The patient arrives on the operating table. Road accident. The doctors gather to inspect the wound and establish their plan of intervention: cut with a torch the long iron bar he has just swallowed, change a few screws and send him back to clear the snow from the streets of Montreal. The snowblower will recover quickly.
Welcome to the Saint-Laurent municipal garage, the emergency room where there is the shortest wait in the city. Snow removal vehicles that encounter a problem in the borough are repaired there immediately – as far as possible.
And it has to: Snow loading operations are costing the City millions of dollars and cannot be interrupted. If necessary, mechanics travel to repair machines that cannot be moved. As this particularly snowy winter comes to an end, there is no shortage of work.
This time, the snowblower could still roll. After melting the accumulated snow in the snowblower, mechanics Francis Trudeau and Mario Precupas work with a fellow welder to extract the iron bar from the mechanism. A few minutes are enough. The blades which propel the snow towards the inside of the machine were not damaged, as happens quite frequently.
“That’s a small matter,” says Mr. Trudeau, a city mechanic for 16 years. “Sometimes the break goes deeper. Snowblowers like this have safety screws designed to break if the mechanism is jammed. Objective: to avoid any risk of damage to the engine that drives it. If the worst happens, the mechanic will have a lot of work to do.
The team is used to seeing its blowers choke on all sorts of objects. “It’s everyday life: pieces of steel, tires, a frying pan…”, describes foreman Patrice Elio. “Tires are hard to get off. You have to melt them a little and pull them. »
The garage is housed in the Municipal Workshops of Saint-Laurent, a large building on Cavendish Boulevard. Its look could be mistaken for that of a secondary school, where the classrooms are however replaced by garages, printing houses and other laboratories.
The City keeps copies of all the parts that could be useful for repairing the main vehicles used by blue collar workers. A mint tank engine is waiting to be transplanted into the next vehicle that needs it.
The mechanics turn into kids while they show off their big service vehicle, their “ambulance”, with which they travel to repair or tow the machines that cannot make it to the garage. “There aren’t many in the City of Montreal,” says Mario Precupas, 11 years of housekeeping. The truck is kept “warm”, always ready to go on a call.
Francis Trudeau and Mario Precupas describe the occasions when they had to slip under vehicles, “in the mud and in the oil”, to accomplish their work. “It can’t be fixed remotely, it’s not telecommuting that we do! says Mario Precupas.
In the garage, each mechanic has his workstation decorated to his liking. Photos of children abound. Unlike other trades that work for the City, they must provide their own tools.
“We really take pride in doing our job,” says Precupas. “We have a sense of belonging. We know that if we do not repair the machinery properly, we are the ones who will have to go on the road to repair it. »