Down and Out at Place Ville Marie
(finding the CCUM Steam Tunnels)

So... you read our exhaustive report on the subject of the CCUM Steam Tunnels right? If you did, then you know that we spent tons of hours searching for our way in.

Far from being failures, these trips (while mostly not yielding CCUM access) were really fun, and we saw tons of off-limits places we might not otherwise have seen. We plumbed the depths of Central Station, stalked the employee corridors at Place Ville Marie, very nearly roofed the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, and skulked around numerous parking lots and stairways.

But first, a little history. UEM had known about the CCUM tunnels for quite some time before deciding to give exploring them a serious shot. Since we only knew of one sealed entrance location, we decided to conduct the search more or less systematically: this consisted of visiting all the buildings on the CCUM map, and getting as deep into the basements as we could.

Our first stop was 1000 de la Gauchetiere, one of the defining buildings of the Montreal skyline. Though going upwards in the building is more or less impossible (since the upper floors are all businesses, and well-secured by keycard access elevators), going downstairs proved rather easy. An elevator ride down to the parking lot was all the access we needed. Talking casually, and ready to jangle our keys if necessary, we searched for our car, which we vaguely remembered parking in a steam tunnel deep below the earth. Walking down, we discovered that one of the parking levels was blocked off. Hoping for a little privacy, we ducked under the yellow plastic tape, dodged a cardboard cutout of a parking attendant telling us to stop, and proceeded to search the parking garage by trying doors, peeking into air vents, and generally acting suspicious. We didn't find any steam tunnels, but the closed parking lot served to whet our appetites for more exploring action later that day.

Our next visit was Central Station, Montreal's VIA Rail hub. Taking an employee elevator down to its lowest level, we were soon exploring a private parking lot/baggage handling area. We checked out the shipping/receiving office, a few janitor closets, and some other bland miscellany. Finally, we came across something that renewed our enthusiasm, a green door (unfortunately locked) that informed us that a CCUM distribution room lay below! Later, after we gained access to the tunnels, we surmised this to be the location of "the mech room", the only actual room we found in the whole CCUM system.

Central was actually quite an interesting location, and we later devoted a fair amount of time to exploring it. We saw a multitude of parking lots (including one on the roof of the station), some offices, and even managed to sneak down to track level once or twice to check out the Mount Royal Tunnel entrance, the trains in layup, and the emergency exits which apparently are used often by janitorial staff leaving after their shifts. Interesting as Central Station was, it wasn't very challenging, as even employees who saw us in the baggage handling area and at track level seemed content to ignore us. We returned the favour and were never once aprehended or even approached while we explored the station.

Though Central had captivated us, we were still hot on the trail of the CCUM. We knew the network also made its way over to Place Ville Marie, so we made our way there with steam tunnels and lunch on our minds. After a stop at the food court to refuel and rest our tired feet, we plunged into the depths below into a well-surveilled parking lot. As usual, the parking lot was mostly bereft of employees , and we were free to try doors, follow pipes, and wander around unharassed. Despite finding another locked door that seemed to fit the profile, this trip failed to yield the steamy goodness we craved.

Luckily, we accessed some employee corridors that distracted us for awhile. Though security is good (the storage rooms and offices off the corridors were all locked), we did see some janitorial storage and the controls for the sprinkler system. However, while making our way out, a janitor suddenly emerged from on of the rooms and started walking towards us. We played it cool, made eye contact, and acknowledged him by nodding. He nodded back and greeted us with a "Salut." (Hi.) Tux replied as we passed by calling out "Bonne soiree!" (Have a good night!) over his shoulder. Thus, having hopefully convinced the janitor that we were regular joes workin' for The Man, we made our escape and headed straight over to the Queen Elizabeth hotel to see what we could see.

As a group, we don't generally explore staffed areas unless we've got a really good cover story or a secret way in. For our visit to the Queen Elizabeth hotel we had neither, but we were emboldened by Ninjalicious' apparently easy-as-pie exploration of the Royal York hotel. We expected a cakewalk, and for the first part, we got it: we simply...

Took an elevator as high as we could
Climbed still higher on a set
of emergency stairs
...and saw the roof. The
door was locked though.

After the roof fiasco, we decided to check out the basement. Unfortunately, back on the main floor, it seemed as if we had chosen precisely the wrong time to visit, as there was some kind of convention going on, and far from having his hands full with ornery convention-goers, the concierge was highly alert and spotted us as soon as we made for an interesting door. He asked us if he could help us, and we confided that we were looking for the exit. He turned up his nose in obvious distaste and pointed us towards the lobby, which was in plain view.

That was that for the Queen E.

Leaving the hotel, all of us were pretty tired after walking so much and climbing so many stairs, so we finally called it a day and made our separate ways home. We eventually did find the CCUM tunnel entrance, obviously, but we won't reveal it here; we'll leave finding that little gem up to you, fellow explorers.

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