OTD: Construction on Montréal’s Lachine Canal completed

On today’s date in 1825, construction was completed on the Lachine Canal, which runs 13.5 kilometres through Montréal’s southwestern tip and has since been named a National Historic Site.

The canal’s original design was used for about two decades – until the 1840s – when it was deepened to allow heavier ships to pass through. Around the same time, businesses operating on the canal banks began using hydraulic power, which increased overall production.

Complemented by its expansion, the canal became a way for ships to avoid the St. Lawrence River’s Lachine Rapids and instead offered a direct path to Montréal’s industry. The city became a lucrative place to do business, and industrial development replaced what was formerly considered Montréal’s downtown core.


In Lachine, about 14 kilometres west of the city centre, the Montreal & Lachine Railroad ran to Bonaventure Station in central Montreal.

Towards the end of the 1840s, railway tokens (Breton #530) were issued in place of paper tickets, which were inconvenient for both local workers and Indigenous communities, who comprised the railway’s third-class passengers.

“The trip took less than 20 minutes and cost 25 cents for a return fare in third class,” according to dealer Jacob Lipson, owner of Jacob Lipson Rare Coins. “These copper tokens were chosen over their cardboard tickets counterparts because they would hold up better under hardscrabble condition. Many of the train’s passengers were labourers on the Lachine Canal, including Indigenous workers from neighbouring Caughnawaga on the other side of the St. Lawrence river from Lachine.”

Struck at the Birmingham Mint in Birmingham, England, and then imported to Montréal, the holed tokens were strung on a wire as they were collected by the train’s conductor. These pieces, which show a locomotive on one side and a beaver on the other, were used until the early 1850s.

An example certified as Extremely Fine-45 Brown by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation sold for $780 US (including buyer’s premium) at an auction in New York in 2018.

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