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Montreal Families

Guided Tour: Exporail Canadian Railway Museum

Address: 120 St. Pierre St., St. Constant. (View map)
Hours: From Sept. 9 to Nov. 1, Exporail is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Exterior sites closes at 4 p.m.
Cost: Adults, $16, age 4 to 12, $7, age 13 to 17, $10; age 3 and under, free. Family pass (2 adults, 2 children age 4 to 17), $39
Telephone: 450-632-2410
Website: http://www.exporail.org

Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum, does a great job of making trains and railway history come alive – for adults and young children. This modern museum, located about 20 minutes from downtown Montreal, houses train and street cars of various vintages, some featuring original seating and advertising. Visitors can hop aboard to explore the interiors of the train cars, and get a feel for the days when trains were a major mode of transport. The way the main pavilion is set up, children are able to walk around and explore; it’s not like a traditional art or history museum where you have to worry about them running around and breaking things.

Outside the museum there’s another highlight. You can also hop on a 10-minute streetcar and/or a miniature railway ride, which circles the grounds. There are a couple of stops along the way at old-style train stations.

Model train exhibit
For young children, a great occasion to visit the museum is the annual model train exhibit, typically held over a weekend in August. The model train exhibit features many fascinating railroad displays, as well as one of a miniature amusement park.

Kids are immediately drawn to these tiny, yet sprawling, landscapes that have various kinds of trains choo-choo-ing through them. One of the miniature trains actually had steam coming out of it! Another setup at the 2009 exhibit was made entirely of Lego; it involved a cityscape and a miniature replica of the train museum itself. There was also a table set up with tons of Lego pieces for kids to play with. Genius! Lego enthusiasts might be interested to know that there is a Québec organization called QuéLUG (Quebec Lego Users Group), which put this display together.

Game plan
If you have children under age four or five, plan a visit of one hour or less – the museum is impressive, but it won’t take kids that long to see everything. The outdoor streetcar ride runs till mid-October and the miniature train runs all year round. There’s an on-site café and a gift shop, which has all kinds of train-related toys, clothes and children’s gear. The museum bathrooms are pristine and have changing tables. If you prefer to eat lunch elsewhere, note that there’s a St. Hubert restaurant and a McDonalds about a five-minute drive from the museum. Both of these restaurants have play areas for children.

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