Montreal Central Station

Montreal Central Station (French: Gare centrale de Montréal, IATA: YMY) is the major inter-city rail station and a major commuter rail hub in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Nearly 11 million rail passengers use the station every year,[7] making it the second-busiest train station in Canada, after Toronto Union Station.

Montreal Central Station

Gare centrale de Montréal
Montreal Central Station, Christmas 2016
General information
Location895 De la Gauchetière Street West
Montreal, Quebec
Coordinates45°29′59″N 73°34′00″W / 45.4996°N 73.5668°W / 45.4996; -73.5668
Owned byCominar REIT (since 2012)
Homburg Invest Inc. (2007–2012)
CN (1943–2007)
Line(s)Quebec City–Windsor Corridor
Platforms7 island platforms (in use)
Bus operators
Connections     Orange Line at Bonaventure
Structure typeAt-grade
ParkingYes, paid park and ride[2]
Bicycle facilitiesBike boxes available[2]
ArchitectJohn Schofield; concourse design by John Campbell Merrett
Other information
Station codeAmtrak: MTR
Via Rail: MTRL
Fare zoneARTM: A[3]
Opened1943; 81 years ago (1943)
Rebuilt1967; 57 years ago (1967) (Place Bonaventure)
10,018,800 (AMT 2015)[4]
593,081 (Via 2012)[5]
12,861 (Amtrak FY 2023)[6]
Preceding station Via Rail Following station
Terminus Montreal–Senneterre Sauvé
toward Senneterre
Montreal–Jonquière Sauvé
toward Jonquière
Ocean Saint-Lambert
toward Halifax
toward Ottawa
Ottawa–Québec City Saint-Lambert
Dorval Ottawa–Montreal Terminus
toward Toronto
Preceding station Amtrak Following station
Terminus Adirondack Saint-Lambert
toward New York
Preceding station Exo Following station
Terminus Mont-Saint-Hilaire Saint-Lambert
toward Mascouche
Mascouche Terminus
Preceding station REM Following station
Terminus Réseau express métropolitain
toward Brossard
Future services
Preceding station REM Following station
McGill Réseau express métropolitain
Stage 2
toward Brossard
Preceding station Amtrak Following station
Proposed services
St. Albans Vermonter Terminus
Former services
Preceding station Canadian National Railway Following station
Services in 1948
toward Vancouver
Main Line Terminus
Turcot East
toward Sarnia
Grand Trunk Railway
Main Line
toward Ottawa
Semi-local stops
Turcot East
toward Vaudreuil
Local stops
L'Epiphanie MontrealRivière-à-Pierre
Portal Heights
toward Rawdon
Local stops
Mount Royal
toward Lac Remi
MontrealLac Remi
Portal Heights St. Eustache-sur-le-Lac services
Terminus Central Vermont Route St. Lambert
MontrealMoncton St. Lambert
toward Moncton
MontrealVictoriaville Bridge Street
MontrealFort Covington Bridge Street
MontrealPortland Bridge Street
toward Portland
St. Johns services Bridge Street
Preceding station Via Rail Following station
Terminus Atlantic Saint-Lambert
toward Halifax
toward Vancouver
The Canadian
before 1990
Preceding station Exo Following station
Canora Deux-Montagnes Terminus
Preceding station Amtrak Following station
Terminus Montrealer Saint-Lambert
Montreal Central Station is located in Montreal
Montreal Central Station
Montreal Central Station
Location in Montreal
Montreal Central Station is located in Southern Quebec
Montreal Central Station
Montreal Central Station
Location in Southern Quebec
Montreal Central Station is located in Quebec
Montreal Central Station
Montreal Central Station
Location in Quebec
Montreal Central Station is located in Canada
Montreal Central Station
Montreal Central Station
Location in Canada

The main concourse occupies almost the entire block bounded by De la Gauchetière Street, Robert-Bourassa Boulevard, René Lévesque Boulevard and Mansfield Street in downtown Montreal. Its street address and principal vehicular access are on de La Gauchetière; pedestrian access is assured by numerous links through neighbouring buildings. The station is adorned with art deco bas-relief friezes on its interior and exterior.[8] The station building and associated properties are owned by Cominar REIT as of January 2012.[9] Homburg Invest Inc. (renamed Canmarc in September 2011) was the previous owner, since November 30, 2007.[10] Prior to that, from the station's inception in 1943, it had been owned by Canadian National Railway (CN).

