Trains Article January 2019

A spring storm in 1954 brought down lines at the railway crossing at 11th Street and Dundonald Avenue. Montgomery Place can be seen in the background.
Genereaux Family photo

You’re in a hurry, anxious to get to work, school or an appointment and in the distance you see the arms lowering as the bells start clanging… Train! A constant frustration and obstruction, being hemmed in by trains has taken its toll on Montgomery Place residents since 1946.

Trains are much longer today than regulations allowed in 1946. They also seem more frequent, as hundreds of oil tankers and potash cars move past our community perimeter. Grain cars from the elevator add more delays and frustrations. Day and night, the shunting, screeching, honking and rumbling noises roll over Montgomery Place… along with the smells. Noise, smells, heavy traffic, delays, and dangerous goods rolling past our community make for much frustration.

The 1960s were pivotal times for Montgomery Place residents in our battle against rail traffic. In February 1963, the Montgomery Place Ratepayers Association met with City and CN officials to voice concerns regarding the possible relocation of the Canadian National Railways to immediately south of Montgomery Place. The MP Ratepayers’ Association even composed a radio ad promoting its case.

On February 25, 1963 in a brief presented to Saskatoon City Council, representatives of the Montgomery Place Ratepayers’ Association, led by MPRA president Richard (Dick) Beamish, stated that: “We protest the plan to move the CNR station and yards to the Montgomery Place area. …Now, in negotiations of this sort there always is the danger that economic factors will take undue precedence over sociological ones – over human values. If that happens, a city then fails to meet its ultimate purpose – that purpose being to create the best possible place for its citizens to live. We feel that this has happened in the present CNR relocation plan… We are concerned about noise, danger, and the fringe construction that is almost certain to follow.”

Ignoring pleas from Montgomery Place, Saskatoon City Council ratified an agreement with the CNR. Even though the move required special provincial approval, the City of Saskatoon forged on. A March 14, 1963 Saskatoon Star-Phoenix article called “Special Steps For City Bill,” reported from Regina that “It appeared that special steps would be taken by the Saskatchewan legislature to permit passage this year of a bill allowing the proposed agreement between the City of Saskatoon and the CNR on moving the railway to the fringes of the city.”

Dated May 15, 1963, a letter from Robert A. Walker, Saskatchewan Attorney General to the MP Ratepayers Association stated: “… I spoke to the City Planner about it [traffic] … and he apparently regarded the traffic that would flow to the new Chappell Station from the downtown area as being a trivial or minor consideration in the planning of the roads and arteries of Saskatoon. If he is correct, then the traffic which will travel on 11th Street to and from the Chappell Station will barely be noticeable.” Time proved the City Planner wrong and by late 1964, a new road to the CN yards – Chappell Drive – was built after complaints that Elevator Road had become a thoroughfare for all manner of trucks and traffic headed to the train station.

With rail line abandonment across Saskatchewan in the 1980s, truck traffic to the elevator increased dramatically. More and bigger trucks appearing more frequently added more heavy truck traffic to 11th Street.

In the fall of 2001, CN centralized its provincial container facilities and closed its operation in Regina. This meant that Saskatchewan goods being shipped via CN in the increasingly popular containers now all headed to Saskatoon’s Chappell Yards. This added heavy, noisy, polluting inbound and outbound traffic on 11th Street and Chappell Drive.

In 2010 when the construction of Circle Drive South got underway, Montgomery Place residents held out hope that the rail crossing at 11th Street and Dundonald Avenue could be circumvented, but that proved a vain hope.

Later in 2015, came the ineffective berm, that low hillock between Montgomery Place and Chappell Yards, made during the building of the Civic Operations Centre.

Today Montgomery Place residents suffer 24-hour, seven-days-a-week heavy truck congestion, air and noise pollution, dangerous goods, and train delays that have grown in frequency and wait time. Montgomery Place resident Dick Beamish’s words from 1963 were prophetic “… the last spot we wanted to live was in the shadow of the railway station, a switching yard and a throughway for the traffic that must serve both.”

Questions asked by motorists caught behind a train:

After 30 minutes, can I get out and pee?
The answer is NO, pursuant to City Bylaw No. 8354, The Public Spitting, Urination, and Defecation Prohibition Bylaw, 2004.

Can I use my cell phone while my car is in park and there is not end of the train in sight?
The answer is NO, pursuant to The Traffic Safety Act.