign, unique exclusively to AG700s since the 9-0xx series of Classics and its predecessors essentially had a standard roll sign with a smaller font.
8-907 was also manufactured in September 1989, but by Van Hool NV in the Belgian town of Lier. Articulated buses can be found at both RTL garages; whereas Saint-Hubert and Longueuil both have AG700s, the former is the only one operating AG300s.
The Terminus Centre-Ville is an interior bus terminal which does not normally permit photography outside of the gates, but some of us were able to take advantage of this opportunity to photograph our bus, provided that nobody left the sidewalk. Our vehicle was actually equipped with a special exposure on the roll sign indicating that we were a chartered voyage, so this was worth photographing prior to our departure. I also found it interesting to take a picture of the corporate name on the side of the bus, but this did not turn out quite as well as I expected, due to the poor lighting conditions. On the other hand, I was able to take a magnificent shot of the successor to the AG700, a 2003 Van Hool AG300 delivery. At the time of writing, the RTL has recently acquired new 2006 AG300 models, which were ordered for the express purpose of replacing already retired AG700s.
We left the Terminus Centre-Ville and followed the routing of route 90 Express Chevrier. Crossing the Champlain Bridge was done quite easily, and provided everyone with an excellent view of the city. It was unfortunate but expected that we could not use the reserved lane/tunnel on Autoroute 10 which permitted quicker access to the massive Chevrier park-and-ride. Instead, we were able to use the Autoroute 30 interchange to loop us back towards Terminus Chevrier. This relatively new park-and-ride was deserted, as expected, since only the 90 uses this terminal on weekdays. We were able to take many pictures here without the pressures of time and worrying about other vehicles. Many of the photographers took this opportunity to take close-up photos, since it was practically not feasible to do this at the Terminus Centre-Ville. After two shots of the closed-side of the bus, I took a picture of the RTL logo, a relatively recent addition, as well as a good focus of the Van Hool builderï¿½s plate.
Following our successful visit to Chevrier, we travelled to Brossardï¿½s most important and busiest bus terminal, Brossard-Panama. Weekday rush hours generally see the most activity, but we found the terminal quite active for a Sunday morning. This stop afforded the participants excellent opportunities to capture photos of our bus along with other contemporary bus models, which include a 1999 and 2006 Nova LFS and the AG700ï¿½s successor, the 2003 AG300. Quite predictably, we decided to sign up our chartered bus as 45 Express Panama. Historically speaking, if the project for light rail transit between downtown Montreal and the South Shore ever becomes a reality, the purpose for articulated buses shuttling people between Panama, Chevrier and the Terminus Centre-Ville shall end. Because of the large park-and-rides, Chevrier and Panama will become stations for future light rail transit, and there will therefore be no need for the 45 or the 90 Express buses. However, it is unlikely that an announcement for light rail in the Greater Montreal Area shall come any time soon.
Our next photo stop would be Champlain-St. Lambert College (CEGEP), and we would get there by Riverside Road via Lapiniï¿½re and Simard Boulevards. Once we reached the CEGEP, I decided to take interior shots of our chartered bus, for comparative purposes with other articulated bus seating arrangements. I took the first two pictures facing the front of the bus, the first from the rear, and the second from the articulated joint. The third picture is the opposite of the first picture, where I stand at the front looking at the back. The amount of rear-facing seats is put into evidence. You will likely note that the width of the aisle is not very generous, given the number of seats available (sixty). As well, you may notice the lack of speakers for a public address system, which made my announcements quite difficult to hear! This omission would be remedied in subsequent AG300 models.
After my interior snapshots, I joined the rest of the group. It is unfortunate that the sun angles were not optimal for frontal shots at the CEGEP at this time of day, although rear shots turned out quite well. Regardless, we signed up our bus with the rush hour route 14, and Ecole (school) was an appropriate exposure to make up for the lack of CEGEP. This was the only instance during the charters when we were parked on a rush-hour reserved bus lane.
One of the key events during the charter weekend was to relive the high-floor articulated bus experience on route 73, which was once served exclusively by AG700s. Today, it is served by standard buses, and it is highly unlikely that articulated buses will return to this line. Thus, after leaving the CEGEP, we travelled past the Longueuil metro station, the site of the RTLï¿½s busiest terminal. Because of the disposition of the terminal following its modernization, it was not feasible to enter the premises for a photo stop. Moreover, the fact that no articulated bus now enters the terminal provided further impetus to avoid this busy hub. Once passed, we were at once on our journey aboard route 73, which we would follow in its entirety. While turning on to Joliette Street from Saint-Charles Street, the actual 73, served by a 1997 Nova LFS, happened to be in front of us. I decided to take a picture of todayï¿½s 73 from the trailer of yesterdayï¿½s 73.
