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Conveyor Quay in the Old Port of Montreal


By Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca


The conveyor quay was built in 1956-1957 to facilitate the loading and unloading of the grain between ships and grain silo number 1. The construction of the conveyor pier was one of the last major works undertaken in the port before the Old Port became a place of tourism. It is 213 meters long and 14 meters wide. Two marine towers, built by C.D. Howe Co. Ltd. were used to unload ships arriving with grain from western Canada, moved along the conveyor pier on railway tracks. The grain was then transported by an underground conveyor to Grain Elevator 1 which was located at the north end of the conveyor quay. The grain was weighed, cleaned, divided and temporary stored. Afterwards, wheat, barley, buckwheat, rye, oats, corn, and flax were loaded onto ships, sailing for Europe, or onto trains bound for the United States.


Conveyor Quay - mid 1950s
Conveyor Quay – mid 1950s

1959 marked the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Ocean-going vessels could now reach the Great Lakes without stopping in Montréal. The port experienced a drop in activity. The decrease in grain shipping and the diversification of products led to new handling methods. Containers and direct ship-to-ship transfer eventuallyreduced the need for grain silos and warehouses. The need for space to store and handle containers led the port authorities to fill in the Jacques-Cartier Basin and the downstream entry of the Lachine Canal, thereby closing it to through navigation.   Port operations were moved farther east, putting an end to port activities in Old Montréal.


Conveyor Quay - 2015     (Photo: Dick Nieuwendyk)
Conveyor Quay – 2015 (Photo: Dick Nieuwendyk)

In 1977, the Canadian government announced its intention to redevelop the area left vacant by the port’s move, and public consultations were held on its future vocation. On 1981 the Old Port of Montreal Corporation was established. A park was created along Rue de la Commune, and in 1982 the Clock Tower was restored, the quays were solidified, and in 1983 Grain Elevator No. 1 near the entrance to the Alexandra Quay, was demolished to improve access to the river, in accordance with public wishes. With the demolition of Elevator 1, the two marine towers were abandoned. One of them was demolished, only the one at the end of the dock has survived, and is presently protected under the Cultural Heritage Act. With several of its original components remaining, such as its marine leg, buckets, hopper, and vacuum pipe, it stands as a proud reminder of the Old Port’s industrial past. Down the center of the renovated conveyor quay, between two rows of benches, are windows, through which the underground grain storage area can still be viewed.


Today, the Old Port of Montreal is a 50 hectare riverside urban park, a lively area, which welcomes six million visitors annually, and serves as a backdrop for many tourism activities.


Source: Encyclopedia of French Cultural Heritage in North America / Urbex Playground / Port of Montreal Corp.

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