Montreal's First Railway
by Michael Leduc
Montreal became the headquarters of the first three railways in Canada with an eleven year spread between the first in 1836 and the third in 1847. By the mid nineteenth century railway fever had spread throughout Canada, indeed throughout North America. Many of these companies were corporate entities on paper, only. Others became hard assets with some blossoming and still many failing. As happens, there are those that through various mergers and economic cycles continue to this day, albeit under different corporate structures.
One such railway became the first railway on the island of Montreal. It was incorporated as the Montreal and Lachine Rail-Road in 1846. Over a century and a half later portions of the line remains extant under the ownership of Canadian National Railway. The initial section of the line started from a terminal in Montreal's Griffintown district extending out to Lachine Wharf seven and a half miles distant. Along the route to Lachine the line passed through the village of St. Cunégonde. Half a mile further west was Tanneries, named for the number of tanneries in the area. It was renamed St. Henri after the parish in that district served by the railway. Proceeding westward it traversed land that would become Turcot Yard as it found its way to the village of Lachine and onto Lachine Wharf.
Many changes were to occur from its inauguration in 1847 through to today. In 1888 it became part of the mainline Grand Trunk between Montreal and Toronto. Its corporate structure changed many times over the years towards becoming part of Canadian National. Part of CN's mainline west of Montreal runs over the original line. Also, its Lachine Spur is still along the 1847 roadbed.