“I never even knew such a place existed in the North!” (Little One, aged 7 in reference to the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum & Heritage Centre)
I have to be honest. Living in Northern Ontario for the past twelve years, I’ve only really made Sudbury trips for either doctor’s appointments, running errands, or just spending the day off-island. Sudbury has always just been a day trip for me. Drive two hours, do what I need to do, and then drive back home. If I happen to do something fun with the family, it is usually enjoying a little spa treatment at Glama Gals, catching a movie at the movie theatre or spending the day at Science North.
Northern Ontario Railroad Museum
No one ever told me about a hidden gem that is just outside Sudbury! Located in Capreol, is the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre, and it is definitely worth the drive.
You have to understand that my little family absolutely loves history, science, technology, and packing as much info into our brains as we can. Both my husband and our seven year-old daughter have a penchant for trivia. In fact, the more information they can acquire, the better! They’re both like walking encyclopedias.
When we learned about the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum, I could see the excitement in my husband’s eyes. This is the kind of place he enjoys visiting.
Trains, trains, trains!
It was probably just me, but signage was a bit lacking. We plugged the address into our GPS, and we were good to go.
When we arrived at the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum, I was amazed by the Victorian style house built in 1916. Inside, the exhibits pay tribute to the region’s rich lumber, mining, and railroading heritage.
Little One has an insatiable appetite for history and was reading as many of the write-ups, notes, and signs as possible. Lumber, mining, and railroading are all things that are so far removed from her understanding of the world. She was interested to learn about the importance of railroads in Canada’s history.
Being able to see the trains and go into the cars was like being transported into the past.
If you know a history buff or anyone who loves trains, Northern Ontario Railroad Museum is a must visit destination in Northern Ontario. I am actually surprised that I had never heard of it before. I firmly believe that this should be a destination for schools to bring students of all ages, and for parents to bring their families to.
Rules Instruction Car # 15019
Little One’s favourite part of the exhibit was the Rules Instruction Car. Originally built by Pullman Standard in 1912 for the ICR and named “Stratacona”, it was built as 10-2 sleeper and operated in passenger service. It was later configured as a rules instruction car.
We were interested to learn that J.G. Madigan, one of the instructors, taught in this car. In one half of the car were his living quarters, complete with kitchen, bedroom, dining room, living room and bathroom while the classroom was located in the other.
After its service as a Rules Instruction Car was no longer required, it was renovated and used as a public library in Gogama, Ontario. In the early eighties the Town of Capreol acquired and restored the car for Prescott Park, where it is currently on display.
Today the museum has the Rules Instruction Car on display as a School Car. The School Cars in Northern Ontario were an important part of bringing education to isolated areas. CNR School Car #1 ran out of Capreol for 41 years.
When you go into the car, you see how it is displayed to replicate what it would have been like during that time. Little One was fascinated by all the items displayed. She said it was like “living history”. She thought it would be exciting to have a train come to one’s village and teach children in there, assign homework, and then move on to the next town.
The Heritage Centre
Continue your journey back in time with a trip to the Heritage Centre. My husband is a history buff, so he really enjoyed the artifacts and displays. Our little one was in awe of the items she saw. She was surprised at how people washed their clothing before washing machines were invented. She was also fascinated by the old baby buggies and bicycles on display. “Wow! Mom, times sure have changed!”
Little One was so intrigued by the history of the Capreol Jail. Of course, some jail photos are mandatory!
In the basement of the Heritage Centre building, you can find Capreol’s original jail cells. The building used to be the fire hall, police station, and make-shift ambulance bay. When it was the police station, the police station was located downstairs. Police officers would bring people in from the back back door so they were out of sight of the public.
Capreol is a very small town, so there were only two jail cells. They were rarely ever both full at once. The jail cells just had a bed, a bowl and a toilet in each. If the jail cells were ever both full, the superintendent of the police system at the time actually had jail cells in his basement that they would actually bring people to.
I wondered how old the jail was, but didn’t catch the exact date it was built, but our guide said it definitely existed before the ’30s and the ‘4os. When we walked down the stairs, we saw that there were stables on the side. It was a long time before Capreol had motorized vehicles, so horses were used. There were stables around the back of the building.
The museum took over the building in 2011 and they have been developing and showing to the public ever since.
The Model Train Exhibit
If you’ve got little (or big) train lovers, the model train exhibit is a must see. We were told that the exhibit is not yet completed, but it is quite impressive nonetheless.
If you are interested in history and learning more about the rich railway history of Northern Ontario, the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum is a must visit destination for your family. Our family enjoyed going back in time and learning more about the School on Wheels, and how the town of Capreol, the City of Sudbury played a role in the history and economy of this part of Canada.
Disclosure – This is a sponsored post written in collaboration with Sudbury Tourism. All thoughts and opinions expressed on this blog are honest and my own.