by Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca
In the early 1900s, specially during the summer days, the Lachine Wharf was a scene of bustling activity, a favorite meeting place for locals and visitors alike.
At that time, the nearby Lachine Wharf Station of the Canadian National Railways was a terminal for both trains and riverboats. Every day, the Grand Trunk ran a train between Montreal and the Lachine Wharf where many of the passengers, traveling to Ottawa, would board big side wheel steamers, such as the Empress, the Sovereign, or the
Duchess of York, owned and operated by the Ottawa River Navigation Co. Others would travel to Toronto aboard the Corsican, operated by the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company. Often, people traveled by electric trolley cars, which ran every half hour from Montreal to the Lachine Wharf, to take a thrilling boat trip through the Rapids, which lie between Lachine and the city. The Lachine Rapids are the most perilous in the channel of the St. Lawrence, for dangerous rocks which lie just below the surface would deceive any but a skilful pilot. Navigating his boat through the rushing waters certainly demanded all of his energies, and the words of this hymn come to mind…
“Steady, O Pilot, stand firm at the wheel.”
The heyday of steamboating came to an end about 1912, and even though many boats struggled on for a few years, the depression of the early thirties put an end to this part of Canadian transportation history.
The Lachine Wharf Station of the CNR became a freight depot, mostly for goods that were transported from and to the Dawes Brewery, which was located nearby on St. Joseph street. When the brewery became part of National Breweries and moved to Montreal, the station, which was once the most active one operated west of Montreal by the Grand Trunk System lost importance, and closed in 1934.
Today, the Lachine Wharf is mostly a parking lot where people watch the comings and goings of pleasure boats, kayaks, sailboats, and an occasional river cruise ship. In the early 1900s, specially during the summer days, the Lachine Wharf was a scene of bustling activity, a favorite meeting place for locals and visitors alike.
Picture on top : Paddle steamer “Duchess of York” at the Lachine Pier – 1910 (Built 1895 – Scrapped 1943)
Source: Collections Canada / The Gazette1934