What Stories Do These Trains Tell?

Hello and welcome to my blog! I’m glad you’re here. It’s week 20 in 2022 and I’m hosting Weekend Coffee Share linkup #70. Come on in for a coffee or tea chat.

A sunny morning was just right for my visit to John Street Roundhouse at Roundhouse Park, specifically to see the Toronto Railway Museum outdoor exhibits that tell the stories of Toronto’s railways. The John Street Roundhouse is the best example of a surviving roundhouse in Canada.

John Street Roundhouse

This complex was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1929 to service the steam locomotives of its passenger trains using nearby Union Station. The 32-stall roundhouse featured the most modern technology. Its direct steaming facility was the first of its kind in Canada, allowing a faster and more economical operation, and a smokeless environment. Abundant natural light is provided by its monitor roof and large windows. The switch from steam power to diesel, completed by the CPR by 1960, spelled the end for Canadian roundhouses. The John Street complex was closed in 1982. It was declared a National Historic Site of Canada in 1990.

Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
Doors at John Street Roundhouse
Doors at John Street Roundhouse

It’s easy to do a self-guided walk and learn about Toronto’s railway history thanks to the information plaques that accompany each exhibit item. I enjoyed my visit so much, I was at Roundhouse Park longer than expected.

Map of Toronto Railway Museum outdoor exhibits
Map of Toronto Railway Museum outdoor exhibits

Don Station, Cabin D and the Turntable

I started from the Canadian Pacific Railway Don Station built in 1896. The station has been moved a few times until the City of Toronto moved it to Roundhouse Park. The building’s distinctive turret was typical of hundreds of stations across Canada but only a handful of these buildings survive. The Don station is the only 19th century Toronto station remaining.

Don Station built in 1896.
Don Station

Steps from Don Station is Cabin D, a wooden interlocking tower built by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1896. It is one of a few, if not the only, surviving examples of an interlocking tower in Canada that used an entirely mechanical system instead of electrical. It is also the only surviving interlocking tower of its type in Toronto.

Cabin D
Cabin D

The Roundhouse turntable is 120 feet long, in order to accommodate the Canadian Pacific Railway’s largest passenger steam locomotives. It’s one of the longest ever built in Canada.

John Street Roundhouse turntable

I visited freight cars, locomotives, passenger cars, water towers, coaling towers, a watchman’s shanty, and other interesting railway artifacts. I imagined the farewells and greetings that took place at Don Station, and the stories that the trains and rail workers have witnessed.

I included links to the Toronto Railway History Association blog in case anyone is interested in the history of each exhibit.

Freight and Passenger Cars



Left to right: Coaling tower, the old wooden water tower and the new water tower with Steam Whistle Brewery logo. Steam Whistle Brewery has leased to use bays 1 to 11 at the Roundhouse.


My walk ended at a stunning mural on the side of the underground parking building. This mural is a reproduction of a painting, titled A John Street Morning, by artist David A. Oram.

A John Street Morning by David A. Oram, 2003
A John Street Morning by David A. Oram, 2003

I enjoyed spending a beautiful morning at John Street Roundhouse where I learned more about Toronto’s railway history and discovered an amazing mural by a talented Canadian artist.

What’s your favourite train story?

Shared with #WQW18, #ThursdayDoors, #PPAC, #Lens-Artists.

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85 thoughts on “What Stories Do These Trains Tell?

  1. Denyse Whelan Blogs May 20, 2022 / 8:39 am

    Oh yes to stories those trains could tell. This was very interesting and took me back in time to when I was a child and in my early teens. I was able to travel by steam train to my grandparents’ on the South Coast of NSW by myself. The thrill of the train going in a long tunnel, and emerging to the Pacific Ocean near by. These days I would not dream of sending someone that young on a train trip solo but life was different in the 1960s. I can see the history of this place would be fascinating and loved viewing and reading of your experiences, Natalie! Thank you. Denyse.


