Loud whistles, screeching brakes, whooshing steam – as a railway fan I love anything and everything about trains. Over the past few years I’ve jumped aboard almost every unforgettable rail adventure this province has to offer – from riding in an authentic streetcar and learning about Alberta’s legendary railway history to spending the night in a stationary caboose.
So when you’re ready to ride the rails, be sure to check out eight of my favourite summer adventures!
Ride into History
In Calgary’s Heritage Park you’ll visit a 1910 prairie railway town where you can circle the park on a 1.6 km (1 mi) track behind one of their two steam engines – then explore the narrow-gauge line, working turntable, water tower and roundhouse.
At Fort Edmonton Park, admission includes unlimited rides on their 1919 Baldwin Steam Train from the station to the reconstructed 1846 trading fort. You can also board original Edmonton streetcars for a free trip to the penny arcade and tea at the hotel.
For a panoramic view of our capital city hop on the High Level Streetcar – a shining 1913 car that chugs along the top of Edmonton’s High Level Bridge, one of the highest river crossings in the world.
Ride across the Prairie
Experience the days of the Wild West on a steam train excursion under big skies on Alberta Prairie Railway’s daylong adventure from Stettler. Listen to live music and watch the sweeping prairie from an open-air car – but keep one eye on the horizon for notorious horseback-riding robbers that regularly hold up this train (all for fun and a good cause, of course). When you arrive in Big Valley, dig into a first-rate country dinner and then explore the old west boardwalk, railway station museum and interpretive centre in a historic roundhouse.
Get Onboard at a Museum
You can climb right up into most of the 75 trains and cars at Edmonton’s Alberta Railway Museum. Be sure to take a ride on the century-old engine, which chuffs up to the wooden platform with a grand whistle that kids love. Then ride back and forth past engines, cabooses, cars and cranes to decide which ones you’ll climb around first.
Wait for your train in an old country station at the Alberta Central Railway Museum near Wetaskiwin. After riding the 1.6 km (1 mi) loop in a first-class car from 1926, you’ll learn how trains and grain elevators worked together, watch a 1930s rail yard scale model and explore their collection of heavy cars, freights and cabooses.
Bunk down in a caboose
Take a railway-themed long weekend getaway to Aspen Crossing in Mossleigh, an hour southeast of Calgary. Sleep in a caboose cabin, take a 3.25-hour rail tour and have dinner in their 1887 Pullman dining car. The site also offers camping, dinner theatre and a gift shop in a train station.
Or head an hour southeast of Edmonton to the caboose cabins at Footloose Caboose. On your way to breakfast or dinner in the 1909 Mount Lefroy dining car, wander through their colourful little train yard garden and collections.