Mystery At Otter Lake

The Riviere Saint Pierre is a well documented river that ran through Turcot Yards as this map from 1931 illustrates.

There is some speculation about the exact location of Otter Lake (Lac aux loutres).

Here is one explanation by Douglas Jacks from his essay West Island Tsi Tetsionitiotiakon: Sustainability Rooted in

Before the Lachine Canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway, First
cultivated a system of rivers and lakes throughout North America and Tiohtiake (Montreal – prounounced jo-ja-guay). These waterways allowed for the cultivation, exchange and enjoyment of huge quantities of goods
both locally and internationally. The waterways themselves were productive and allowed access to farming of watercrops, algae, bird, fish and shore mammal nesting and enrichment. Canoes used on these waterways allowed or human populations to pass heavily laden without impact. Essentially, this provided for a zero-impact transportation system.
Montreal Island was crossed by a network of creeks and rivers
The port of Montreal lies downstream on the St. Lawrence River from the Lachine Rapids. Historically, there was a river called St.Pierre which flowed into the St. Laurent near rue Rheaume in Verdun facing the middle of Ile des Soeurs one kilometer north into Lac aux Loutres( Otter Lake). This lake drained the Montreal ‘southwest’ (LaSalle and Verdun) along the Cote St. Paul and Notre Dame de Grace escarpments flowing from the west four kilometers. Again Riviere St. Pierre flowed from the west one kilometer (and possibly linked by one kilometer of low water filled marshland close to Lac St. Louis as a continuous waterway for canoes) until climbing from its sources north draining the region of Notre Dame de Grace, Montreal West and Cote St. Luc.
Up until the early quarter of the 20th century, the lake extended westward from the port along the path of the Lachine Canal and then just north of the canal in the lowlands (along highway 20 and in the Turcot Train yards). The St. Pierre led upstream westward to a one by four kilometer shallow partially reed-filled Otter lake (Lac aux Loutre valley between Notre Dame de Grace and Lasalle). This ancient waterway for canoes around the height of the Lachine Rapids made Montreal a passageway for the communication and trade of many nations of the eastern continent well before European encroachment. The Lachine Canal follows this ancient route.

* * * * * * * *
Ok! Now that we all know some background about the waterways at Turcot- here is our mystery as found in a letter by Jim Sandilands dated Tues, Sep 17 1996 12:00 am.

“Here in Montreal there are two Grand Trunk locomotives
(probably 4-4-0s) that were lost in separate derailments in the
old Turcot swamp during the last century. The good news is that
given the soil conditions these locomotives should be well
preserved. The bad news is that hundreds of thousands of cast
iron railway wheels were used as fill to expand CN’s Turcot
yard. This means that metal detectors are useless as a means of
locating the locomotives.

Regards to all,


Now how on earth could something like that happen and it is not one of the most well known local legends? Perhaps, then, it is an “urban” legend that was passed along amongst railroad workers? Fact or fiction? Stay tuned!

15 responses to “Mystery At Otter Lake

  1. Pingback: Lower Phalen Creek Project « Walking Turcot Yards·

  2. Pingback: bomobob « Walking Turcot Yards·

  3. Pingback: URBANPHOTO » The Isles of Montreal·

  4. Pingback: Walking Turcot Yards·

  5. Pingback: Paint The Riviere Saint Pierre « Walking Turcot Yards·

  6. Not sure. That would be lots of gallons of paint and it would depend on how many people were doing it, and of course what it would be. I would prefer an actual size representation of the river though, I guess, a line would be better than nothing.

  7. Pingback: Turcot Decontamination Costly « Walking Turcot Yards·

  8. Pingback: Mystery Solved (sort of)! « Walking Turcot Yards·

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