As far as childhood fascinations go, Thomas the Train ranks up there as one of the few characters that has truly stood the test of time. The little blue train and his faithful crew of friends have been delighting kids since the original stories were first published in 1945.
As captivating as the series’ books, shows and toys are, there’s nothing like watching the look of awe that lights up a child’s face when they have their first encounter with a life-size train. Why not make tracks this summer for some real-life train time? Here are seven fun suggestions that train fans of all ages will adore.
Halton County Radial Railway
The Halton County Radial Railway (HCRR) is Ontario's first and largest electric railway museum.
Its collection features historic electric railcars including streetcars, locomotives, freight trains, passenger trains and more. Admission includes unlimited historic streetcar rides on two kilometers of scenic track with a stop at the museum’s famous ice cream shop, as well as access to the grounds, display barns and the historic Rockwood Station. There’s also an on-site gift shop stocked with unique railway-inspired finds and tasty treats.
Book lovers won’t want to miss the museum’s special Family Day on August first. Jane Mullis, author of Paul the Pigeon, will be on-site doing readings and book signings, and other special activities will be planned for that day.
Hamilton Museum of Steam & Technology Golden Horseshoe Live Steamer Days
Train fans will get a true sense of the power of steam at this National Historic Site. Housed in a historic waterworks, Hamilton Museum of Steam & Technology has lovingly preserved two 70-ton steam engines that are believed to be the oldest surviving Canadian-built engines. While the guided tours, exhibits and various special events are interesting, the museum’s Golden Horseshoe Live Steamer Days held from May through October are a definite can’t-miss for train lovers of all stripes. These special days feature miniature steam engines that visitors can actually catch a ride behind and free guided tours of the museum. This year’s Live Steamer Days are being held from 11 am – 4 pm on June 12th, July 3rd, July 24th, August 14th, August 28th and September 11th.
Hamilton Waterfront Trolley Tour
Head to the Hamilton Waterfront for a fun and educational trolley ride that will take you along 12 kilometres of scenic shoreline past active marine and rail operations, marinas, and historic bridges. Forty-seven Discovery Drive is a great starting and ending point for the ride, which lasts just under an hour. When you’re done, stop by Williams Fresh Café or Waterfront Scoops Ice Cream Parlour for a treat.
Puddicombe Farm and Estate Winery
For a more rural ride, stop in at Puddicombe Farm in Winona, where you can hop on board and enjoy a train ride through fruit fields. Leave time to pick your own fresh in-season fruit, including sweet and sour cherries, blueberries, apples, pears and pumpkins. Thrill your tried-and-true train lovers with an overnight stay in the farm’s very own caboose! The air-conditioned Country Caboose sleeps three and has a fully equipped kitchen and three-piece bathroom.
African Lion Safari
For a train ride that will make you think you’re in the African Savannah, don’t miss African Lion Safari's Nature Boy Scenic Railway. The historic train is pulled throughout the 16-hectare reserve by a miniature replica of an 1863 C.P. Huntington Steam engine, past exotic species from around the world, wild animals and birds native to southern Ontario. The 15-minute ride is included with park admission.
Westfield Heritage Village
Treat train lovers to some time travel with a visit to Westfield Heritage Village in Rockton. Step inside the historic Jerseyville Railway Station, which was built in 1896 when ten trains a day ran between Hamilton and Brantford. It’s also the same station that was featured in the Anne of Green Gables movie and the Road to Avonlea television series. Be sure to get some pictures with the TH&B 103 Locomotive that’s also on display in the Village. This steam locomotive was originally built in Montreal for the Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway and is one of only two that has been preserved.
For a sweet treat, plan your trip on July 31st or August 1st, when Westfield will be hosting its annual Ice Cream Carnival. Watch hand-cranked ice cream making demonstrations, enjoy samples and take part in Edwardian games. The Village will also host another great event on Sunday, September 18th called Telling Tales: A Family Festival of Stories. The Festival celebrates Canada’s leading children’s writers and illustrators with author readings, live entertainment, a book swap and more.
Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail
If you’d like to retrace the route that the old locomotive from Westfield Heritage Village used to cover on the Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway, load up your bikes and spend a few hours riding the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail. The former rail line is now a scenic 32-km trail surfaced with stone dust.
Having trouble deciding which of these stops to hit? Take advantage of area hotel offers and spend the night so you can combine a few different outings.Don’t keep your train-themed travel all to yourself this summer. Share photos of your favourite adventures on social media and tag them with #HamiltonHaltonBrant or #HHBdaytrip. We can’t wait to “track” all the fun you find.