Canada was shaped by the railroads—and nowhere is that more evident than in Northeastern Ontario. For decades the rails shuttled lumber, mining equipment, supplies, and settlers to remote communities all across the province.
In fact, Ontario Northland (with the help of an investment from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund) has just unveiled the first of its 16 newly refurbished train cars on its Polar Bear Express line. With new electrical outlets, renovated washrooms, leather seating, fold-down tray tables, and spruced up dining and dome cars, travelling to and from Moosonee has never been more comfortable. There will even be a family car so parents and children can enjoy the ride!
So what better way to celebrate an integral part of Ontario’s history than with a trip to a railroad museum. Whether you’re a model train enthusiast or just looking for somewhere unique to take the kids, Northeastern Ontario has enough railroad-related fun to satisfy train lovers of all ages. We’ve rounded up all the museums and installations that are a must-stop on your trip!
Cochrane Station Inn
The historic rail town of Cochrane is at the junction of the Ontario Northland and Canadian National Railways and is the departure point for the famous Polar Bear Express with service to Moosonee. So it makes sense that the town’s most interesting hotel is actually in the train station. A recommended spot to stay in Lonely Planet’s 2013 guide, Ontario Northland’s own Cochrane Station Inn will let train lovers actually spend the night in a train station! The inn features chic, modern rooms with flat screen TVs, Keurig coffee machines, and free Wi-Fi. Arriving by bus or by train? Just walk through the front doors of the station to find the 24-hour front desk staff at your service. Plus it’s If you’re a train lover and a donut lover, the Tim Horton Museum is a short walk away! Train enthusiasts should be sure to add Cochrane Station Inn to their bucket list.
200 Railway Street
Moosonee Railcar Museum
A trip on the Polar Bear Express is a bucket-list-worthy adventure for many train enthusiasts. Take the 186-mile journey on this famous train from Cochrane all the way north to Moosonee, enjoying classic Canadian vistas along the way. Once you’ve arrived in one of Ontario’s oldest settlements, the opportunities for outdoor adventure are endless. But before you head off on that leisurely canoe trip be sure to check out the Railcar Museum on First Street. Open in July and August, this Ontario Northland rail car gives you a dose of local history.
Northern Ontario Railroad Museum & Heritage Centre
This park-and-museum complex just outside of Sudbury is a Disneyland for train lovers. The park is home to a huge collection of railway cars including four locomotives and numerous passenger cars, mining cars, and speeders—and don’t miss the locomotive-themed playground! The museum is located in the former residence of the town’s CN superintendent and serves as a complete guide to local railroad history. Also be sure to check out the nearby Capreol Fire Hall for a look a 1929 Bickle fire engine.
26 Bloor Street
Model Railroad Display at Pinewood Park
The model railroad display at North Bay’s Ramada Pinewood Park Resort & Conference Centre celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. After a request from the resorts owners, the North Bay Model Railroad Club installed this lavish exhibit that has been delighting guests of the resort ever since. Visitors young and old can press the start button and enjoy watching the antique train cars zoom by the historically-accurate buildings, through tunnels, and around the rail yards. Go on, press the button! You won’t be able to resist.
201 Pinewood Park Drive
North Bay, ON
Discovery North Bay Museum
Train lovers rejoice—the historic Discovery North Bay Museum is located in the beautifully restored Canadian Pacific Railway station in downtown North Bay. With sweeping views over Lake Nipissing the location alone is worth the visit. Inside the 113-year old building visitors will find local exhibitions and programming for the whole family so be sure to check the museum’s online calendar for upcoming events. Ghost hunters can sign up for a lamp-lit haunted hike tour around the museum and downtown. The Train Station gift shop has a massive selection of everything model train related.
100 Ferguson Street
North Bay, ON
Ron Morel Memorial Museum
Located just off the Trans Canada Highway, this unusual Kapuskasing museum is a must stop for train lovers. Housed in two Canadian National Railway passenger cars and a CNR 5107 engine, the museum features a ton of train-related memorabilia as well as exhibits related to Kapuskasing’s history. A permanent exhibition of Quebec sculptor Maurice Gaudreault’s work is also on display. In the red caboose you’ll find the gift shop with local souvenirs and (you guessed it) lots of trains-related merchandise for purchase.
88 Riverside Drive