Five years after the famous Pitoune, it’s the turn of another Expo 67 legacy to bid a discreet farewell to Montrealers. La Ronde is currently dismantling the Minirail, which has nearly 60 years of loyal service.
First intended for the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the World’s Fair, the light rail still circled the amusement park in 2019. However, it was never put back into operation after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was the end of the carousel’s life, explained Nathalie Béland, spokesperson for La Ronde, in a telephone interview. It was a ride that held a lot of memories for a lot of people. But unfortunately, we had come to that point. »
It was an inspection carried out after the snow melted last spring that signed its death warrant. An expert report determined that the structure of several hundred meters was no longer safe enough.
“At the time of the Expo, these rides weren’t necessarily designed to last 55 years, especially with the winters. We maintained it all this time, we were lucky to have it all this time, said Mme Beland. The parts no longer exist. The La Ronde teams had to machine parts to repair it. »
The spokeswoman pointed out that the historical aspect of the Minirail had been taken into consideration before starting the dismantling. The amusement park is currently considering a way to pay homage to this attraction.
“The decision made by La Ronde was a surprise,” said Mayor Valérie Plante’s office. Considering the historical importance of the Minirail, which transported generations of Montrealers, we would have liked to have been informed in advance of the issues relating to the preservation of the carousel in order to be able to discuss the possibilities of preserving the train. A meeting is scheduled with the management of the park to “reiterate” the concerns of the City regarding the safeguarding of heritage.
“They are erasing history”
Julie Bélanger, founder of a group dedicated to the memory of Expo 67, philosophically accepts the fate of the Minirail.
“It is sure that it is a pity that he disappears, she said in a telephone interview. It is already exceptional that he has made it to 58 years of existence […] with our winters. »
Mme Bélanger learned in early November – from La Ronde employees – that the structure was being dismantled. She immediately contacted the amusement park in order to save everything that could be saved.
In particular, she contacted Exporail, a railway museum located in Saint-Constant, on the South Shore of Montreal, in order to explore the possibility that at least one train is preserved. Exporail spokeswoman Caroline Lebon confirmed that the institution was studying this possibility. “The committee will study the request this week, we should have an answer during the next week”, she said to The Press.
On the Expo 67 Facebook page, managed by Mme Bélanger, Internet users are otherwise more critical.
“The art of scraping everything… They are erasing the history of Expo 67,” laments one. “Let’s say that some have the notions of History quite far, unfortunately”, asserts a second. ” Really sad. With a little will, everything can be repaired, ”wrote a third.
“We can question the maintenance of Six Flags. We can go so far as to question the decision of the City of Montreal to entrust the maintenance of La Ronde to Six Flags. But the fact is that we are there. […] This train has a lot of history, it’s even very surprising that it has arrived until now, ”replied Mme Belanger. “We can’t save everything. We will not be able to. She stressed that the efforts of Expo 67 aficionados should focus on the restoration of the Place des Nations, in Parc Jean-Drapeau.
A real transport network
La Ronde’s Minirail was part of an extensive transportation network designed to move visitors to and within the Expo 67 site. A surface metro of five stations and 5.7 kilometers (the Expo Express) had been built between the Cité du Havre and Île Sainte-Hélène. Another section of the Minirail – much larger than that of La Ronde – criss-crossed the islands of Notre-Dame and Sainte-Hélène.
The railway material used to build the La Ronde Minirail had been purchased from the Lausanne National Exhibition, held in 1964. It was therefore already used at the time of its inauguration.
On Monday, Héritage Montréal highlighted the efforts made by citizens like Julie Bélanger and the opening of La Ronde to save memories of the Minirail.
“It is certain that we regret that it is dismantled. The ideal is that he stays on the site and that he is still in office,” said Anthony Plagnes Payá. But “the main thing is that there is either preservation on the site itself or that other institutions can keep parts of the Minirail”. As for the declarations of the leaders of La Ronde wanting that the carousel has reached the end of its useful life, “we believe them”, he said.
The Ministry of Culture and the Office of the Minister of Culture did not respond to a request for comment from The Press.