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LaSalle Coke Crane – Then & Now Montreal

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Montreal Coke and Manufacturing Company

 

By: Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca

 

The Montreal Coke and Manufacturing Co. was founded in 1927. Better known as LaSalle Coke, once Montreal Light, Heat and Power, the factory transformed coal ore into coke (a fuel derived from coal) and synthetic gas for household and industrial use in the Montreal district.

 

LaSalle Coke Crane - unloading coal - 1950s
LaSalle Coke Crane – unloading coal – 1950s

To manufacture the coal gas, raw coal was heated in brick lined ovens, and, as heated, the coal gave off coal gas, which was stored in two large, expandable gas holders.  Until 1956, all the coal gas used in the city was provided by LaSalle Coke and distributed thru gas mains to customers. Coke was used for heating water for sinks, bathtubs and laundry. Various other byproducts such as coal tar, asphalts, and ammonia, produced by LaSalle Coke were useful in the chemical industry.

 

All that remains today of the LaSalle Coke Co. is the crane which stands on a fifty-five foot strip of land bordering the south bank of the Lachine Canal and the north side of St. Patrick Street.

 

LaSalle Coke Crane - 2015 (Photo: ©Dick Nieuwendyk)
LaSalle Coke Crane – 2015 (Photo: ©Dick Nieuwendyk)

Coal was brought in by ships through the Lachine Canal. The crane was used to unload the coal which was then conveyed in small narrow-gauge coal cars on a moving cable to the coke plant across St. Patrick Street. The crane, built in 1930, is approximately 15 storeys high (167′) and took two men to operate; one was in the middle part where the machinery was and the other at the top. the crane was in service to the industry until 1956, when natural gas arrived by pipeline from the west making coal gas and, ultimately, LaSalle Coke, redundant. Gaz Metropolitain acquired the buildings from LaSalle Coke in 1977 when it closed, and demolished them in 1984. The gasification plant site, where LaSalle Coke had its two large gas reservoirs (near Newman Blvd) is now the area where Loblaw’s is situated.

 

The Lachine Canal and its surroundings have great archaeological heritage value. The preservation of the numerous industrial buildings and engineering works found there, such as the LaSalle-Coke crane, is essential to the area’s enhancement. After the Canal was closed in 1970, extensive work was done to improve the area.

 

In 1978, Parks Canada designated the Lachine Canal a National Historic Site and proceeded with the creation of a linear park along its banks. The crane might be restored and a lookout could be built on it, offering a spectacular view of the Lachine Canal.

 

Source: UBC Library / LaSalle borough of the City of Montreal / Parks Canada

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