    • Natalie May 20, 2022 / 11:42 am

      Denyse, Steam train, wow! Trains are essential as they transport not only people but also livestock, products, etc. I prefer to travel by train vs. by car. This Roundhouse is very interesting to visit. I’m pleased to share it with you. Thank you for linking up with Weekend Coffee Share.


    • Natalie May 20, 2022 / 11:48 am

      Suzanne, I’m confident Malcolm will enjoy a visit to this museum. There is no admission fee and no time limit to see all the outdoor exhibits. Its location is central and close to a few other attractions.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. leannelc May 20, 2022 / 8:44 am

    What an interesting subject to photograph and blog about Natalie. I loved the variety and the different approaches to the buildings etc. I had a Thomas the Tank Engine vibe happening as I scrolled through.


    • Natalie May 20, 2022 / 11:53 am

      Leanne, I’m interested in trains and history so I really enjoyed my visit to this Roundhouse. I’m glad you loved the variety. Thank you for linking up.


  3. photobyjohnbo May 20, 2022 / 8:57 am

    I need to add this place to my list of sights to see in Toronto!


  4. JohnRH May 20, 2022 / 11:04 am

    GREAT tour. Trains and rail, marching across the planet!


    • Natalie May 20, 2022 / 11:55 am

      Thank you, John, for your comment. I found this Roundhouse quite interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com May 20, 2022 / 12:45 pm

    I love trains (the older ones, mostly) and would be very happy spending a few hours at that museum. You, again, have provided another reason to come back to Toronto for a visit.


    • Natalie May 20, 2022 / 1:00 pm

      Janis, I’m confident you’ll enjoy this museum for a few hours. The outdoor exhibits are free to see. They also offer indoor guided tours for a fee. Its location is central to other major attractions. If you’re into craft beer, the brewery on site has a beer garden and sells Canada’s #1 craft beer. I’ll be so excited when you decide to come back to Toronto for a visit.


  6. Dan Antion May 20, 2022 / 1:41 pm

    You know you had me at “train,” Natalie. I love this post. I have pictures I took of an old roundhouse from the CN Tower observation deck in 2003. Would it be one of these?


    • Natalie May 20, 2022 / 3:56 pm

      Dan, It’s the roundhouse in your pictures. It’s across the street from the CN Tower. I think you’d enjoy a visit here to check out the train and caboose displays and all things train-related. If you like beer, the Steam Whistle Brewery that has leased the first 10-11 bays of the John Street Roundhouse has a beer garden and Canada’s #1 craft beer.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thistles and Kiwis May 20, 2022 / 4:04 pm

    Another interesting tour and place to visit. Toronto seems to be full of things to see.


    • Natalie May 20, 2022 / 4:30 pm

      Yes, it’s a big and vibrant city.


    • Natalie May 20, 2022 / 5:32 pm

      Yes, coal and water towers for the trains. Make total sense 🙂


  8. Retirement Reflections May 20, 2022 / 5:29 pm

    Hi, Natalie – You are a wonderful tour guide for Toronto…and a fantastic historian as well. The City should hire you to do some of their promotions!
    I especially like John Street Morning mural. lt’s absolutely stunning!


    • Natalie May 20, 2022 / 5:43 pm

      Thank you, Donna, for your kind comment. I enjoy exploring and blogging about places in Toronto and would love to show friends around when they come to visit me (hint hint). The John Street Morning mural is incredibly realistic and stunning to see IRL. The artist, David Oram, has amazing artwork on his website.


  9. Debbie May 20, 2022 / 6:29 pm

    This was very interesting Natalie and I too could imagine the meeting and farewelling of people over the years. We have a roundhouse train museum in a town a few hundred kilometres away and it was way more interesting than I had initially thought it would be. Love that mural too!


