From Winnipeg Train Museum, With Love

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Winnipeg Train Museum is located on tracks 1 & 2 of Union Station in Winnipeg. It’s pouring with rain as I push through the heavy station doors and make my way up the stairs.

Winnipeg Railway Museum Sign

At the top, one of the volunteers from the Midwestern Rail Association, who keep the museum running, has temporarily left his desk. I wander in a little way before I hear a series of loud,      “um… um… UM”s coming from the desk. I turn. A man of about sixty is standing there looking at me from behind thick glases. Like Milton from Office Space.

“Sorry,” I say,  “I was waiting for you to come back.”

“Hum…hum…hum,” he replies.

“Right,” I say.

He gets out a sheet with prices on it. I fumble for the five dollar entry fee and hand it to him.

“Hum,” he says, by way of thanks. He motions for me to write down my name and where I am from on a form, then writes notes my five dollars carefully in a log book and stows the the note in an ancient cash register.

The museum consists largely of a number of old railway carriages. The main attraction is ‘The Countess of Dufferin,’ the first steam locomotive in the Canadian Northwest, built in the States in 1872 and purchased for Canada in 1877.

Countess of Dufferin
Countess of Dufferin

There are a number of other trains in the museum too, arranged along the track space. A little rain breaks through in places from gaps in the station roof.

Retired Canadian Pacific Train

Old Canadian Train

Old Canadian Train
Kamloops Auxiliary Cable Car
















Some of the laminated descriptions have water damage, but there’s such a high volume of carefully compiled information it hardly matters.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the usual rail-loving demographic, there’s a very large section devoted to female railroaders.

It’s been put together a little haphazardly, with some rambling information about women’s rights here and there, and few random quotes taken from interviews with female railway workers from unspecified times.

‘Women are as loyal as men’

‘Women are proud to be railroaders’

‘Women are more patient than men’

‘Working with women is pleasing, they’re both refined, just, hard working and efficient.’

A copy of a poster begging more women to come to the Canadian West is displayed. It is from the time the west was being opened up by the railways…

Urgent! Canadian Railway Girls

There is also a vast quantity of information about women working on the railways during the First World War, the gist of which is summed up in the following:

‘1914 -1918 In railway stations, along the lines as well as in the repair shops, women occupied a variety of positions within railway offices, hotels and restaurants.’ Before we are told most of them were sacked after the war under the heading, ‘1919 – 1929: years of euphoria.’ (which alludes to Armistice, not the sacking of all the women). And some images.

Canadian National Women

Woman and Wheel









What I love about museums like this, is that they are essentially windows to the minds of the volunteers who run them. There are far more facts than you could ever hope to absorb in one visit, lovingly put together and curated by people who really care about their subject. There might by rain coming through the roof damaging displays of information that is at times rambling, off-topic or unedited, but it’s got heart.

A T-shirt on sale in the gift shop
A T-shirt on sale in the gift shop

Until 20th June, if you live in the UK, US or Canada, you’ve got the chance to win a trip across Canada with VIA Rail. Simply retweet the following on Twitter: ‘I RT’d for a chance to win 2 tix across Canada on @Via_Rail #ExploreCanada! #Tbex @ExploreCanada {CAD/US/UK:18+}’

I visited the Winnipeg Railway Museum on a trip hosted by the Canadian Tourism Commission and VIA Rail.  CTC blog. A cabin for one when booked in advance costs around $700 (£400) for the Jasper to Winnipeg leg of the trip. 

From the UK, you can book seats through International Rail by phone on: (0)781 231 0790.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Micaela

    I spy a Kamloops car! Hometown represent!

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