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Hop Aboard The 6 Best Train Attractions In Canada

This post was updated on March 15th, 2024

Train travel—just hearing those two words brings up images of romance and adventure.

Canada’s love affair with trains started in the 1800s when a wood-burning steam locomotive rumbled its way out of a railyard in the Province of Quebec to the sound of a cheering crowd.

Who could have predicted that 50 years later the whole country would be connected by a network of rails spanning from the Atlantic Ocean on the East Coast to the Pacific Ocean in the West?

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Passing train. Photo by Travis Nep Smith/Flickr

The “Last Spike” was driven in 1885 and Canada was on its way to becoming the nation it is today. At the time, this was the largest railway in the world and it played a significant role in the development of Canada, the world’s 2nd largest country.

The Last Spike
The Last Spike – photo courtesy of Dave Bolenbaugh/Flickr

Without the trains, it was almost impossible for anyone except the hardiest to travel across the wide expanse of this country, especially during the extremely cold winter months.  It was exciting times.

Train travel is even more important today

Trains are still an intricate part of Canada’s transportation system with more rail cars being put on the tracks every day, hauling almost everything and anything a person can think of from one part of the country to another.

This wouldn’t be possible today if it wasn’t for those early wood and coal burning locomotives and the hard work of those who actually laid the tracks and built the railway.

Over the years, these old trains were often left neglected and forgotten as the newer and more modern trains arrived making trains more economical and easier to operate.

Thank goodness many organizations and people who love train travel were able to save many of these historic trains and restored them to their original glory. They still rumble their way across the rails but in a more conservative manner.

Visitors to many parts of Canada can enjoy many museums and monuments dedicated to train travel in Canada and actually ride on some of these lovingly restored artifacts.

1. Kamloops Heritage Railway

Time travel actually exists! Step back into time and ride the cars being pulled by the historic steam locomotive 2141 where anything can happen.

Kamloops Heritage Railway. Photo by Andrew Bowden/Flickr
Kamloops Heritage Railway. Photo by Andrew Bowden/Flickr

Wine tours, Halloween haunts, dance hall girls, and be extra careful—because Bill Miner, the famous local outlaw might be planning another train robbery. There’s always something going on at the Kamloops Heritage Railway in Central British Columbia.

2. The Canadian Railway Museum (Quebec)

Located in Quebec, this museum has the largest collection of railway equipment in Canada.

Canadian Railway Museum. Photo by fraccle/Wikipedia

There are over 140+ pieces of rolling stock and over 250,000 pieces of history and documents pertaining to Canada’s railway history and train travel.

3. BC Forestry Discovery Centre

This Vancouver Island Discovery Centre is in Duncan and chronicles the history of logging in British Columbia with many reconstructed displays and buildings.

Train Travel
Historic Train Travel – BC Forestry Discovery Centre – photo courtesy of CarolAnn Quibell

The heritage railway is pulled through the living museum by a fully restored steam locomotive and is just one of many locomotives on display. Children love riding the train over the trestle, past the sawmill and other exhibits along the way.

4. Nelson Electric Tramway

These two heritage streetcars located in Nelson were the first to operate as a heritage railway in British Columbia.

Historic Baker Street in Nelson, BC By Don Weixl - National Scenic Byways Program -wikimedia
Historic Baker Street in Nelson, BC By Don Weixl – National Scenic Byways Program – Wikimedia
Don Weixl, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The original streetcar system operated here starting from 1899 to 1949 and now operates seasonally to carry tourists along the beautiful waterfront.

5. Prairie Dog Central Railway

Four hours on a heritage train can be an exciting experience and if that’s what a person is looking for then this is the place to be.

Prairie Dog Central Railway courtesy of Linsdell, Flickr
Prairie Dog Central Railway courtesy of Linsdell, Flickr

Its station is a Federal Heritage Site located near Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Visitors say it’s more than just a train ride. Watch out for the cowboys and cowgirls—they’re about to rob the train from their horses. Bonnie and Clyde have been known to target this train as well.

Train Travel - train robbery
Train Robbery! Photo courtesy of Robert Linsdell, Flickr

6. Southern Prairie Railway

In Southern Saskatchewan, visitors can experience train travel as the early settlers and pioneers did.

There’s even a pioneer village with 30 historic buildings, and for those interested in antique machinery and artifacts there are thousands here for you to enjoy.

Historic Train Travel
Historic Train Travel. Photo courtesy of Peter Broster, Flickr
Peter Broster, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Train travel still continues to be romantic and adventuresome. There are many opportunities to ride a train in Canada whether its regular passenger service across the prairies, one of the luxury trains through the Rockies, or by having a fun experience on one of the many heritage trains.

Coming to Canada?  Learn more about crossing the border

2 thoughts on “Hop Aboard The 6 Best Train Attractions In Canada”

  1. Bob, I wish I could have included every historic railways there are – I just didn’t have room but am glad you brought this to our attention. Appreciate it.

  2. You really missed a great ride, that travels from Yukon, through the northwest tip of BC and to Skagway Alaska (and vice versa of course). The White Pass and Yukon Route historic train (from around 1900) serviced the tail end of the Klondike Gold Rush (to get people and stuff over the forbidding White Pass) and then serviced other mines well into the last century. It now operates as a tourist train with period cars and traverses some amazing mountain and water scenery. Primary clients are Alaska cruise ship passengers but of course anyone is welcome, and the trip can be done in pieces if desired, as on-route stations offer bus returns. If you are travelling by RV, the road trip that goes between Carcross, Yukon (the northern terminus) and Skagway, Alaska (southern terminus) is one of the most scenic (and un=populated) trips you’ll ever come across.

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