    • Natalie May 20, 2022 / 6:51 pm

      Debbie, I really enjoyed visiting the train exhibits and reading the information boards and plaques posted at this roundhouse. It was also interesting to see pictures that show how Toronto has changed over the years. The mural was a beautiful find. Thank you for linking up. I’ll be over to your blog shortly.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sue from Women Living Well After 50 May 20, 2022 / 9:23 pm

    I enjoy train travel, Natalie but I also love how you surprise us each week with where you have visited and what you have seen. Thanks for #weekendcoffeeshare and I wish you a lovely week ahead. x


    • Natalie May 20, 2022 / 10:03 pm

      Hi Sue, So many interesting places to explore and so little time. I’m pleased you love my ‘surprises’. Thank you for linking up. Have a wonderful week ahead!


  11. Marsha May 20, 2022 / 11:56 pm

    Hi Natalie, Wow, first of all, I love the mural. I read your commentary wrong and thought the mural was underground, but I went back to check to make sure, and there was a patch of blue sky. Toronto is so gorgeous. This train museum is another example to me of how pristine the city is. I can’t remember if you saw my Writer’s Quotes Wednesdays post this week, but it’s the same exact topic, different museums. You are welcome to link to that post, too, if you wish. It’s a perfect match. http://alwayswrite.blog/2022/05/18/wqw-18-transportation-trains-planes-and-working-machines/


    • Natalie May 21, 2022 / 8:24 am

      Hi Marsha, I had the link to David A. Oram’s website in my post. He does incredible train (and other) paintings. Thank you for letting me link this post to your WQW post, too. I did read your WQW post before PPAC post. I’m impressed by your regular writing and blogging. Have a wonderful Sunday!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marsha May 21, 2022 / 10:14 am

        Thanks, Natalie. I will check out his post. I will probably link my WQW post to yours this week because it fits and I have done a lot of writing this week already. I do enjoy writing for your coffee shares. I don’t want to overwhelm readers or myself with the volume of my writing, though! LOL


        • Natalie May 21, 2022 / 6:34 pm

          Marsha, Thank you for linking up with weekend coffee share. Your WQW post is full of interesting information and beautiful photos. I enjoyed reading it. I appreciate your blogs because I know it takes time to put together a good blog post.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Marsha May 21, 2022 / 11:10 pm

            It even takes time to put together a bad one, LOL. I enjoy finding new experiences and things to photograph to put in my blog, very much like yours each week. Yours are chock full of the fun experiences and thoughts you’ve had over the week. They are fun to read and always informative. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  12. trentpmcd May 21, 2022 / 8:26 am

    A great little tour. There is something about those old steam locomotives. They had character that the blocky diesel ones lack. It is always nice when old industrial buildings are repurposed.
    Have a great weekend and a wonderful week ahead!


    • Natalie May 21, 2022 / 6:04 pm

      Trent, I’m pleased you liked the tour. It was fun exploring this roundhouse and the outdoor exhibits. Have a great weekend and a wonderful week ahead!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Maria May 21, 2022 / 8:37 am

    I love trains! I often fantasize about the adventures they’ve been taken people on (including my own adventures on trains.) Trains are such a lovely way to travel, and I imagine it was even more mesmerising when they were a novelty. Thank you for the coffee and the tour.


    • Natalie May 21, 2022 / 6:07 pm

      Maria, I also love trains and travel by train when I can. Europe has excellent rail networks. Have a great weekend and a wonderful week ahead!


    • Natalie May 21, 2022 / 6:08 pm

      Thank you, Pam, for your compliment about my photos. Some murals have amazing details and do tell us about a community.


  14. Liesbet @ Roaming About May 21, 2022 / 11:52 am

    I’ve traveled great distances on trains before, specifically the width of Australia and the width of the US (three times). I love traveling by train, especially in western countries. But, you need to not stress about time and schedules. Looks like a fun morning out, Natalie.


    • Natalie May 21, 2022 / 6:18 pm

      Liesbet, That’s some long distance train travels you’ve done. There is always the dilemma of time and how best to spend it. I’ve been to some countries where the high speed trains cover long distances in shorter time, and they’re engineering marvels.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Scribble and Scran May 21, 2022 / 12:29 pm

    Take me back to playing with my train set and taking the boys to York where there is a great train museum in the UK. Thanks for coffee.


