In point of size and commerce the importance of Montreal, with an estimated population of 456,000, stands easily first. Situated on the St. Lawrence, at the junction of that river with the Ottawa River, it occupies a most important strategical position from the point of view of commerce, and its surroundings are most picturesque. The town is situated upon an island some thirty miles long by eight or ten miles wide, formed of the two branches of the Ottawa River, and is built in a series of terraces which mark the former levels of the river. In size it is about four miles long by two miles broad. Behind it towers, 700 feet above the river level, the huge shape of Mount Royal, from which the city takes its name. Montreal is naturally the chief railway centre of Canada ; the Canadian Pacific and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railways have headquarters in the city, and in all ten railway lines run through or have their terminus in Montreal. Montreal has all the characteristics of an English manufacturing town in times of brisk trade.
The wharves, where fourteen important lines of steamers have their port of call, are hives of energy, and the smoke from hundreds of factory chimneys obscures the air. The river is open for seven months in the year, and the quays can accommodate many of the largest modern liners. By a system of canals which ends at Montreal there is a continuous waterway during the open season from the ports of Lake Superior to the Atlantic. Montreal has been called the ” City of Churches.” Many of the buildings date back to the early days of French Canada. Dwarfing all the rest is the vast Roman Catholic cathedral of Nôtre-Dame, one of the largest churches in the North American continent, which has accommodation for over 12,000 people.
Of the public buildings at Montreal the most notable is that of the McGill University, which takes high place among the educational institutions of Canada. Not far from Montreal are the celebrated Lachine Rapids which run through the narrow gorge between the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge and the Victoria bridge. Steamers ply upon these dangerous waters, and to shoot the rushing rapids is one of the experiences which one seeks once in a lifetime and remembers ever afterwards. Undoubtedly one of the chief sights of Montreal is the Victoria Bridge which spans the river at a point where it is two miles wide. The present bridge, built about ten years ago, replaced the original tubular bridge designed by Robert Stevenson.