a peek inside the fishbowl

27 Jul, 2009

Move over Thomas: the Wakefield Steam Train rocks my tracks

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Ottawa for kids|Easy ways to make kids happy|Ottawa

Last week SavvyMom published my latest piece called Choo Choose the Train which highlights some neat little ideas for families with trainspottin’ transportation-crazy kids.

(As a sidenote, I would like to mention that if you’re an Ottawa-area parent and you’re not a subscriber yet, please consider signing up. You won’t regret it. It’s a great – and FREE! – resource for family-friendly activities around Ottawa.)

I really enjoyed writing that article. I have always loved taking the train. There’s something that is so absolutely Zen about it. Maybe it’s the hypnotic thump of the rails passing underneath – a rhythm akin to a heartbeat. Maybe it’s because driving is more stressful than I ever thought. Maybe it’s the fact that I can read a newspaper, drink a coffee and look out the window AT THE SAME TIME that is so appealing?

Whatever the reason … I digress. The SavvyMom piece was about trains. I sincerely hope there aren’t parents out there who believe that trains are only interesting to boys or Thomas-lovin’ toddlers. My girls have always loved trains, scratch that, they are nuts about any kind of transportation. (i.e. When we went to the Dragonboat Festival we took a *shuttle bus* from the Carleton parking lot to Mooney’s Bay. You’d think they were on a rocket ship or something. That’s how excited they were.)

Now think of how cool it would be to take an old steam train on a rambling journey to Wakefield. The Hull-Chelsea-Wakefield Steam train was one of the train-related ideas I mentioned in the SavvyMom piece.  I wanted to post a few pics and a few extra thoughts about our trip. I can’t describe how much fun it was … not just for the kids, but for all of us.

We boarded in Hull Gatineau. Oh the excitement!

Getting on the Wakefield Steam Train

(Imagine an additional 20 photos of some Very Excited Children.)

Seating is arranged in groups of four around good-sized tables… perfect for doodling, dreaming, reading, snacking, or just enjoying the view:

Wakefield Steam Train

It is a very scenic trip. Not that it needed livening up (note the accordian player in the photo above!) but we enjoyed intermittent commentary of our bilingual in-train tourguide.

Before we knew it we were there. We disembarked, got a good look at the train and found out how they turn it around. (!) VERY COOL.

Wakefield Steam Train (in tiltshift)

Turning it around

Engineer

We walked through the village of Wakefield to Chez Eric, a restaurant which was recommended by a friend. It did not disappoint. In fact, I think it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time:

Mark had some chicken chili:

Mark's lunch Chez Eric

Emma ordered the grilled cheese (declared to be “the best ever”):

Emma's grilled cheese at Chez Eric in Wakefield

Sarah and I shared the Quebec cheese plate. It was drizzled in honey and a balsamic reduction (I think). Pardon me while I wipe away the drool:

Cheese plate Chez Eric

(Yes, my vegan eating regime went out the window that day.)

Speaking of which, there was ice-cream too (also not vegan):

Ice cream in Wakefield

I didn’t realize it at the time but I think we managed to plan our trip for the warmest day of the summer.

Soon it was time to board for the trip home, which they signal by blowing the whistle. There are two boarding platforms, which is great in case you find yourself stuck on one side of Wakefield. (As they point out, it’s a VERY EXPENSIVE cab ride back to Gatineau. SO DON’T MISS THE TRAIN!)

The journey back to Gatineau went by just as quickly. There was lots of distraction to be had in the form of free facepainting:

Mouse face

… and more excellent live music (these also happen to be the guys who turned our train around):

In-train music

Pretty neat huh?