    • Natalie May 21, 2022 / 6:22 pm

      Thanks, Alex, for stopping by. Train sets usually provide many hours of imagination and entertainment.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Janet Alcorn May 21, 2022 / 3:00 pm

    Very cool! I especially love the cabooses. I was fascinated with them when I was a little kid, and I kind of wish freight trains still had them.


    • Natalie May 21, 2022 / 6:24 pm

      Janet, Many visitors to this roundhouse try to get on the cabooses to take pictures. They’re fascinating to explore up close.


  17. Gary A Wilson May 21, 2022 / 3:30 pm

    I do love looking at the development of earlier technologies – reliving how we got to where we are today. Wonderful.


    • Natalie May 21, 2022 / 6:27 pm

      It was interesting for me to stand at the roundhouse, read the history and see how the past and present are connected. The main train station is not far from the roundhouse.


  18. Ally Bean May 21, 2022 / 3:47 pm

    This is intriguing. I know I’d enjoy seeing these buildings and trains. As a child we’d go on family vacations and take trains. Different times then, it was an elegant way to travel: Sunday clothes, sleeper cars, and dining cars with white tablecloths. Can you imagine?!


    • Natalie May 21, 2022 / 6:30 pm

      Ally, Wow, thank you for sharing your train travel experience as a child. Dining cars with white tablecloths? That’s something I’ve seen in movies 🙂 I was looking at a sleeper car on display and read its story with great interest.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Deborah Drucker May 21, 2022 / 7:28 pm

    So interesting to see those parts of railway history. The locomotives, water towers, and the mural are terrific.


    • Natalie May 21, 2022 / 8:46 pm

      It was a fun outing. I stayed at the roundhouse longer than expected.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. csuhpat1 May 21, 2022 / 8:29 pm

    Wow, that is so very cool. I love the history of trains and how they shaped our modern world. So much history and if those walls could talk. Thanks for sharing this.


    • Natalie May 21, 2022 / 8:49 pm

      You’re welcome, Patrick. I enjoyed my visit to this park and the Toronto Railway museum very much.


  21. Inspiring Max May 22, 2022 / 2:54 am

    Great blogpost. It brought back memories of our visit. I think we may have even had a beer at the brewery after visiting the roundhouse.


    • Natalie May 22, 2022 / 10:02 am

      That’s a great way to enjoy some of what Toronto offers. Steam Whistle brewery makes award-winning craft beer.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Antoinette Truglio Martin May 22, 2022 / 8:32 am

    Planning out trains is facinating and their place in towns and cities are vital. Great post.


    • Natalie May 22, 2022 / 10:03 am

      Antoinette, I agree trains are vital. Have a great Sunday!


  23. Rowena May 22, 2022 / 11:07 am

    Hello for another week, Natalie. I’ll have to remember to show my husband and son your train photos. I’m afraid my favourite train is Thomas the Tank Engine after all the hours of pure joy he gave to our son when he was little. I remember one day I couldn’t get the DVD to work and he had a meltdown and I rang my husband at work. She was having trouble finding him and I was that desperate I was thinking one of his colleagues would probably do. They all fix things, while I break them if I’m able to operate them at all!
    I particularly loved the mural. It’s breathtaking.
    Hope you have a great week ahead.
    Best wishes,
    PS Got my post off on a Sunday night again. Organization is improving.


    • Natalie May 22, 2022 / 11:24 am

      Rowena, Glad you were able to participate in this week’s Weekend Coffee Share linkup. The details and realism in that ‘A John Street Morning’ mural are astonishing. I think your husband and son would enjoy a visit to this roundhouse. Have a great week ahead!


