Ontario Railway Station Museums
Huntsville & Lake of Bays
Smiths Falls (Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario)
Stations as part of larger or other museums, or tourist railways
When the vast majority of Ontario communities lost their railway stations during the general abandonment of passenger service in the mid-20th century, most were demolished, many became private homes or sheds, some became restaurants or B&Bs, a few were retained by the railways in maintenance or operating capacities; many were put to civic use such as for a community or seniors' centre, library, art gallery, museum, tourist information office, chamber of commerce; or were/are in a succession or combination of such uses that may also have changed over time. Some, while serving in another capacity, have gone out of their way to retain some recognition of the building's former purpose, although they may not be, or may not describe themselves, as a "museum".
Others have become part of a tourist railway operation or are part of county or community museums with a wider focus than railway history, so are not "railway museums" as such, but have been preserved, and usually demonstrate some railway history, to illustrate the contribution the railway made to the community and the function of the station as a social hub in an age when the station was also a primary communication link with the outside world.
This record is anecdotal, often with a "snapshot" in a given point of time. It is not intended to be a catalog of surviving stations and the use to which they have been put, nor is it intended to be a directory of places to be visited with opening days and hours, but where there are additional sources of such information, this information will link it. Nor does this webpage set out to list and describe railway museums that are not housed in a station, such as at Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara, Fort Erie or St. Thomas. Additional contributions, corrections, suggestions and updates are certainly welcomed.
This commodious station has been jacked up on its original location to provide for a new and lasting foundation. The station consists of a former large general waiting room (now the local chamber of commerce office), the former agent's office (now the reception area), and a substantial baggage/freight room that now houses the Bancroft Gem & Mineral Club Mineral Museum. Mining was the original major commercial reason for the railway to come to Bancroft and area in the first place. The station's original major design features have been faithfully retained, including the tin ceiling of the waiting room - a feature commonly reminiscent of old-time department and village grocery stores, but somewhat rare in stations.
A small community memento of its railway past. The station is now a welcome centre and a railway museum. Not far away is the surviving water tank, and there is also a caboose on a nearby plinth that is being worked on.
The links above will guide you to a wealth of background information to this interesting combination "railway-local history-agriculture" museum. It is situated in and around one of the original remaining 1857-plus Grand Trunk Railway mainline stations through southern Ontario, its additional distinction being that while the others were built with limestone, this one was built with brick. I visited the Brighton station when it was still in service in the early 1960s, and did not see it again until a few years ago, when I came to visit what is now the museum in the station (still in its original location but fenced off from the continuous rail traffic) and the grounds. The railway history component is by far the largest of the three, and the outside equipment artefacts are an important component of the visit experience. When I visited, there was an entertaining and knowledgeable guided tour, but if you don't know what it is you're looking at, you definitely need to ask questions.
Note: This museum is privately-owned. Its owner, Mr. Ralph Bangay, is getting on in years and will not be able to carry on much longer. He would like to sell the property and inventory. Anyone interested in discussing this with him is invited to give him a call at 613.475.0379.
Now best known as the home of the Caledonia & District Chamber of Commerce, where years ago I received some most helpful information when I was working on my book Hamilton's Other Railway (oh, shameless plug), it has remained mindful of its railway history, and has preserved the waiting room with its original ambience, but with the added touch (just like the Owen Sound museum) of having a G scale train chug along way near the ceiling. To my chagrin, when I took the following pictures, I had to do so through the window because the station was closed that day, and I wasn't exactly in a position to come back..
The Collingwood Museum building is a remarkable story of the town's remembrance of its railway heritage, in that the museum building itself is an excellent replica of the original Northern Railway of Canada Frederic Cumberland station design, built in 1873 to replace Collingwood's first Ontario, Simcoe & Huron Union Rail Road station. In 1932 the second station suffered a grievous fire, so that only the centre portion survived and continued to serve as Collingwood's station until the end of passenger service. When the building was being considered for a post-railway existence, it was discovered that the ravages of the 1932 fire made this unwise, with the result that the original remnant of the Cumberland building was then demolished (1997), to be resurrected with the creation of a magnificent replica that stands in the same location as the original building, officially opened on September 19, 1998. From a railway history perspective, the museum does acknowledge, and displays artefacts of, the railway era; but its stronger focus is on Collingwood's marine history. Its real acknowledgment of Collingwood's railway history is the building itself, and the display of boxcars adjacent to the museum's "railside".
The history of this charming survivor of the railway age is well-penned as per the links above.
I had the privilege of visiting it several years ago, and was struck by the graceful blending of its railway history in the cosy space of a small station, with its role today as a heritage and interpretation centre.