If you’re going to go, there are a few things you need to know:

  • There are bathrooms on the train, but unless there’s a bigger one I don’t know about the ones I saw were very small. (Parents: It might be very challenging to undertake a diaper change!)
  • Seats are assigned. Book ahead of time.
  • It’s a 90-minute trip to Wakefield with a two hour stay in Wakefield. It’s enough time to poke around the shops OR eat lunch at a restaurant but it might be tough to do both.
  • The trip back to Gatineau is 90 minutes. This might be a long day for some, so come prepared!
  • There were TONS of families on the train. I’d been holding off because I thought my kids were too little. I was wrong.
  • There is food (and coffee!) available, as well as train-related souvenirs if you are so inclined.
  • You can buy a boxed lunch on the train (which is prepared on the train) to take with you to Wakefield. We didn’t go this route so I can’t judge the food, but it seems like a good option for those who didn’t pack a picnic.

Anyway, we enjoyed this trip very much. It’s a little on the pricey side (click here for rates), but it was money well spent. There’s a Sunset Dinner Train (the Club Riviera Car is adult only!) which I think Mark and I might have to try out in the near future. I wonder if they’d let us bring a bottle of wine? ;)


11 Responses to "Move over Thomas: the Wakefield Steam Train rocks my tracks"

1 | Ginger

July 27th, 2009 at 9:33 am

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What an amazing and fun adventure! You took some beautiful pictures.

2 | Susan

July 27th, 2009 at 10:32 am

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Next time make sure to go to the Wakefield Bakery – best butter tarts EVER. Yum. I’m feeling like it might be time for a train ride.

3 | Kite

July 27th, 2009 at 11:21 am

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We did the steam train last year, just before it closed down, and had a fabulous time. We missed out on Chez Eric (although have been other times), so for those considering the trip – consider a reservation for lunch too!

4 | ommama

July 27th, 2009 at 11:36 am

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Sounds like a lovely day-trip!! Your pics are beautiful evidence of that! Wish I lived a little closer, my Thomas loving 8 year old girl would LOVE this.

5 | julie

July 27th, 2009 at 2:12 pm

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You used some cool effects on these photos to make them look old-fashioned. They look amazing!

6 | Amy @ Muddy Boots

July 27th, 2009 at 2:53 pm

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I agree, great pics.

You totally had me on the train trip too… until I saw the price. Ouch. Maybe in a few years when our boys will appreciate it more and I’ll be able to enjoy it more with less of “don’t stand on the seats!”, “get your head in the window”, “hands to yourself”, “quit whining, we’ll eat when we get there”, etc, etc, etc.

7 | Strike victim

July 27th, 2009 at 3:21 pm

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I was debating Wakefield or a “real train” with VIA. We went with a Via Rail train to Kingston (last Saturday) for half the price. VIA has good prices for family trips (kids free) if you hunt around. I imagine it would have been a great trip had it not been for the mini-strike. :( Our trip had me going with the two girls and being picked up by my wife in Kingston. Spend the day and drive back that night. We’ll rebook for the fall. I found a ticket price of $50 (for the three of us). The Wakefield train thing is fun. Jamboree is my favourite Wakefield place. They have an amazing assortment of metal garden ornaments and iron fixtures.

8 | Sharon

July 27th, 2009 at 9:02 pm

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I’ve done t his trip many times over the years and I always love it. I love the sunset train meal, which we did with friends and had a hoot…so much fun. My kids love the train and this one is so fun. Nathan keeps asking to go back again.

9 | Chantal

July 28th, 2009 at 2:40 pm

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I am thinking of doing this with my boys this year. M loves trains and he wants to go back and see “Day out with Thomas” but I found it such a waste of money. This is more expensive but you get so much more for that expense.

10 | Stephen

June 1st, 2010 at 8:37 am

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Great post, I will definitely try it out with my kids this summer. I love the style of these photos. Did you create this effect when you shot the photos or during post-processing? Could you please tell us how you achieved this? I would love to capture images my kids like these. Thanks

11 | Where to get the best views of fall leaves in Ottawa ! >> a peek inside the fishbowl

September 29th, 2010 at 9:30 am

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[…] Wakefield Steam train (I wrote about it here). We haven’t done a fall tour, but I bet it’s a great way to see the […]

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (18) and Sarah (16). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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