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Love trains? Then come fall in love with Cranbrook’s Canadian Museum of Rail Travel

Written by Michele Leyenaar
Edited by Joanne Elves

Dining Car, featuring beautiful upholstery and oak inlay, Canadian Museum of Rail Travel at the Cranbrook History Centre Photo: Janice Strong


Stepping inside the Cranbrook History Centre, you are instantly stepping into another era. Lavender walls are covered with artifacts and pictures of the past. There is also the original massive 2-storey, oak carved fireplace that once adorned the dining room of the Royal Alexandra Hotel in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Immediately you get a sense of the glory and grandeur of the era. The entrance is a fully restored rendering of parts of the original building highlighting its use from 1906-1971 with emphasis on railway design, art and architecture.

The Grand Café, Royal Alexandra Hall: Photo Tony Fisher

Rail enthusiastic hosts will guide you through the museum into the portion of the building that represents a large railway station and into rooms that highlight the luxurious hotels in larger centres that were attached to the train stations. Further on, there is a complete lineup of 28 rail cars that would have, hypothetically, serviced the station and hotel. The Canadian Museum of Rail Travel is the largest in North America.

Once inside the hall, the museum has the opulent Grand Café to the left which can be rented for weddings and is quite popular for Mother’s Day tea and Christmas parties. Needless to say, it’s a sight to see.

There are mannequins adorned in authentic gowns of different eras of train travel that demonstrate how train travel and their opulent hotels were regarded as something for the wealthy.

The grand piano, which is much smaller by today’s standard is displayed and is only used for special functions played by a select few top musicians.

As you exit the hall onto the rail platform the deluxe trains of different eras are lined up. Take time to stroll through some of the cars to see the Art Nouveau elegance of the 1900’s and the executive night cars of the late 1920’s. Make sure to see the Strathcona which has seen many VIPs including Queen Elizabeth II and Sir Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England of the 1950’s.

Track 1: The Millionaires’ Special

Track 2: Early Trains Deluxe and Interpretive Cars

Track 3: Cars-of-State and Streamlined Trains

Fine dining, for “invite-only” guests and strictly reserved for Railway Executives, Royalty and Statesmen. Photo: Michele Leyenaar

As the museum sets out to find and gather pieces of railcars, art and architecture of Canadian railway design, they will continue to offer more glimpses into Canada’s past giving visitors a real sense of what it was like to live and travel during those times.

One thing is for certain: the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel is exceptional. The work involved in restoration is phenomenal to say the least.

Nickel plated sinks are quite something. Photo: Michele Leyenaar

The Cranbrook History Centre’s hours of operation and other information can be found HERE