There’s just something about the romance of train travel that seems to attract everyone, young and old. Whether you’re looking for a fun afternoon with the family or an epic wilderness adventure, there are plenty of options in Ontario.
Credit Valley Explorer Train Tour
Take a scenic train ride from Orangeville to Snelgrove and back. Take in the beautiful forested hills of Caledon as you make your way past charming villages, including Alton and Inglewood. Afternoon trips last about three hours, although, some days, there are longer trips which include lunch as well. A particularly great time to climb aboard is during fall colour season.
South Simcoe Railway
Step back to the roaring 20s in this historic passenger coach as it traverses the Beeton Creek Valley. This roundtrip guided tour departs from Tottenham. Note that there are no washrooms aboard, so families are particularly encouraged to take the time to use the facilities in Tottenham. In addition to the typical scenic train rides, there are themed journeys at Easter, Hallowe’en, and Christmas.
Waterloo Central Railway
This gentle diesel-train trip is perfect for families looking to explore the charming shops and bakeries of St. Jacobs, rural town of Elmira (home to the famed maple syrup festival) and the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market (one of the most famous agricultural markets in the province and a chance to glimpse the Old Order Mennonite way of life).
Halton County Radial Railway
This museum boasts an eclectic assortment of vintage vehicles, including Toronto streetcars and trains from a variety of eras. Take historic streetcar rides, visit the barns where the vehicles live, and pick up an ice cream at the gift shop.
The Portage Flyer
The visitors who flock to Muskoka each summer enjoy this classic team train with its open-sided coaches. At Fairy Lake, passengers watch as a manual turntable reverses the engine for the return trip. Departing from the Muskoka Heritage Place (and its rail museum), this is a lovely way to spend a summer’s day. At only 30 minutes, the trip is accessible for even the youngest of travellers.
York-Durham Heritage Rail
This 40-minute train ride from Stouffville to Uxbridge is perfect for kids. There are plenty of themed events on board throughout the year, including fall foliage, Father’s Day, teddy bear day, Christmas, and Day Out with Thomas. There’s also an ‘engineer for the day’ package where children or adults can get a full day sense of what running a train is all about.
Port Stanley Terminal Rail
The London-Port Stanley railway line was built in 1856 to carry freight, but by the middle of the twentieth-century, daytrippers were the main cargo. Eventually, disuse and disrepair threatened the line, but railway enthusiasts rallied to repair the rail bed and tracks, and the line now carries visitors as far as the nearby village of Union. This diesel-electric engine pulls a green, converted freight car and caboose. The hour-long journey begins near the King George Lift Bridge and passes moored pleasure craft and suburbs before heading out into farmland. The conductor provides informative and entertaining descriptions of the landmarks along the way -- bridges, golf courses, abandoned stations. At the end of the trip, the one-room station in Union displays photographs on the history of the rail line. The train operates Saturdays and Sundays, with occasional special event runs and evening mystery tours.
Agawa Canyon Tour Train
This once-in-a-lifetime experience takes visitors into the heart of the untouched wilderness of Agawa Canyon. Only accessible by train, this region boasts the kind of postcard wildlife, forests, and rivers Northern Ontario is famous for. There’s a day option from Sault Ste Marie, including the 500-foot descent to the canyon floor and a stop for lunch to take advantage of hiking trails. However, it’s highly recommended that guests take the option of spending more time in the area with two- and three-night packages. This train runs from June through October, with autumn colours being a big draw (so book early).
Polar Bear Express
Moosonee is Ontario’s most northern community and is only accessible by the commuter train, the Polar Bear Express. With a population that is 98% First Nations, this is a great chance to see what life is like for this community as well as visit the neighbouring Moose Factory (a boat ride away). The James Bay area is also known for amazing wildlife and birdwatching opportunities that outdoor lovers won’t want to miss. The train journey is five hours each way, so planning to stay overnight typically makes sense.
Sudbury to White River
Taking travellers between Sudbury and White River (home to the original Winnie the Pooh), this train trip runs three times a week and is particularly popular during early October for the breath taking foliage. The trip is a long one – about 500 km and over 9 hours from Sudbury to White River – so you’ll want to book accommodations.