Line 1: Angrignon
Next time you find yourself at a métro terminus station, ask yourself this. Why do the inbound platforms have benches? If this is the last stop for the train, why would anyone be waiting to get on board? Perhaps for the 'thrill' of riding an empty train into the dead end tunnel before switching tracks and coming back, but with the risk of being on a train at the end of it's shift that doesn't return and instead gets taken away and parked in a dark underground marshalling yard.
On the other hand, they are good places for métrophiles to sit and absorb the place.
The whole of Montréal's métro system is underground - the Québec climate determined that simple decision many years ago, and it means that the subway is never disrupted by what's going on up on ground level. But at Angrignon you feel a lot closer to the blue sky. The tracks and platforms are just a few metres below the ground level of Parc Angrignon. The length of the station, however, is exposed in a grassy cutting that allows the walls of the platforms to be opened up to natural daylight with large windows that reach from the level of the benches up and over to the chunky concrete structure that sits over the tracks. There are other stations which illuminate short stretches of the platforms with sunlight, but nowhere is it so extensive as at Angrignon. In the winter, a near-permanent covering of snow increases the reflectivity of this cutting, and the station becomes one of the brightest on the network. In the grimey post-thaw spring morning that I visited, however, the grassy banks are brown and tired. Months worth of litter that had been concealed under snow and ice has been revealed, and a homeless man is collected beer bottles from around the station to reclaim the deposits.
A couple of trees have been planted in the green spaces beside the tracks, but they're not looking their best right now. I need to come back later in the year when things have picked up.
The materials employed in the platform spaces aren't particularly memorable - smooth square clay tiles on the floor and the usual poured concrete providing an unfinished surface to contrast in the structure. The windows are framed with faded red/orange frames. The impression is of a station that feels dirty, probably because of all the bright sunshine that shows off every speck of dust and every lump of detritus.
Upstairs, in the ground level ticket hall, things start to make much more sense. The same materials are here, but the glazing has been allowed to take over. A forest of square-plan concrete columns creates support nine parallel barrel vaults of roof lights of varying lengths over the ticket hall. Again, the red/orange glazing frames and the orange clad back offices to the ticket kiosks seem faded, but you're not likely to notice in this delightfully bright space. A different atmosphere no doubt comes across when it's twenty below and the wind is whipping through the swing doors. There were no noticeable pressure problems in this station - on each platform are three enormous circular grills mounted in cut tubular sections that provide a point of direct exit and entrance for fresh air.
There are bright orange benches, a small dép kiosk and the usual métro station clutter of payphones and free newspaper stands. But also a lot of people, even on a quiet Sunday afternoon. A large bus interchange to the north-west of the station hall has been expanded in the last few years, somewhat unsympathetically with the architecture of the station, but in a way that successfully shelters passengers and provides more space for connecting buses.
Ascending from the platforms to the ticket hall, passing through the gates and then on the same line out through the doors to Parc Angrignon, you begin to understand the successful design strategy of this station. Walking along the line of the tracks, it's just a few minutes until you are in a park that was modelled at the same time as the station was built. Small lakes sit either side of the tracks below (which continue on from the station and round into the Angrignon depot, concealed from the park by a large incline to the north-west). A temporary park sign advises of thin ice: it's a little late for that, now that it's all melted, but it's good to know someone's looking out for me.
After a turn through the park, I return to the station, and go back to the platforms. A blackbird has found it's way down into the station, and is fluttering from one platform to the other. A turning train pulls in, and I get on board near the front of the train. In the wall of the Honoré-Beaugrand end of the outbound platform is a large circular window, which opens into a small control office (there's a driver restroom in roughly the same spot on the other side). Have a look through as you depart, and give yourself five points if you can identify the piece of movie memorbilia that is hanging on the wall inside this office; ten points if you know the film and connection to the Montréal métro.