Most children seem to go through a train fascination stage. Whether it's Thomas or Chuggington, or just an excitement whenever you get stopped at the train crossing, there's something about those engines that children adore.
Luckily Halifax has plenty to choo-choo-choose from for these kids, both in the city and within about an hour of the city limits.
This is on our list for this year. It's chock full of information and artefacts for the adult history buffs, along with an extensive working model train set. It is a detailed replica of the railway from French Village, where the Train Station Bike and Bean (see below) sits now, all the way to Liverpool, with stops all along with way in places like Hubbards, Chester Basin and Lunenburg. They've even created accurate reproductions of the buildings and towns surrounding the tracks!
The main train station in Halifax is open for anyone to take a wander through and watch travellers coming and going. Check out the schedule at the link above to see when the trains arrive and depart so you can time your visit to get a peek at the engines. You can also look at the route and pick a spot along the way to grab a picnic and then wave at the train and its passengers as it chugs by.
For the last couple years VIA has hosted a "All Aboard for Safety Day" where they have public exhibits, such a model trains and lego sets, and let families check out the trains; once they even had free short rides! Keep an eye out for this event (usually in April) and mark it on your calendar. They also often offer cheap tickets for kids in the summer so you could take a day trip on the train to Truro where you could visit the Victoria Park playground ...only catch is that it doesn't return until the next day so you'd have to have someone meet you to drive you home, or stay overnight in the hub.
If you haven't been to visit this passenger-carrying model railway yet, put it on your must-see list for this summer. Operated entirely by volunteers, it's open only a few select days (weather permitting) but you can actually RIDE ON these steam and diesel engines. We took a visit a couple years ago and wrote a post about it here. Pssst, they also host birthday parties!
This darling spot in Tantallon may not have any real trains going through any more, but it's set on a Rails to Trails track and is a coffee shop and bike shop in an old train station. The storage area for the bike shop is in a caboose attached to the train station. A great way to explore the exterior of a train and enjoy the ambiance of sitting by an old rail trail and pretending you're waiting for the train to come in.
Pier 21 is jam-packed full of history and many of the immigrants who landed here by boat then boarded a train to other places in Canada. Outside of the museum sits a train car that can be explored from the outside and inside they have a replica of a train car that people can sit in and pretending they're travelling the rails to a new home. Here's our review of what little kids will enjoy about this museum.
On the first floor of the IWK, at the South Street entrance, you'll find an amazing model railway set. It's full of fun surprises for the kids including interactive elements for the children to engage with the railway. Volunteers operate it so while it's there 24/7, the trains are only running from Monday to Friday from 9:00am-11:00am .
Another must-see for us this year is a day trip to Tatamagouche to check out the Tatamagouche Road Train and the Train Station Inn and Dining Car. This little town knows trains and a combination of a ride on the road train, plus lunch at the dining car off of their junior conductor menu (and maybe even sleeping in a car overnight!!) would be heaven to any train loving kids.
Bonus train activity!
Since we wrote this post Halifax has acquired a seasonal road train of its own like the Tatamagouche Road Train that travels around the downtown core - find its schedule at halifaxroadtrain (dot) ca but give them a call first to be sure they're operating to avoid disappointment.
Have you been to any of these? Do you know of any other great train adventures that we haven't heard about yet? Leave them in the comments for others to see!