The Train Station

The Brunet Pavilion

Located in the heart of the village, this pavilion dates back to 2011. Its architecture is inspired by the first train station whose construction, around 1901, was financed by Joseph Brunet (1834-1904), a politician, vice-president of the Montfort Colonization Railway and a seasonal resident of the lake. The station was completed a few years later with an enclosed building and a luggage storage area.

Station, Lac-des-Seize-îles

The station around 1910
Source: Richards postcard, Montreal, MGV collection in Patrimoine-Laurentides

Up until it was demolished in 1965, the pavilion was a popular meeting place for villagers and summer residents. When it reappeared nearly fifty years later, it naturally resumed its vocation as a meeting spot for residents and an ideal rest stop for cyclists to admire the lake.

Railway development

Arrival of the steam locomotive in the station, early 20th century.
Source: Luc Lamond

Railway development in Quebec took off in the mid-19 th century. At the time, several projects to connect Quebec City, Montreal and Ottawa were being considered, with large towns such as Lachute, Saint-André, and Saint-Eustache jockeying to be on the route. However, the government's priority was to support the settlement of the Northern Townships in an attempt to counter the exodus of unemployed Quebeckers to the United States. At a time when lumber and firewood was paramount for urban development, the abundance of as-yet untapped forest resources in this region also promoted settlement.

The Montfort Colonization Railway

Schedule of trains serving Lac-des-Seize-Îles in 1916.
Source: Patrimoine-Laurentides, MGV collection

Thus, in 1890, the Montfort Colonization Railway Company was created. Its track served many municipalities along its east-west axis, running from Saint-Sauveur to Arundel in 1898, and then progressively onwards to the mines in Saint-Rémi-d'Amherst in 1924. The company changed its name to 'Montfort and Gatineau' in 1898, expressing the desire, never realized, to extend the railroad to the Red River Valley. The company changed hands several times before being purchased by the Canadian National Railway in 1918.

Birth of a village

Lac-des-Seize-Îles in the early 20th century 
Source: McCord Museum

The first train arrived at Lac-des-Seize-Îles on March 8, 1895, carrying equipment for Joseph C. Rodger's sawmill. With the clearing of the land going well, the village  naturally spread out around the railroad. Maillé's bakery, Mr. Guy de Montigny's general store, the post office built by Albert T. Patterson, the Mountain Rest Boarding House and the Lac-des-Seize-Îles Hotel were among the first businesses of the municipality, which was incorporated in 1914.

A scenic route

Boarding at the station, 1901
Source: Luc Lamond, coll. Peter and Sheilagh Johnson

The emergence of a middle class with the ability to engage in leisure activities brought vacationers to Lac-des-Seize-Îles in the early 20th century. The train facilitated access to the lake not only for visitors, but also for those who owned cottages or fishing camps. This railroad was known as the most picturesque in Quebec. In the Montreal monthly, 'Le Monde Illustré' of October 14, 1899, one could read: 

'... there is no country of merriment, within a radius of sixty miles of Montreal, comparable to the region through which the 'Montfort and Gatineau' passes. [...]this serpentine which clings to the side of the mountains, when it does not cross their crest, plunges to the bottom of the valleys, lies lazily on the banks of the lakes, skips over the silken streams and taunts, with full steam, the dreadful precipices, skimming their vertiginous edges... [.. the beautiful lakes of the Sixteen Islands, Round, Beaven. the great woods abound in game of fur and feathers, or wriggling fish.'

Aerobic corridor

Source: Municipality of Lac-des-Seize-Îles

A train trip from Montreal to Lac-des-Seize-Îles used to take  and a half hours, whereas today the same trip by car takes just over an hour. The railway was abandoned in 1962, after having played an instrumental role in the establishment of the village and its economic development. In the late 1990s, the railway line was transformed into the Aerobic Corridor, a 58-kilometre multipurpose trail that runs between Morin-Heights and Amherst, popular with cyclists, snowshoers, cross-country skiers and hikers.

Extract of
Lac-des-Seize-Iles... History and Heritage

Lac-des-Seize-Iles... History and Heritage image circuit

Presented by : Municipalité de Lac-des-Seize-Îles
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