Not often does a dog board a restored 1915 train car to journey a short distance for ice cream. It’s a dog life. A travelling dog.
My 11-year-old schnoodle is becoming a train dog, whether he likes it or not. Actually, he’s very calm and comfortable sitting on my lap during short novelty train rides several places we’ve been (Check out our St. Jacobs, Ontario ride).
Today, we’re at the Halton County Radial Railway Museum in Milton, Ontario – a passion project kept going thanks to a group of enthusiastic train-loving volunteers. We’ve headed here, about 40 minutes West of Toronto, driven by a dire need to get out of a house now missing the leader of our pack, my beautiful cat Kaitlyn, who died days before we impulsively began touring our province.
What we found was a charming distraction in form of reconstructed rail cars – most turn of the 20th century city streetcars stored in the museum garage open to the public. More than 60 years ago, transportation history-loving volunteers formed a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration of streetcars. They shared their enthusiasm by building a museum, working garage and 2 km of track that loops at both ends so kids of all ages can ride these classic cars one more time.
Victor checks out the historic Grand Truck Rockwood Station, stops for an obligatory photo, then we climb on the train and enjoy a slow ride through dense forest. At the second loop, we get off at the East End Station and Café – a restored streetcar now serving ice cream. Victor gets a sample cup of butterscotch (there’s no vanilla), and we sit at a picnic table near the well-manicured frog pond. I learn Vic has no interest in frogs.
The day is like a trip back in time when an afternoon away involved a slow train ride to another town and ice cream was a special treat.
About 20 minutes later, the train back was different – a former 1922 Toronto Queen Street streetcar.
Volunteers dressed as train operators select two reconditioned cars to run alternately each day during July and August or on weekends September and October. Running might be the 1920s open streetcar if weather permits, the 1915 train car with ceiling glass light fixtures, or the yellow 1922 Art Deco version we sat in – one of the first to have doors at both the front and middle to expedite passenger traffic.
Dogs, however, weren’t accommodated in 1922.
How times have changed. The only thing the conductor with a clipboard said to me and my dog was, “I don’t know if I should write him down as a kid or adult.” Apparently, fur-baby isn’t on the list.
Victor didn’t have to pay the $15 admission either.
If you love railways, check out this photo book documenting some of the most interesting train stations around the world: Railway, Depots, Stations and Terminals available on Amazon.
TRAVEL GUIDE: The Regional Municipality of Halton, or Halton Region, is a wide area south-west of Toronto extending from Mississauga west to Burlington and north to Guelph, Ontario.
Highlights within the region include the Halton County Radial Railway Museum in Milton, and Crawford Lake Conservation Area hosting a reconstructed Iroquoian Village, raptor encounter centre, and hiking trails ranging from 1.4 to 7.2 km in length. Crawford Lake is adjacent to Rattle Snake Point Conservation Area that’s home to thousand-year-old cedar trees, 13 km of hiking trails and free yoga in the park every Wednesday, 7 to 8 pm, May to August.
All places listed here are dog-friendly, though the conservation authority asks that you keep them on a leash. Bronte Provincial Park in Oakville, Ontario has miles of leash-free hiking trails, barbeque sites and the province’s largest outdoor public pool. See dogtrotting.net review.