Central Station is at the centre of the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor, the busiest inter-city rail service area in the nation (marketed as the Corridor), which extends from Windsor and Sarnia in the west, through Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal, to Quebec City in the east. Inter-city trains at Central Station are operated by Via Rail and Amtrak, while commuter rail services are operated by Réseau de transport métropolitain (RTM). The station is also a hub for the Réseau express métropolitain, which opened on July 31, 2023. The station is also connected to the Montreal Metro subway system.

Central Station is the second-busiest Via Rail station in Canada, after Toronto Union Station. Its Via station code is MTRL; its Amtrak code is MTR, and its IATA code is YMY.



Central Station opened in 1943, after several years of construction. It stands on the site originally occupied by the terminus of the Canadian Northern Railway's Tunnel Terminal, which had originally opened in 1918.

Canadian National Railways

The trench of the Canadian National Railway near Dorchester Street in 1930.

Following the bankruptcy of the Grand Trunk Railway, the Government of the Dominion of Canada decided to consolidate the Grand Trunk Railway with the various Canadian Government Railways to form the Canadian National Railway (CNR). The merger left CNR with a somewhat viable patchwork of different networks.

For much of the first half of the 20th century, CNR found itself in a highly uncomfortable position in Montreal due to the scattering of its terminals. Bonaventure Station was used for routes heading west and south east, the Tunnel Terminal served routes heading north, Moreau Street Station served eastbound routes, and the McGill Street Terminal served the interurban streetcars of the Montreal and Southern Counties Railway. Making matters worse, the various stations were not connected to one another except via long detours. To transfer a train from Bonaventure Station to Tunnel Station it would need to travel to Hawkesbury, Ontario, and to travel from Tunnel Station to Moreau Station it needed to take a detour via Rawdon in the Laurentians.

Consolidation and construction

Red shows proposed line to facilitate access to Central Station.

The solution chosen was to take advantage of the Mount Royal Tunnel to bring trains from the north and east through the tunnel to a large electrified central station. Trains from the south and west gained access by a new elevated viaduct. Interurban electric trains, however, remained at McGill Street Terminal until the service was abandoned in 1956.

The new station plan allowed for the development of air-rights, similar to New York City's two major stations, Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station. The new Central Station would be situated in the block bounded by De la Gauchetière Street to the south, Mansfield Street to the west, Cathcart Street to the north and University Street to the east.

Central Station was designed by John Schofield, architect-in-chief of CNR. Construction started in 1926, but was halted in 1930 as a result of the Great Depression. Construction resumed in 1939, the economy having improved. The new station finally opened on July 14, 1943, as the first of a series of large-scale urban redevelopment projects undertaken by CNR and the federal government in Downtown Montreal. But the Central Station that came out was a more modest structure with 20 tracks, 16 of which had platforms.


Postcard of Central Station, from about 1943.

The opening of a 'central' station was part of a consolidation project undertaken by CNR since 1929 with the enactment of the Canadian National Montreal Terminals Act, 1929 by Parliament; this saw the closure of former temporary stations operated by CNR predecessors Grand Trunk (Bonaventure Station) and Canadian Northern.

Consolidation of CN and CP intercity trains


Central Station was an important passenger station for CN trains from 1943 until the creation of Via Rail in 1978. Following Via's full absorption of CP's passenger trains in 1978, intercity rail traffic from Windsor Station was slowly redirected to Central Station. The final Via trains switched from Windsor Station to Central Station were the Quebec City trains that operated by way of Trois-Rivières (April 29, 1984). Amtrak's Adirondack was switched to Central Station on January 12, 1986.

