Eastern Ontario Attractions?

Discussion in 'The Real Thing- North America' started by RobertInOntario, Jul 11, 2008.

  1. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    My wife suggested we take our family to Ottawa for a weekend this summer. I, of course, immediately started thinking about all the railway attractions in the area! :mrgreen:

    If we go -- and it's a big "might" at this point -- I'd really like to ride the Swedish steam train near Hull, Quebec (www.steamtrain.ca). It sounds like a fairly long trip and quite neat. I'd also like to visit the Canada Museum of Science & Technology (www.sciencetech.technomuses.ca). It sounds as if there are quite a few railway items there, including at least one steam loco -- can anyone provide further info ... are there several railway artifacts there? Regardless, it sounds like a very good museum.

    And the Smith Falls Railway Museum of Eastern Canada certainly sounds good too.

  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Unfortunately, the Hull-Wakefield-Chelsea steamtrain is no longer in operation. There was some dispute between the railroad, the operator, and the local municipality over the maintenance of the right-of-way, and the owner has put the train up for sale... :(

    The Museum of Science & Tech does indeed have a great collection, even if much of it is hidden away. You can see a number of steam engines on display. You can ride a caboose or old-time passenger car behind a oil-burning Shay on Sundays and Wednesdays during July and August. They also have a steam crane that runs some times. The Shay and the crane are operated by the Bytown Railway Society. If you get in touch with them, they may be able to give you more info, or a behind the scenes tour. http://www.bytownrailwaysociety.ca/

    Not to be missed is the http://www.sfrmeo.ca/. Good collection, especially of cabooses. Beautiful restored CNor station. Always lots going on.

    Back in Ottawa, you can also ride the O-Train - Ottawa's commuter rail. Not very busy on the weekends, you might get a look in the cab if you ask nicely. You can ride as much as you want for $2.25 (adult) and it's free for kids under 12. Couple of neat tunnels, and a spectacular crossing of the Rideau River on a high steel trestle.

    www.larkspurline-trains.com is Eastern Ontario's best and largest train store. Good selection, and Jeff and Pat (owners) are great people. Located in Merrickville, between Smith's Falls and Ottawa.

    There are also a ton of home layouts if you can arrange stuff. The NMRA regional conference was here in the spring, and many, many local layouts were open.

    Now it's your turn - tell me about Toronto rail attractions...! (Seriously, I'm *planning* to come that way sometime!)

  3. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Wow, thanks, Andrew !

    That's really unfortunate about the Swedish steam train. Really bad when conflicts like that happen.

    Most of the RR sites here are within 1 hour to 1.5 hours of Toronto.
    Here are the ones that I recommend:
    • The South Simcoe Railway at Tottenham (www.steamtrain.com), although their 4-6-0 is sidelined right now and their 1883 4-4-0 steamer (an awesome machine) MIGHT be in for repairs as well. If so, they would run their vintage CPR switcher.
    • The Halton Radial Railway Museum, which you know about (www.hcry.org), an excellent street car and electric railway musuem.
    • Toronto's John Street Roundhouse (www.trha.ca) is really coming along nicely as a Toronto/Ontario historical railway museum. At the moment, it's only occasionally open to the public but you can walk through its grounds, see the newly-restored turn-table and get free beer samples from Steam Whistle Beer!
    • The York-Durham Heritage Railway (www.ydhr.on.ca) is based in Uxbridge, and does short runs from Uxbridge and long runs from Uxbridge to Stouffville on Sundays during the summer. Uxbridge is about an hour north of T.O. This is an excellent 1950s heritage CN diesel railway.

    The Elgin Country Railway Museum is good, but it's some 3 hours southwest of Toronto as is the Port Stanley Terminal Railway (www.pstr.on.ca). The fairly new Waterloo Central Railway (www.steam-train.org) in Kitchener-Waterloo, about 1.5 hours West of T.O., is also great. They have an 0-6-0 steamer (under repair :cry:) and two small steam switchers under restoration. They currently run their 1950s diesel for trips.

