The Bus History Association was founded in 1963 to collect and preserve data, information, and related materials about bus transportation in North America and around the world. The Association now has members in Canada, the United States and worldwide, and publishes the Bus Industry magazine for its members. Every year, the BHA holds a convention during which members observe bus operations, tour transit facilities and bus manufacturers, and socialise and trade memorabilia.
The 2013 BHA Convention was held in Montreal, Quebec, from Thursday, June 13th to Saturday, June 15th, and featured visits to numerous transit terminals and bus garages in Montreal, Laval, Longueuil, and nearby communities along the North and South Shores of the St. Lawrence River. Held on Thursday, one of the highlights of the convention was a tour of the NovaBus factory in Saint-Eustache, west of Laval, opened in 1979 by General Motors Diesel Division to produce the iconic GM New Look bus. Production switched to the GM Classic in 1983, which became the MCI Classic in 1987 when GM left the bus building business. MCI sold the factory to NovaBus in 1993, and production of the LFS started in late 1995. Other events on Thursday included stops at bus terminals along the North Shore, in Terrebonne, Saint-Eustache, Sainte-Thérèse, and Saint-Jérôme, along with a tour of the STL garage in Laval and a stop at Côte-Vertu Metro Station in Montreal. The day ended with a tour of the Autocars Skyport garage in Dorval.
Friday’s events concentrated on Montreal’s South Shore and included stops at terminals in Vaudreuil, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Longueuil, Boucherville and Delson, and tours of garages for Autobus Dufresne in Sainte-Martine (contractor for CIT du Haut-Saint-Laurent); and Veolia Transdev in Châteauguay (CITSO), Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (BLUS and Ville de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), and Boucherville (Ville de Sainte-Julie). The BHA annual meeting followed by a slide presentation was held in the evening. Transportation on both days was provided by charter coaches, Autocars Skyport on Thursday and Excel Tours on Friday. I was unable to attend the convention until Saturday because of personal commitments and scheduling conflicts.
BHA members visiting Montreal stayed at the Best Western Plus Montreal Airport Hotel in Dorval, which is located in Montreal’s West Island area. This is where each day’s events began and ended, with the coaches picking up the participants in the morning and dropping them off in the evening. On Saturday, two historic Montreal buses owned by the Fondation l’Heritage du Transport en Commun du Québec arrived to pick us up. One was ex-CTCUM 33-008, a 1983 GM T6H-5307N built in Saint-Eustache, and the last GM New Look to be delivered to Montreal. It is a single-door bus with suburban-type seats, originally used for sightseeing tours, and later used on West Island routes until it was retired in 1999. It was then acquired by the FHTCQ and preserved in its original livery. The other bus was ex-STCUM 55-001, a 1985 GM TC-40102N built in Saint-Eustache, and this bus is a typical transit-style GM Classic that was the mainstay of transit in Montreal from the 1983 until the last NovaBus Classic was retired in 2012. It too is preserved in its as-delivered paint scheme, with the large Arrow-T logo on the side of the bus. Variants of this logo were used from the inception of the Montreal Transit Commission in 1951 until it was replaced by the STM chevron logo in 2011.
After leaving the Best Western Hotel, we headed north along the Chomedey Expressway and then east along Highway 640 to our first stop at the Keolis Garage in Terrebonne, north of Laval. Keolis Canada, formerly Orléans Urbain, is the contractor for Urbis, formerly marketed as the CIT des Moulins. We were unable to enter the facility when we first arrived, so many of us took photos of 33-008 and 55-001 on the street outside the garage. Eventually, a staffer arrived to open the front gates and our buses proceeded onto the property. Buses stored at this facility included Orion V, NovaBus LFS and cutaway buses, along with MCI coaches used by Urbis, along with some Prevost coaches used by Murray Hill, a subsidiary of Keolis Canada providing charter service in Canada and the United States. Inside the garage were some new 4th-generation LFS buses featuring the redesigned rear-end cap.
We then headed east along Highway 640 and Highway 40 to our next stop at the Keolis Garage in Repentigny, northeast of Montreal, which provides buses for Urbis, the CRT de Lanaudière, and the RTCR de la MRC de l’Assomption. Like the Keolis Garage in Terrebonne, this garage also stored MCI coaches, and Orion V, LFS, and cutaway buses, but there were also RTS buses used on the Repentigny bus routes. There was also a storage area for retired buses on the property, where several Urbis and RTCR buses were waiting for disposal. There was a NovaBus 4th-generation demonstrator at the garage, and staff lined up the demo along with one of their own LFS buses and an RTS bus next to 33-008 and 55-001 for a photo opportunity. NovaBus later used a photo of the five buses in an article about all five buses having been built at the Saint-Eustache plant, a testament to the quality of their work. As we left the garage, we noticed an EMC bus formerly owned by Autobus Galland, and now owned by Tecnic driving school.
After leaving Repentigny, our group headed west along Highway 40, south along Highway 25, and then west along avenue Souligny and rue Notre-Dame est before stopping for lunch at Dorchester Square in downtown Montreal. This stop was near the Coach Canada stop, and there were LFS buses and Routemaster double-deckers serving the stop. It is also a busy area for STM buses, and we took many photos of buses along their routes.
After lunch, a surprise stop was made at the Mont-Royal Garage, the oldest STM garage still in use, having been opened as a streetcar facility in 1926. There was another surprise in store for us when we arrived: preserved ex-CTCUM bus 14-008 was waiting for us at the garage. This bus is a GM T6H-5307N built in late 1972 at the GMDD plant in London, Ontario. After it was retired from service in 1987, it was sold to Autobus Verreault in Granby and used for transit service there. It was acquired by the FHTCQ in 1997 and restored to its original brown-and-white paint scheme. 14-008 and 33-008 posed together for a photo opportunity, including a group shot of the convention attendees, after which 33-008 headed back to the FHTCQ garage and 14-008 continued on the charter. 55-001 also remained in use for the charter participants.
Our next stop was at the Centre de transport Legendre, a huge garage and maintenance facility which is also home to the STM’s bus operations. The Legendre Garage is also where all of the STM’s articulated buses are based. We toured the offices upstairs, followed by the garage interior, and then the grounds surrounding the garage, including the line of retired buses.
Leaving the Legendre Garage, we headed west along the Metropolitan Expressway and south along the Decarie Expressway to our last stop of the day at the Coach Canada facility on Monk Street near the Turcot Interchange. Like the Keolis garage in Terrebonne, we were unable to enter the property when we arrived, though there were some Coach Canada and Coach USA Prevost and MCI coaches parked outside. Some of us noticed that the rear window of 14-008 had been taken from TTC bus 3955, a 1966 GM TDH-5303, and the old number could still be seen when light was reflected at the right angle. Once we were allowed on the property, we were able to tour some of the Megabus double-decker coaches, and take photos of some of the Routemaster tour buses and LFS shuttle buses. There were also some retired Routemaster buses on the property that still had markings and advertisements from Transport for London. However, when we returned from the Coach Canada property, we noticed that 14-008 was missing! Fortunately, all was well when the bus returned just in time to pick us up.
Finally, the buses headed back west along Highway 20, and we returned to the Best Western Hotel in Dorval in the evening. A final photo stop was held beside the hotel, and after the buses left the BHA members continued to chat before heading their separate ways, with lots of photographs and memories of the previous days in Montreal.