Modifications to the station

On June 2, 1995, the last commuter train hauled by venerable CN Z-1-a electric Bo-Bo #6710 has arrived in Central Station and pauses with the train crew. This locomotive was the same that had inaugurated the Mount Royal Tunnel, 77 years earlier.

At Central Station's opening, tracks (7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12) of the Tunnel Station were used only by trains heading north through the tunnel, and they did not continue south of the station. These tracks were finally connected to the south when the old Tunnel Station was demolished as well as the warehouse located south of De la Gauchetière Street and east of Inspector Street (now Mansfield Street). This also allowed for the construction of the new headquarters of CNR as well as Place Bonaventure. This division is once again in effect following the rebuilding of the Deux-Montagnes line. These tracks are now part of the Two Mountains Subdivision, extending south for a distance of about 1,600 metres (5,249 ft). Under catenary wires, they serve as parking for trains on the Deux-Montagnes line during the day. Since the reopening of the Mont-Saint-Hilaire line, they are also used to park trains from this line.

Tracks 6–16 lead to the tunnel to the north, and lanes 4, 5 and tracks 16 to 23 are in a cul-de-sac to the north (track 16 is provided with a switch just north of the stairs). Tracks 13 to 15 are never used in the northbound direction because of the lack of catenary wires.

One platform (23) is inaccessible to the main concourse, and serves instead as parking for the company cars belonging to upper-level management.

Upon entry into service of the UAC TurboTrain, three tracks (4, 5, 6) were arranged on the west side of the station for a servicing and maintenance facility located there. The workshop, called "Turbo Bay", is still used to maintain light commuter trains as well as the private cars belonging to CN's senior management who use the station. The tracks in the workshop are protected by derails.

Around 1980, the catenary wire was removed from tracks 13, 14, 15 and 16, to allow dome train cars to enter the station.

In 1994–1995, the complete reconstruction of the commuter rail Deux-Montagnes Line resulted in tracks 7–12 being re-electrified at 25 kV AC. The original 3000-volt DC catenary was removed from the other tracks.

The platforms of tracks 7 and 8 are now inaccessible from the station, the entrance having been sealed to allow for the development of commercial space, and the tracks now used as parking for trains waiting to be repaired in the "Turbo Bay".



On September 3, 1984, a pipe bomb exploded inside a Central Station locker, killing 3 people and injuring 30 more. The bomb was alleged to have been set by retired American armed forces officer Thomas Bernard Brigham, who claimed to have been protesting Pope John Paul II's visit to Canada.[11]



With the design being overseen by CNR's architect-in-chief John Schofield (1883–1971),[12] the architecture of Central Station is modern; it is a mixture of Art Deco and the international style. Its large concourse, designed by John Campbell Merrett (1909–1998), is illuminated by large windows. Originally, the concourse was cluttered by various ticket counters and kiosks, but, over time, they were pushed to the extremities of the room, which left much more space for the passing crowds.

The 14 underground tracks are accessible by seven stairwells, five of which are equipped with escalators.

The east and west interior walls of the station feature two large bas-reliefs depicting Canadian life, arts and industry, designed by Charles Comfort and executed by Sebastiano Aiello.[13] Included in the bas relief are a few of the lyrics of "O Canada", which was only an unofficial national anthem when the station was built. The lyrics are in French on the east side of the station and in English on the west side. Canadian artist Fritz Brandtner created the three large chiselled stone reliefs depicting Mercury, Apollo and Poseidon on the station's north exterior wall. The representations of Mercury and Poseidon measure approximately 2.5 by 4.5 m (8 ft 2 in by 14 ft 9 in). Apollo is larger but visual access is very limited. These were obscured by the 1958 construction of the neighbouring Queen Elizabeth Hotel. It is disputed whether Comfort or Brandtner created the thematic stone medallions depicting water, land and air transportation on the station's west, south and east exterior walls. Stylistically, however, the bas-relief medallions bear a strong resemblance to the frieze by Charles Comfort created for the Toronto Stock Exchange building in 1937.