    There is also a narrow-gauge steam and diesel railway in Huntsville!

    Of course, George's Trains is the main LHS in Toronto, and now has two stores (the newer one is a 3-min. walk from my office! :mrgreen:).

    I'm sure I've overlooked something -- if so, I'll add further info later.

    At any rate, I hope this helps, and thanks again for your info as well! I'm not 100% sure if we can afford to go to Ottawa as we've just been away for a week.

  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Thanks! Have you been on the Credit Valley Explorer out of Orangeville? That's one I'd like to try. Maybe in combination with a visit to the South Simcoe outfit.

    Other "free" things in Ottawa include the government conference centre. You *may* be able to get a peek inside. It's the former Union Station across the road from the Chateau Laurier. Much altered on the outside, but "relatively" intact inside.

    The current VIA station. Interesting to look at, with some nice large scale models in the entrance.

    Walkley Yard is home to the Ottawa Central, and currently the O-Train maintenance facility. It's also the "newest" shopping destination (Ottawa TrainYards), so you have an excuse to stand around and look at trains.

    Lastly, on the way here, you might want to stop near Lindsay on Hwy 7 to look at a replica of a turn-of-the-20th-century Sante Fe coach interior. Originally constructed in the 1950s as a showcase for forest products (it's mainly wood), it has been at the Admiral Inn since May 2007. Call 705 357 3363 for more info.

  5. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Andrew!! I forgot about the Credit Valley Explorer -- yes, that's one that I'd like to try sometime as well!

    Are the Ottawa museums free? I seem to recall that they are ... Also, what exactly is the Ottawa Central -- is it a freight short line or a heritage railway? The O-Trains sound good as well. Thanks again for this info!

    Cheers, Rob
  6. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Some museums are free if you have memberships elsewhere. I think (for example) my Museum of Nature (Ottawa) membership gets me into the ROM for free. Some are also free on Thursday evenings, but last time I checked, Thursday was not part of a regular weekend :( ;)

    The Ottawa Central is a shortline that operates on former CNR trackage out of Ottawa and west up the valley. Here's an overview from CN: http://domino-hq01.cn.ca/it/shortli...7E6B2B5D2BC3A1BF8625679800508640?opendocument
    and the company newsletter: http://www.railways.incanada.net/spareboard/spareboard.html

    They are very community-oriented, so you never know what sort of reception you might get if you call them up.

    There's also an orchard and garden railway outside of Perth in Balderson (home of the cheese).

  7. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Hello Robert. To add to what Mason Jar has said.

    Travelling Hwy #401, take a side trip into Brighton to look at Memory Junction Museum http://www.memoryjunction.netfirms.com/ This place is right next to the CNR Kingston sub double-track main line. Instead of getting back on Hwy #401, take Hwy #2 all the way to Napanee. You will be travelling alongside CN's Kingston sub (double-track) and CP Rail's Belleville sub (single-track). Take a side-trip in Belleville to CN's Belleville yard - the largest between Montreal and Toronto.

    Then make your way to Smiths Falls. You can get there via Hwy 15 at Kingston, or you can travel to Brockville and exit at Hwy 29. My preference would be at Brockville as you can take a side trip to the VIA station, grab an ice cream cone and maybe watch some of the trains go by on CN's Kingston sub. It's also where CP Rail's Brockville sub from Smiths Falls comes in. You could make your way down some of the back streets and take a look at CN's Manitoba Yard. If you're into railway history, you might find your way down Church St to the intersection with Buell's Creek where the Brockville, Westport & Sault Ste Marie Railway ended.

    As you travel up Hwy 29, you will pass by Forthton on a large curve. To your left (west) you might see the old BW&SSM Forthton station, built in 1886, under renovation. However, if you blink, you will miss it.

