Bike Rides about Town:
Along the Lachine Canal
Composite View


Roger Kenner
Montreal, Qc,
Canada 2003

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East to: [Harbour Locks] West to: [Wellington Basin]

Lachine Canal: Composite View: Wellington Basin

[1999: Before Construction] [2001: In Construction] [2002: Post Construction]

[Many items have been suppressed in this Lite Version]


Before Construction: 1999

From the inception of the Lachine Canal Bike Path, until the changes of 2001, the trail left the Old Port along wall of Rue des communes and crossed under the Bonaventure Expressway, where there was a small park on the north side of the Canal.

In my 1999 ride, I approached this area along the southern bank of the Canal from the Des Seigneurs locks, as I usually did. The trail passed behind the Redpath Refinery and then along the back of a newly renovated factory.

Where the junction with Wellington formed a triangle with the Canal, there was a park, formerly known as 'St. Patrick's Square'. In early years, it was completely enclosed by a fence and totally overgrown. One could see rusting, unused playground equipment sitting amidst the tall grasses. During the latest renovations, the park has been opened up.

Before the Wellington Bridge was built, the only obstacle along that reach was the CN Railway Bridge. Over the Wellington Tunnel was a turn-off, so cyclists could get onto Wellington, but otherwise its passing under the Canal was unmarked. The new bridge, seen in the background, was built in the late 1990s.

Click to enlarge (Taken on April 25 - 1999 Canal Ride)
Approaching new Wellington Bridge along South Bank
 

Click to enlarge (Taken on April 25 - 1999 Canal Ride)
Under Railway along South Bank
 

Passing under the CN Rail Bridge (which in the functional days had been a lift bridge: See Wellington Basin Historic), the trail crossed over a small footbridge spanning what had, in previous years, been a major basin. In the farground of the photo can be seen the end of the Canal and the footbridge leading to Old Montreal.

Click to enlarge (Taken on April 25 - 1999 Canal Ride)
Footbridge approaching end along South Bank
 

The old crossroads: Continue to Cité du Havre or turn left towards Old Montreal. See the dam in the background.

Click to enlarge (Taken on April 25 - 1999 Canal Ride)
End of Trail at Harbour
 

Click to enlarge (Taken on April 25 - 1999 Canal Ride)
Lachine Canal Control Gates at Mill Street
 

It's a shame that overexposure has obscured the view beyond the expressway. It was under this dark way that the trail proceeded.

Click to enlarge (Taken on April 25 - 1999 Canal Ride)
Looping under Expressway towards Old Port
 

The tranquil, park-like atmosphere shown in the photo below is no more. This area along the north bank of the canal, filled in during the 1960s, has now been completely dug out and returned to its original shape.

Click to enlarge (Taken on April 25 - 1999 Canal Ride)
North Bank of Canal at Harbour End
 

Passing once again under the CN Rail Bridge, the trail then dipped under the new Wellington Bridge, before heading out along the straight reach towards the Des Seigneurs Locks.

Click to enlarge (Taken on April 25 - 1999 Canal Ride)
Under Wellington Bridge on North Bank
 

Along the straight reach, the trail runs along behind the new, huge Canada Post complex and then its parking lot. In earlier days (See Des Seigneurs Locks Historic), there were a number of large basins here. At the eastern end, a spur leaves the trail to connect with the city streets, and it was here that I would often leave and catch the trail when going to and from work during the 1980s.

Click to enlarge (Taken on April 25 - 1999 Canal Ride)
View West along North Bank
Des Seigneurs Locks in distance
 

2001: Construction Underway

I did not return to the area with my camera until the Summer of 2001, and I saw many changes. Note the low level of the Canal water in this photo, compared with the one above.

Click to enlarge (Taken on June 10 - 2001 Canal Ride)
Wellington: Looking east towards Wellington Bridge from North Bank
 

The Canal was blocked off just east of the CN Rail bridge, and the north bank trail no longer went through.

Click to enlarge (Taken on June 10 - 2001 Canal Ride)
Wellington: Earthen dam at CN Rail Bridge
 

Click to enlarge (Taken on June 10 - 2001 Canal Ride)
Wellington: Historic Building
 

The historic building above can be seen in the 1940 photo below, just behind the swing bridge. The lift bridge, whose corner is visible, is the predecessor of the current CN Rail Bridge. Once ship traffic ceased, there was no longer any need for a lift bridge.

The old swing bridge is locked in its open position. Behind it, a train crosses the fixed steel span of the CN Rail Bridge, where once there had been a lift bridge.

