II-106800 | Powerhouse, Montreal Street Railway, William Street, Montreal, QC, 1894

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Powerhouse, Montreal Street Railway, William Street, Montreal, QC, 1894
Wm. Notman & Son
1894, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , Cityscape (3948) , industrial (826) , Industry (942) , Photograph (77678) , streetscape (1737)
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Keys to History

Besides wanting to clean up the City's financial situation and improve its services, the reformers took issue with the big public utility companies -- gas, electricity, streetcars and water (in the annexed neighbourhoods). Many Montrealers, with the support of certain newspapers, accused the companies of not providing adequate services to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population and of charging exorbitant rates that earned them huge profits. These powerful companies, which belonged to Montreal's leading financiers, enjoyed the benefits of a monopoly. They were able to ward off attacks from their critics by making sure they had solid support on the municipal council and by making a few concessions.

  • What

    In 1894 the Montreal Street Railway built its own thermal power plant to generate electricity for its system. The system was expanding rapidly as electric streetcars were proving to be far more popular than their horse-drawn predecessors.

  • Where

    The electric streetcar had an impact in two distinct areas. First, in the city centre, where the main lines converged, carrying thousands of employees to work and back in the morning and late afternoon. And second, in the suburbs, where a streetcar line became an essential condition for the success of a real-estate development project.

  • When

    In 1907 the Montreal Street Railway ensured it had a monopoly on public transit on the Island of Montreal when it took control of the Montreal Terminal Railway, which operated a streetcar service in the city's eastern suburbs. It had achieved the same goal earlier, in 1901, in the western part of the island when it acquired the Montreal Park & Island Railway.

  • Who

    The broker Louis-Joseph Forget (1853-1911) had served as chairman of the streetcar company since 1892. He stepped down in 1910 and was replaced by Edmund Arthur Robert (1864-?), who reorganized the company. The man who was pulling the strings behind the scene, however, was the financier Herbert Holt (1856-1941), chairman of the Royal Bank.