Local documentary rumbles through the history of the Lachute train station
Earlier this month the Municipal Regional Council of Argenteuil officially unveiled a documentary entitled "Gare de Lachute: une épopée formidable" that documented the rise and fall of the Lachute train station and the impact it had on the surrounding community.
Railroads revolutionized industry, helped colonize rural areas and performed a vital role in the history and growth of Canada. But despite the central role they played in communities, many local train stations are disappearing as modern forms of transportation overshadow older ones and urban centres expand, gobbling up little-used space and finding new purposes for them.
In Lachute, one group of historical activists said 'no' to the destruction of its train station, citing the historical and cultural importance of the landmark and demanding that government partners intervene to prevent CN from demolishing the historic red-brick building that was abandoned and left vacant for decades after the last passenger car departed the station in 1981.
When the Lachute Train Station opened in 1870 the region was sparsely populated and spread throughout the region on farms. The arrival of the trains coincided with the growth of textile and paper industries that opened under the banners of Ayers Ltd., a woolen manufacturer that imported wool from as far away as Australia and J.C. Wilson Mills, a pulp and paper factory which still operates today as a division of Cascades Paper.
Within a decade of the arrival of trains, the sparse population had grown to 650 people in Lachute alone and residents were being drawn to settle closer to town, swelling the population to 1,300 residents by 1885.
In 1929, the original train station was replaced with a newer building that served as the primary transportation hub for the city until the closure of passenger rail services in 1981.
Determined to save a building that was designated for demolition, a small group of community historians began a battle with railroad executives and government officials that not only saved the train station, but led to its inclusion as a historic site on May 6, 1992, when the Government of Canada recognized the Lachute train station as a heritage site for its important historical role in the community and its architectural beauty.
Ownership of the Lachute train station was transferred to the City of Lachute on February 5, 2007, at which point it was designated a historical monument under the Cultural Property Act. In order to preserve and protect the building, Lachute invested about $225,000 to replace the roof as well as some windows and doors of the train station.
The Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications funded $100,000 of these repairs.
In 2007, the MRC d'Argenteuil purchased the train station from the City of Lachute for the sum of $1 and began the three-year process of restoring the building to its former beauty, so that it could be reopened as a public building.
Twenty-eight years after its closure and nearly $2 million later, the train station reopened its doors last year as the new home of the Argenteuil Centre for Local Development and Tourism; the Argenteuil Centre for Collective and Adaptive Transport and Ma Santé en Valeur.
Copies of the bilingual documentary on the Lachute Train Station will soon be available for purchase at the MRC d'Argenteuil and the film is also expected to be screened at local schools.
Go to www.thereview.ca to view an English folk-song prepared by Robert Simard and Stephane Arsenault that highlights the arrival of trains in Lachute.