    Arriving in Smiths Falls, make your way to the Smiths Falls Railway Museum http://www.sfrmeo.ca (if you've got kids, you might first want to make a side trip to the Hershey Chocolate factory and stock up on some chocolate bars (price is about 10 cents each)). This should be worth a couple of hours as you wander through the cabeese and station, take a look at 4-6-0 #1112 and Alco/MLW S-4 diesel, and a tour through the dental car. Perhaps they might have the handcar and speeder running that day.

    Next, make your way to the VIA station which has a nice bench for watching CP Rail's, VIA Rail's trains go by. There's usually a switcher or two switching cars in the yard. Around 1:30, 4:00, and 6:00 there's always some passing movements of the Ottawa-Toronto VIA trains as one comes off the VIA Smiths Falls sub, makes their way across the CP Rail tracks and onto CP Rail's Brockville sub (or visa-versa). CP Rail's XPressway usually arrives around 3:30 which makes for some interesting train movements with the VIA trains.

    From there, you can head into Ottawa to your digs. I would suggest heading to Ottawa via Merrickville for a visit to Larkspur Line - the best HO scale model railroad shop in Canada http://www.larkspurline-trains.com/ . Pat and Jeff Trew are always very helpful if you can't find what you're looking for. You also have the added benefit of seeing a bit more of CP Rail's Winchester sub and the beautiful double-tracked bridge over the Rideau River at Merrickville.

    If you're adventurous, you might try making your way down the back roads to Bedell which is just south of Kemptville. This is the junction with CP Rail's Winchester sub and their former Prescott sub. The Prescott sub is the former Bytown & Prescott Railway built in 1854 from Prescott to Ottawa.

    A trip to the Canada Science & Technology is a must http://www.imagescn.technomuses.ca/railways/index.cfm . As Mason Jar has mentioned, the Shay is usually running on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons (free rides). The train is operated by the guys from the Bytown Railway Society. Then there's the locomotive hall inside the CSTM which is a must, in addition to what's outside on the grounds.

    On Saturday morning, the boys from Bytown (that includes me) get together at the CSTM to work on their equipment (TNVR #10, CV steam crane and boom car and tender, CPR caboose, TNVR #27, CNR passenger car #4977, CNR baggage car, etc) http://www.bytownrailwaysociety.ca/equipment.htm . Simply follow the tracks back into the large building. Ask for me and I will show you what's hidden away.

    Ottawa Central Railway operates out of the Walkley Yard which is off of Hunt Club and Albion Roads. This is always a good place to see some Alco/MLW RS-18s. However, the place is under tight security so don't go wandering around.

    Then there's always Ottawa's O-Train - a real deal for a couple of bucks, VIA Rail's Ottawa Station where trains leave for Montreal or Toronto. Unfortunately, the Hull, Chelsea & Wakefield steam train has been sidelined for the summer due to a mud slide right next to the tracks. There are rumours of an impending deal which might see the train running again this fall.

    Of course, we haven't got to the Parliament buildings, the changing of the guard, the Rideau Canal, the other museums, the parks, the Ottawa River, and all the other sights that will keep the rest of the family very happy and very glad that they allowed you to take these side trips.

    As you gaze over the Ottawa River from the Peace Tower of the Parliament buildings, that beautiful bridge downstream to your right (east) is the Alexandra Bridge that carried trains across the Ottawa River from the Union Station located across the street from the Chateau Laurier. When you visit the War Museum, you will be travelling across the old Canada Central (CPR) and Canada Atlantic (CNR and JR Booth) railway yards. So, before you go, take a look at some of those old railway history books. You will be travelling right across where those photos were taken.

    Oh yes. One last thing. Your Canadian Trackside Guide published by the Bytown Railway Society. Don't leave home without it!

    Bob M.
  8. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Andrew! I'll check these websites then and I appreciate your help with this. The Ottawa Central sounds interesting. Cheers, Rob
  9. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    For some interesting history, you really should check out Bob's website (in his signature). Lots of interesting reads.

  10. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Andrew -- looking forward to this. Cheers, Rob
  11. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Bob! I'm especially looking forward to the Canada Museum of Science & Technology. I appreciate your feedback.

    Cheers, Rob

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