09/04/2013 10:13 EDT | Updated 11/04/2013 05:12 EST

Crossing the tracks from Park Extension into Jarry Park

A set of railroad tracks once called the “gateway to the north” is now seen by residents as a border that separates a neighbourhood in Park Extension from Jarry Park and nearby Villeray.

Residents using the level crossing near Ball Avenue in Park Extension on Tuesday have long felt that the divisions made by the tracks have left the separate neighbourhoods with distinct personalities.

“Park Extension is very multicultural. It’s interesting,” says Éloi Paré, who lives in Villeray and crosses the tracks often to go to a library in Park Extension.

“It’s a big blend of cultures. In Villeray, it’s people who used to live in the Plateau.”

Jean-François Bélanger lives in Park Extension and crosses the tracks to get into Jarry Park with his family for picnics. Even though he’s only lived in the neighbourhood for six years, he feels there’s definitely a sense of separation from the adjoining neighbourhoods.

“It’s hard to get out of Park Extension with your bicycles,” Bélanger says. “We always have to come through here or on Jean-Talon Street. It’s keeping us isolated.”

Opened in 1876, the tracks run north to south and connect the Island of Montreal to the north shore and beyond.

“It’s always carried both passengers and freight. It used to serve the Laurentians and the skiers," says Mary McCutcheon, president of the Park Extension Historical Society.

Today, the tracks are owned by Canadian Pacific Railway. The Agence métropolitaine de transport also uses the tracks for a commuter train line that connects Saint-Jérôme to downtown Montreal.

Mary Deros, the city councillor representing Park Extension, hopes the borough works out an agreement soon with CP to open a crossing at De Castelnau Street West, joining the street to the AMT station on Ogilvy Avenue.

She says it will help both sides of the tracks form a better connection.

What do you think: can a railroad divide, or shape, a neighbourhood? Send us your comments by e-mail or use the hashtag #mtltracks on Facebook or Twitter.