An acceptable photo stop presented itself along Duvivier Street. In the meantime, the 73 in revenue service, served by 9-719, caught up to us. The driver looked in bewilderment at our group photographing a bus that should not normally be out on the road on weekends! The bus was initially signed as 73 Longueuil, but was subsequently changed to include the pictogram for the metro.
Our short lunch stop at the southern terminus of route 73 afforded the group many excellent photo angles and permitted us to discover what was on the AG700 roll sign while we parked on Racicot Street. During this time, interested individuals were able to closely examine the driverï¿½s controls and facilities, quite unique to the AG700, and even have their pictures taken in the driverï¿½s seat. One of the charter participants from Toronto, Allen Dicion, was kind enough to take my picture at the helm of 8-907. Along the same lines, I wanted to take a picture of our operator and his cousin, whose collaboration was essential in making the RTL charter successful.
Our last photo stop on the South Shore took place on Jacques-Cartier Boulevard, east of Sainte-Helene Street, which was not a far journey from the 73 terminus. We signed up the bus as 23 Longueuil with the metro pictogram, since this route and the rush hour extra route 123 both travel along this segment of Jacques-Cartier Boulevard. As we prepared to depart for Montreal, I managed to snap a picture of the bus while the signs were being rolled: this is in fact a very unlikely combination.
We returned to Montreal via a different route: the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, which also provides a magnificent view of the city skyline. Only a handful of RTL buses cross into Montreal with this bridge, one of which is route 170. The objective of crossing the river was to drop off those charter participants who would not deadhead with the operator and accompany the rest of us to Longueuil Garage. Therefore, once we arrived at Papineau metro station, we simply signed the bus as 70 Papineau with the metro pictogram. It is erroneous, not simply because the lone RTL bus serving Papineau metro station is not operated by articulated buses, but because of the route number. We were forced to sign up 70 because the number rolls do not surpass double digits.
Having said our farewells to those who desired to return to the metro, those who were interested in visiting the buses behind Longueuil Garage deadheaded with 8-907 via the Jacques-Cartier Bridge and Autoroute 20. Sitting in the trailer of the articulated bus, I tried to take a photo of the bus turning east on Marie-Victorin Boulevard, and instead got a gag shot of one of the participants sent sprawling by the sharp and rapid turn!
To the surprise of everyone on board, our operator entered the garage instead of letting us off outside as I had initially expected. This bonus was certainly appreciated by all on board! The participants were therefore able to take a few clandestine snapshots of the garage before we followed our operator to the driverï¿½s lounge. Since I was using a slow film for outdoor photography (100 ASA), the interior photos are of poor quality, compared with similar photos taken with a faster film (400 ASA) in the same garage a few weeks prior to the charter, so I apologize for this.
About nine participants from the charter were interested in examining the RTL buses behind the garage that were either awaiting repairs or were retired. MCI Classics, Van Hool AG700s, and even the odd Nova LFS were to be found at the rear. Some of these buses were still in their original STRSM livery. Others were stripped of their valuable parts. Some of the AG700s were banned by the SAAQ from returning to the roads, since some of these have been deemed unsafe. After a good half hour of photography and exploration, the participants were rounded up and we all took route 20 back to Longueuil metro station, where the Montrealers bade good-bye to the Torontonians.
For my first time organizing a charter, I must admit that it was a tiresome yet worthwhile experience. I must first thank Richard Hooles for his valuable contributions towards the success of the charter. I would like to thank our operators, Armand from the STM, and Pierre from the RTL for being such good sports with us. I'd also like to thank Linda Boisvert of the STM for permitting us to rent a 1989 MCI Classic; the same gratitude is conveyed to Claire Bergevin, who went the extra mile by permitting us to visit Longueuil division, to rent a Van Hool AG700 articulated bus (not normally allowed for typical charters), and for providing the goodie bags for the participants. I'd also like to thank Marcel Levesque for providing STM materials for the group. Lastly, I must thank the participants who came out, especially the folks from Ontario, and without whose presence the charter could have been brought to fruition. See you all next time!