Railway operations

A sample of the bas-relief artwork that adorns the concourse's walls.

Because of its underground urban location, the railway station quickly imposed operational constraints on CNR.

To avoid smoke in the vicinity of the station, the first trains were powered by electric locomotives. The change of traction took place at Bridge Street, 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) south for trains serving the south-east, at Turcot Yards, 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) west for trains serving the west, Val Royal, 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) north for trains running northwest of the junction and 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) north for trains serving the northeast. A fleet of 14 electric locomotives were used for this work.

An elaborate system of signals allowed staff to track the status of the various trains. At the station, as soon as the train was ready to receive passengers, the conductor inserted the key switch in a special switch indicating to staff at the station (ticket checkers) that the train was ready. The movement director at Wellington was also advised via a series of lights that the train was receiving passengers, which then allowed him to establish the route out of the station.

Access to the platforms is controlled by ticket examiners who verify each passenger's ticket. This configuration limits access uniquely to passengers. At the time of departure, after all passengers had descended, the ticket checker would press a button that notified the conductor, through a green light on the platform, that the train could leave. The movement director in Wellington was also advised of the departure by a special light. The final decision of departure was the responsibility of the conductor, until conductors were replaced by a second engineer in the 1990s.

Urban development

The parking garage bordering de La Gauchetière Street.

Over the years, the empty space around Central Station has gradually developed to the point where the station building itself is hardly visible from the outside.

In 1948, ICAO built its headquarters over the northeast portion of the station along University Street south of Dorchester Street. Then in 1959, the Queen Elizabeth Hotel was built on the western portion, on the corner of Dorchester and Mansfield, which was the first of many major redevelopments in the area.

In 1960, the former Tunnel Station building was demolished to allow for the construction of the new head-office of CNR, and soon after, a large parking garage was built over the southern part of the station. The Terminal Tower of 1966 completely hid the station from Dorchester Boulevard.

Belmont Street, east of the station was extended over the station itself to Mansfield Street. On Belmont is the only visible portion of the exterior of the station, the rest having been attached to the various buildings built over the years.

The north side of Dorchester (now René Lévesque Boulevard) then saw the construction of the complex of Place Ville-Marie, which now includes four skyscrapers whose highest was 45 floors and an underground shopping mall, which was the beginning of the Underground City.

In the mid 1960s, Place Bonaventure was built over the tracks, south of de La Gauchetière Street. In 1966, Central Station and Place Bonaventure were connected underground by the new Bonaventure metro station, named in honour of the demolished Bonaventure railway station.

All of these buildings underwent major renovations over the next 30 years.

Connecting facilities

Les Halles de la gare shopping and restaurant complex.

Central Station is located adjacent to CN Headquarters and is an important link in the underground city, with tunnels to Place Ville-Marie, Place Bonaventure, the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, 1000 de La Gauchetière, and the Bonaventure metro station.

It also contains two parking facilities, one of which is a multi-level facility that is located above the station.

Les Halles de la Gare


Central Station has gradually grown to include Les Halles de la Gare, a shopping and restaurant complex. Real estate pressures have meant that the shopping area would be expanded several times.

While the old ICAO building was undergoing renovations in 1981, (after the relocation of ICAO to Sherbrooke Street), a railway-themed shopping area expanded on the north side of the station. This section was completely destroyed in 1995 during the restoration of the Deux-Montagnes Line, and was replaced by the present Les Halles de la Gare complex.