  24. Terri Webster Schrandt May 22, 2022 / 8:48 pm

    I never get tired of seeing your fabulous tours of Toronto, Natalie. Great shots and a wonderful legacy. That last image of the mural is really amazing! If I don’t stop by next week, I’m on a one-week break for Memorial Day weekend. Have a great couple of weeks!


    • Natalie May 22, 2022 / 9:42 pm

      Terri, The details and realism of that mural are unbelievable. I checked out the artist’s website (David A Oram) and found more paintings that he’s done. They’d make beautiful gifts. I hope you have a wonderful break and Memorial Day weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Min Write of the Middle May 22, 2022 / 8:50 pm

    This post reminds me of my son (Twin 1) when he was very little. He was obsessed with trains! I used to take him on drives specifically to see trains and we’d go on trains whenever possible. He would be so excited! I’m impressed with how well these buildings have been maintained – just beautiful! A lovely outing Natalie and fabulous photos as always. Hope you have a wonderful week!


    • Natalie May 22, 2022 / 9:48 pm

      Thank you, Min, for sharing your sweet memories of trains that you had with your son. This museum has volunteers who love trains and railways history. Their passion makes a difference to what’s on display and what’s been restored. I’m pleased you liked my post and photos. Thank you for joining my linkup, too. Have a wonderful week ahead!


  26. Diana May 23, 2022 / 12:02 am

    Hi Natalie, I Love your post as I love trains and remember taking my kids when they were little to the local train museums we have here in CA. My boys especially loved these outings. You shared such wonderful photos and the history is always fun to read about as well. I thank you for sharing and for hosting the #weekendcoffeeshare that I barely made it in on time. Have a wonderful week!!


    • Natalie May 23, 2022 / 7:29 am

      Thank you, Diana, for your kind comment. I’m glad you were able to join this week’s linkup and you love my post 🙂 I enjoyed the outdoor rail-related and train exhibits at this roundhouse. It was a beautiful day to be outside. Have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Julie May 23, 2022 / 3:28 pm

    From my previous two jobs, I was required to travel a lot within California. To spare the wear-and-tear on my car, I started taking the train. Taking the train was always nice because I got a chance to nap on the way to the destination. Unfortunately trains don’t run frequently in most of America, and they run slow so I had to really plan out those travels days.


    • Natalie May 23, 2022 / 6:53 pm

      Yes, train travel is nice but challenging to rely on as the primary mode of transportation if the train service is infrequent and slow. Kudos to you for choosing train over car when you could.


  28. Kirstin May 24, 2022 / 12:13 pm

    LOVE that train mural! Trains are so fascinating. I hadn’t traveled on a train til we went to Europe.


    • Natalie May 24, 2022 / 1:20 pm

      The trail mural is amazing to see IRL. Europe has excellent rail networks. Glad you did train travel while you were there.


  29. Ju-Lyn May 24, 2022 / 8:52 pm

    Can I say (a little embarrassed) that my experience with trains have been quite limited (not counting the city mass rapid transport systems), so much so, that even at Disneyland, I queue up for the train rides.


    • Natalie May 24, 2022 / 9:16 pm

      I hope you had fun at Disneyland and your next travel destination has excellent rail service.


      • Ju-Lyn June 2, 2022 / 9:57 pm

        We always enjoy our Disney trips … it’s been a while though …


        • Natalie June 3, 2022 / 7:55 am

          It’s also been a while for me since my last Disney trip.


          • Ju-Lyn June 9, 2022 / 10:14 pm

            Do you have a favourite Disney park? We went to HK a lot because it was so close to Singapore. But I think Tokyo Disneyland is our favourite


            • Natalie June 9, 2022 / 10:31 pm

              I’ve been to Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida. They’re both a lot of fun. I skipped the ones in Paris and Tokyo due to time constraints. So many wonderful things to experience, so little time.


              • Ju-Lyn June 15, 2022 / 9:41 pm

                Isn’t it amazing that the 2 US parks are so different in vibe & character? I hear you about Paris & Tokyo (and now Hong Kong & Shanghai) … so many competing interests to meet!!!!


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