Click to enlarge (Taken on June 10 - 2001 Canal Ride)
Wellington: Old Railway Swing Bridge
Train in background
 

Click to enlarge
(Taken on June 10 - 2001 Canal Ride)
Wellington: Remains of old tracks
leading to Swing Bridge

A small portion of the original track remains, where once the bridge would have swung over to connect. This, older rail bridge dates from the 19th Century, and was the first line to head into the Old Port (See Wellington Basin Historic).

The east branch of the old Wellington Tunnel remains. The centre streetcar right-of-way and the western tunnel were buried under the approaches to the new bridge. Although considered 'old', the tunnel actually only dates from around the 1930s.


Click to enlarge (Taken on June 10 - 2001 Canal Ride)
Wellington: Old Wellington Tunnel
 

Click to enlarge
(Taken on June 10 - 2001 Canal Ride)
Harbour End: Excavation work on Peel Basin
 

Continuing along the south bank, the only trail open, one could see the vast excavation being undertaken along what was once the north bank. The Canal's flow had been reduced to barely a trickle.

Click to enlarge (Taken on June 10 - 2001 Canal Ride)
Harbour End: Excavation work on Peel Basin
 

Click to enlarge (Taken on June 10 - 2001 Canal Ride)
Alex and I on bicycle outing

It was a day for bicycling with my son, Alex. I am sure he felt it was a bit odd my stopping to take myriad photos of the construction zone


Click to enlarge (Taken on June 10 - 2001 Canal Ride)
Harbour End: Peel Basin View
With city in background
 

The last patch of green grass awaits the earth movers. The trees are already gone. The old footbridge is blocked off.

Click to enlarge (Taken on June 10 - 2001 Canal Ride)
Harbour End: Remains of Footbridge
Across this bridge went the route towards Old Montreal.
 

Click to enlarge (Taken on June 10 - 2001 Canal Ride)
Harbour End: Water trickles through cofferdams
 

Barely a trickle comes through the Canal, past the many cofferdams that have been built, both here and further west.

Click to enlarge (Taken on June 10 - 2001 Canal Ride)
Harbour End: Looking West along Canal from End
 

An entirely new path has been laid for the bike trail, crossing over the small dam at the Canal Overflow, near Mill Street.

Click to enlarge (Taken on June 10 - 2001 Canal Ride)
Harbour End: New Bike Path Route
 

2001: Revisited in September

When I returned to the scene with my camera at the end of the Summer, excavation had progressed quite a bit. All that remained of the old footbridge was the barriar at its footings. There was no longer any opposite bank!

Click to enlarge (Taken on Sept 3 - 2002 South Shore Ride)
Harbour End: Dead End on Old Route
 

The shape of the old basin was clearly re-appearing. All of the old stone embankments had clearly been left in place.

Click to enlarge (Taken on Sept 3 - 2002 South Shore Ride)
Harbour End: Work Progressing on Peel Basin
 

2002: Excavation Completed

The restoration work was clearly designed to return the area of the Wellington Basin to how it had looked before the Canal was closed. This is a laudable goal, though it was too bad that such a nice park had to disappear to achieve it.

The new plan for the Bike Trail, already in place by the Summer of 2001, saw the path continue along the southern bank of the basin, as far as the Outlet Dam. It then turned to the left and crossed the dam on a new bridge, before winding across the new, grassy expanse north of Mill Street.

The plan for the northern arm was not yet completed by the end of 2002. The trail was to run alongside the new basin, between the water and the CN embankment, until it met Rue des communes, which now cut through the embankment in a new underpass (restoring a link which had been broken in the 1930s, when the embankment was first built.). Alas, even though all the components were completed, the way was still cut off by a barrier underneath the CN Rail Bridge.

Those wishing to continue east from Wellington along the southern bank could now do so again. The way had been closed off for at least a year, on account of the construction at the Des Seigneurs Locks. Those wishing to travel east on the northern shore had to execute a complicated pattern over the Wellington Bridge. A circular path led up and around the embankment, onto the bridge's eastern sidewalk. At the northern side, another circular path led around to meet the old northern trail, just east of the bridge.


I took a ride down by the basin in the Spring of 2002, to see what had transpired, and found that all the excavation work was done. The bare basins were there, as was the new underpass. I rode along the side of the basin, but could not get through to the bike path because of the barrier. When I returned much later in the season, the barrier was still there.

Click to enlarge (Taken May 2002)
Wellington Basin
 

Click to enlarge (Taken May 2002)
Wellington Basin
 

Click to enlarge (Taken May 2002)
Wellington Basin
 

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Prepared by Roger Kenner
January, February 2003; Lite Version: January, 2004