U.S. preclearance


In May 2012, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Patrick Leahy, and Bernie Sanders sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to fastrack the approval of a U.S. Customs preclearance facility at the station that will benefit U.S. bound travelers on the Adirondack from having to stop at the railway station located in Rouses Point, New York for immigration and customs checks whenever they cross the Canada–US border. Under the arrangement, the stop in Saint-Lambert would be removed.[14] The agreement will also allow another Amtrak line, the Vermonter, to be extended from its current terminus at St. Albans to Montreal, though this agreement must first be approved by United States Congress and the Parliament of Canada.[15][16] This would enable direct travel by train from Montreal to Washington, D.C.'s Union Station via Massachusetts and New York City, as well as the potential development of direct service to Boston.[17]

On March 16, 2015, the United States and Canada signed an agreement that would allow for such a facility.[15][16] Enabling legislation was enacted by the United States on December 16, 2016 as the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act of 2016.[18]


Exo trains waiting at platforms at Central Station.

Via Rail


Frequent Corridor services offer multiple-daily departures on the following routes:

In addition, the following long distance/rural services are operated several times weekly:



Réseau express métropolitain

REM platform at Gare Centrale

A separate railway platform has been built to the south of the existing platforms for the REM service which connects the South Shore to the Trudeau Airport, West Island and North Shore. Service to the South Shore began 31 July 2023,[21] the other destinations are delayed until late 2024.

Public transit connections




STM buses


See Bonaventure Metro for connecting bus routes.[1]

Other connecting buses



  1. ^ a b c "AMT - Deux-Montagnes line - Bus transfers". Archived from the original on September 27, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Montréal Central Station train station". Via Rail. Archived from the original on 2016-10-07.
  3. ^ "Fare Zones". Metropolitan Regional Transportation Authority. 1 July 2022. Retrieved 1 July 2022.
  4. ^ AMT Rapport Annuel 2015 - Transformer la mobilité (PDF). Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT). p. 10. ISBN 978-2-550-75552-4. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 October 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  5. ^ "Base de données 2011 - Attraits/Attractions". Tourisme Montréal. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  6. ^ "Montreal, QC (MTR)". Great American Stations. 2023. Retrieved 25 January 2024.
  7. ^ Based on combined ridership of Via Rail, Amtrak, and AMT (see infobox on top of article).
  8. ^ "Art Deco Montreal, Tour of Central Station". Archived from the original on 2008-07-03.
  9. ^ Marowits, Ross (16 January 2012). "Cominar reaches friendly deal with Canmarc with $904.4-million offer". Canadian Press. Archived from the original on 12 January 2016. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  10. ^ "Homburg Canada". Archived from the original on 2008-09-15. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
  11. ^ Curran, Peggy; Collister, Eddie (4 September 1984). "War vet held in bombing". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 12 April 2016 – via Google News Archive.
  12. ^ "Canadian National Railways Central Station". Canada's Historic Places. Archived from the original on 12 January 2016. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  13. ^ "Canadian National Railways Central Station". Canada's Historic Places. Parks Canada. Archived from the original on August 5, 2023.
  14. ^ Bowen, Douglas John (2012-05-11). "Customs relief in sight for Amtrak's Adirondack". Archived from the original on 17 June 2012. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  15. ^ a b Bowen, Douglas John (March 16, 2015). "Pact bodes well for restored Amtrak Montrealer". Railway Age. Archived from the original on August 9, 2015.
  16. ^ a b "United States and Canada Sign Preclearance Agreement" (Press release). Washington: Department of Homeland Security. March 16, 2015. Archived from the original on April 17, 2016.
  17. ^ "Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative". Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Archived from the original on 2015-01-20.
  18. ^ Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 114–316 (text) (PDF), H.R. 6431, 130 Stat. 1593, enacted December 16, 2016
  19. ^ "Montréal–Gaspé train – Overview". Archived from the original on 2016-07-03.
  20. ^ Via Rail (March 13, 2020). "Via Rail suspends the Canadian and Ocean routes because of COVID-19". Newswire. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  21. ^ "Commissioning of the REM". July 7, 2023.
  22. ^ "AMT - Deux-Montagnes line - Metro transfers". Archived from the original on September 27, 2016.
  23. ^ "Bonaventure Station".

Further reading