For many Montrealers, the sound of coins dropping into a fare box or the sight of an original Smurf-blue-and-white subway car brings back memories of past commutes and long hours on the road.
And on Sunday, hundreds of vintage lovers and history buffs lined up outside a soon-to-be-closed bus garage in the city to bring home a piece of the city’s transit history.
Early customers waited in line for up to two hours for a chance to buy transit-related items including station platform signs, subway seats and bus fare boxes at a sale put on by the city’s transit society.
Twenty-nine-year-old Josh Arless showed up early enough to snag a metal sign from the Laurier subway stop and an old fare box.
He said many Montrealers have an attachment to their public transit system, given its importance to the city’s history and to people’s everyday lives.
“When you think about the large historic moments in Montreal, it’s the opening of the (subway) for Expo 67 and then, 10 years later, the Olympics.” he said.
“The (subway) is in our blood as Montrealers… people want to live that experience again, or at least own a piece of it.”
Another customer, Loic Rozon, decided to purchase a more unusual item: an entire metal subway car door.
“We don’t know what we’re going to do with it yet, maybe a table or put it on a wall or something,” he said as he and a friend lugged the heavy object towards the checkout.
The transit agency items are being sold before the city moves its buses to a new garage.
Sunday’s sale was held in the Bellechasse garage, which has housed the city’s fleet since 1941 and is set to be demolished next year.
Items ranged in price from $10 for a bus sign to $500 for a large panel displaying the transit agency’s logo, with proceeds going to local charities.
Most items, including the platform signs and fare boxes, ranged from $40 to $100.
Her mission was successful; she and her husband bought a sign to display in their living room.
The lineup to get in was hundreds of people long, stretching around the block and down the next street.
“It’s like nothing I’ve seen before,” marveled Miriam Roy, who had come with her husband. “It’s bigger than a Rudsak sale.”
Roy said she and husband came to the sale in the hopes of grabbing “a little piece of our neighbourhood.”
While she failed to secure a sign from her local Atwater subway station, she and her husband nevertheless emerged with an Old Montreal panel to display in their living room.
Transit agency chairman Philippe Schnobb said the agency had expected a big crowd but the turnout exceeded expectations.
While Sunday’s garage sale was prompted by the bus depot’s move, he said those who missed out this time will have other chances, noting that several subway stations are currently under renovation, and items scrounged from the construction will likely be going up for sale some time in the future.