When lumbering started to fade in the 1950s, Haliburton had the remarkable foresight to reinvent itself (taking advantage of the natural asset of the beauty of the Highlands) into a centre for the arts, whose renown has spread far and away. In 1980, the station building, now owned by Haliburton County, became the very visible hub of that ongoing transformation right in Haliburton itself, as the home of the Rails End Gallery. While it is an art galley and not a museum, it deserves inclusion here because of its respect for the station's role in the area's former railway-based life and economy. A Grand Trunk Railway rebuild in 1901 of the original predecessor station, it was a of a standard tri-partite general waiting room, agent's office and baggage/freight room design. Out on the street-side there is also a CNR steel boxcar; and at the entrance to a beautiful waterfront park that was once the railway lands and now hosts many civic outdoor functions including an annual art festival sponsored by the host gallery, there is a CNR caboose that serves as the town's information office. A little bit further down the rail trail near where it crosses County Road 21, CNR Consolidation-type 2-8-0 No. 2616 that used to be a regular engine on the Haliburton run, is now well-preserved on a plinth.
This museum is a remarkable memento to the bygone Portage Flyer, consisting not only of a working re-enactment of that short portage railway, with much original equipment, but also having in the replica station a good collection of railway memorabilia. Two old Porter locomotives that once did duty on the original railway still provide the motive power, assisted by a 25 ton diesel switcher on their "off-duty" days. The railway is on the 3 ft 6 in gauge. A most worthwhile outing and a delightful revival experience of that unique and quirky little railway. Not to be missed.
For more detail on the historical model railway, go to Prototype Modelling.
Like Haliburton's station, Kinmount (also dating from 1901) is a Grand Trunk Railway re-build on the site of the original station. As for most former country stations, the building consists of a waiting room (which now serves as a tourist information office); the agent's office, that continues to be restored to its former function as the primary museum component; and the baggage room, that has housed the historical model railway since 1996. Featured are a variety of artifacts from the railway era and various interpretative pictures and maps. In 2014, the museum and model railway were placed under the management of the Kinmount Committee for Planning & Economic Development. Click here for a summary of the prior volunteer group's tenure. At the same time, both the model railway and the museum exhibits were placed under plexiglass protection for static viewing throughout the week. Open hours during the tourist season, reportedly Saturdays 10 to 4, and long weekend Sundays and Canada Day from noon to 3.
There was a time when I used to drive down the 401 past London way all the time, and I kept saying - "gotta make a detour and drop in on the Komoka Railway Museum". Well, to my regret, I never did, but I have a friend who did stop by, and took some pictures. It sure looks like a dandy museum with some interesting preserved equipment, such as a 1913 Shay logging locomotive, a pre-WWII 70 ft CNR baggage car, a GT&W caboose, and a Canadian National Railways 1979 GMC-Grumman Hi-Railer. Among the artefacts there is the usual wealth of railroadiana, but including an impressive collection of lanterns and a velocipede (an old-time track inspection vehicle before the better-remembered jiggers or latter-day speeders [and there is one of those there too]).
OWEN SOUND (CNR)
Owen Sound is one of those fortunate towns to have been able to hang onto its railway stations. The former CNR station has been the Owen Sound Marine & Rail Museum (and combo tourist information office) for a number of years, and has been a natural steady attraction for visitors at its waterside location on the west side of the harbour, with its attractively redesigned station area. Imagine then a proposal to take it all apart and despatch the artefacts to the Grey Roots Archive & Museum in Owen Sound's hinterland. No disrespect, but it would be difficult to imagine the same appeal and tourist attraction buzz compared to where it is. After all, a marine and rail museum would seem to be a lot more relevant close to where the action was - sort of a "no-brainer"? So to make an apparently long story short, some far-sighted citizens cobbled together the Community Waterfront Heritage Centre, and thankfully the museum lives on - so do drop in, enjoy and drop some bucks into the donation box - in the railway museum domain that's always a tangible show of support, but it's especially deserved here. The museum has an interesting worthwhile combination of marine and railway history that is well worth a visit.
Among all the former CNR Ontario division points, Palmerston can point proudly to an impressive commemoration of its railway past as a very busy junction point, by dint of much volunteer and civic support. The beautifully restored station and the preserved station area including that of the storied walkway across the many former diverging railway tracks beg for a top spot among railway history outings.
(Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario)
This museum boasts a graciously-restored station building and interior, with a variety of artefacts; and an extensive equipment collection.
Well worth a visit.
The York-Durham Heritage Railway.
This for-the-Grand-Trunk-Railway-rare witch's hat station that replaced the original pioneer Toronto & Nipissing Railway station in 1904, is at the northern terminus of the YDHR tourist railway. The former ladies' waiting room serves as a meeting room for the local Business Improvement Area (BIA), and the general waiting and baggage rooms serve as office, waiting room and museum for the YDHR.
The above links provide most interesting background information, with particular reference to the magnificent ceilings. The Wiarton station does not advertise itself as a museum, but as a tourist information centre and a heritage-designated building. Built by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1904 to replace an earlier station, it was formerly located at George and Claude Streets, and moved to nearby Bluewater Park in its retirement. A pavilion has been added there in place of the original adjoining freight shed. The building design is unique with its two distinctive turrets, and unusually for a smaller station, consisted of a ladies' waiting room, a general waiting room and the agent's office. It is the centrepiece of the park, and a visit is well worthwhile for its architectural aesthetics, even if one is not a railway history buff.