The Smiths Falls train museum is one of the coolest places to visit in Lanark County near Ottawa. You can even sleep in a real caboose!
Our family is all about unique accommodations. Whether it’s cool glamping spots or wild, themed hotels, if it’s a little whacky and out there it will catch our attention. We love places to stay that have a story and a passion behind them. During our recent visit to Smiths Falls, Ontario, we discovered one of the neatest little hideaways ever. At the Smiths Falls Railway Museum, we slept in a genuine 1950s train car.
We’ve slept in some neat places. There was the star-wars-themed Airbnb in Orlando Florida, the wild glamping spot in Prince Edward County, and even hanging spheres in Quebec, but our train hotel in Smiths Falls was the most authentic historical experience of any of them.
We’ve been to plenty of incredible train displays throughout our travels. There are the impressive engines at the Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa or the antique wood-fired trains we saw near Puerto Madryn in Argentina. But actually stepping back in time to live as the railroaders did 100 years ago was something completely new.
The Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario
The Smiths Falls Railway Museum is a must for any train enthusiast. This sprawling, 10-acre property encompasses the old Smiths Falls train terminal and houses loads of antique train engines, passenger cars, dining cars, and yes, even two authentic cabooses and an original dentist’s car that you can sleep in.
But these cool accommodations aren’t all that make the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario one of the coolest places to visit in Smiths Falls. The entire museum experience is like walking through one of the wildest restoration projects you can imagine.
The Smiths Falls train station has been impeccably restored after being left in a near-condemned state in the 1980s. Visitors now would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the experience now, and one from the station’s heyday in the 1930s. Everything has been immaculately restored or re-built by the museum’s team of passionate volunteers.
Throughout the train museum in Smiths Falls, you’ll find similar projects that have seen extensive restoration. The caboose and dentist’s car Airbnbs on the property are among them. Others, including an elegant dining car, a 1950s snow plow, and several passenger cars are continuing to be restored to their original elegance.
The staff at the Eastern Ontario Railway Museum are also working on a train car that houses a scale model the Smiths Falls miniatures capture the life along the railway during the 1950s and will be an awesome addition to an already great attraction for train-lovers.
Among some of the other displays are two massive train engines. One is a hundred-year-old steam engine that is still used for some of the Smiths Falls train museums themed events, the other is a Canadian National diesel engine that is believed to be the last engine to run through the famous Brockville Tunnel.
Not all the trains in Smiths Falls are on display at all times. When we visited, the dining car was being restored with plans to make it a fully-functioning luxury dining experience. That should add a new level of elegance to this classic railway experience.
Staying Overnight At The Smiths Falls Train Museum
I won’t sugar-coat what staying overnight at the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario is like. The team who restores these train cars are passionate about authenticity. These Smiths Falls accommodations are as close to what you would have experienced in historic train travel as possible. In fact, Tony Humphrey, one of the restorers, who also sits on the museum’s board, was a former railroad engineer who has driven the classic steam engine for years, also used to sleep in a caboose very similar to the ones at the museum when he overnighted in Montreal. And as he said it: “The experience is just like I remember it, although the mattresses are more comfortable.” It turns out that during his time on the railroad, the mattresses were normally stuffed with horsehair. I can vouch that they have been greatly improved since then.
There are 3 trains set up as hotel rooms at the museum. Visitors can choose from a 1940s wooden Canadian Pacific Railway caboose, a 1960s steel Canadian National Railway caboose, or, what is believed to be the last remaining authentic dentists car in Canada.
The two cabooses both have three beds and can sleep up to three people. They both have an upper viewing deck that can be accessed with views of the trainyard. The open concept of the train design makes the insides nice and breezy on a warm night.
If you have a family of 4, you may want to consider the classic dentist’s car. This car was used by the northern railway to supply dental services to communities in Northern Ontario. Not only does it include a full bed for parents, but has two separate single rooms for the kids. The train car was a fully-functioning dentist’s office and accommodation. It comes complete with an operation room, x-ray machine, office space, and living area. If you’re a combination train and dentist lover, you’re never going to find a room more perfect for you in the world.
The main room in the dentist’s car is the only room on the property that has air conditioning. We visited when temperatures were approaching the mid-30s Celsius (95f) and the train was hot and stuffy. Where the caboose has a nice breeze, the labyrinthian design of the dentist’s car doesn’t promote airflow.
The Amenities At The Eastern Ontario Railway Museum
While the train cars at the Smiths Falls train museum are straight out of the early 1900s, you’ll still have access to modern amenities to make your sleeping train experience a comfortable one. There is WiFi available on the property and all rooms have electricity and lighting. Although I’ll admit, on our stay the electricity and lighting were spotty at best, so come prepared with a flashlight. Fresh linens are also included.
Each room has access to a separate bathroom complete with toilets, sink, and showers. Towels and facecloths are provided. The bathrooms are located just a short walk from the train cars in the railway station. There is also a shared microwave and fridge available.
The caboose stays also normally come with an elegant breakfast catered by one of the fantastic local Smiths Falls restaurants. During our stay, it was a wonderful meal of sourdough French Toast and fruit from C’est Tout Bakery. And you can’t have the perfect railway meal without the proper service. RMEO staff-member Kathryn was on-hand in full conductor-dress to get our day at the museum off to a perfect start.
A stay at the Railway Museum of Eastern Canada also includes a guided tour of the museum and the exhibits. Ours was handled by the Museums manager Lisa Purdon-Bell. She has a rich knowledge of all of the trains and train cars. Make sure to ask to see the Batmobile. This classic Cadillac was built for the railway owner in the early 30s and has its own wild story behind it.
Interested in staying in one of these fascinating pieces of history? You can check out their Airbnb listing here or visit the RMEO website here.
The Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario Tour
Each stay at the Smiths Falls train museum includes a guided tour of the grounds and the train cars within. The staff at the railway museum are amazing. And it’s clear that they all have a deep passion and affection for the historical pieces that are part of the museum’s collections.
The boys loved checking out the communication equipment in the train station. Seeing all the different ways that messages have been passed from station to station and station to train throughout the years was pretty wild. And it was clear that, especially in the olden days, it took some serious guts to get these messages across.
Some of the other great attractions at the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario are the snowplow train, which you can still climb inside and explore, the magnificent dining car, which will eventually be converted into an on-site restaurant, and the old steam locomotive that still carries passengers on regular Smiths Falls train rides throughout the normal business hours.
For a special treat, ask your guide to show you the “bat car.” This modified Cadillac was used by one of the former railway owners to check the tracks. Not only is it super cool to look at, but this car can also actually do a complete 360-degree turn without leaving the track so that it can return to the train station without going backward.
Have you spent time at the Eastern Ontario Railway Museum? Drop a comment below to tell us about your experience. Or tag our Instagram account in your photos. We would love to share in your travel
Disclosure: We were guests of Smiths Falls and Lanark County during our visit to the Smiths Falls Train Museum. All opinions remain our own. Wandering Wagars is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.
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Friday 21st of August 2020
What a great spot and I love the fact that the train has been left authentic. That would be a fun overnight stay with the family especially with train lovers!
Sunday 23rd of August 2020
The authenticity is such a neat feature. It really shows off the passion for these train enthusiasts.