History of Exporail

The beginning of Canada’s railway adventure

Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum.

The Canadian Railroad Historical Association (CRHA) owns and operates Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum. Exporail was founded in 1961 by the CRHA, which counts over a thousand members and several Divisions throughout Canada. 

The mission of this non-profit association is to purchase vehicles, artefacts and archival documents that retrace the history of Canada’s railways and of their development. The Association aims at preserving and disseminating this information.

Located near the very first railroad in Canada, the Champlain & St. Lawrence Rail Road (1836), Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum has preserved and showcases Canada’s largest railway collection and is among the largest of its kind in the world.

Operated by the Champlain & St. Lawrence Rail Road Company, Canada’s first railroad was inaugurated on July 21, 1836 on Montreal’s South Shore, between La Prairie and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. 

The 23-kilometre long stretch of track runs parallel to an old portage route previously used to transport merchandise from the St. Lawrence River to the  Richelieu River and nearby waterways, i.e., Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.

Commemoration of the first public railway in Canada

Commemoration of the first public railway in Canada

The Dorchester’s inaugural trip between La Prairie and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu marked the true beginning of Canada’s railway adventure. Initially, the North-South axis was used for trade with the United States and the East-West axis was developed later.

Exporail pays homage to the workers who built the railroads, which contributed to the founding of our Canada. Exporail is Canada’s largest railway museum and has a remarkable collection that gives visitors the opportunity to witness how the railroad went from a dream to a reality, in terms of both its technological innovations and social dimensions, to develop Canada and all of its communities.

Exporail’s mission is to retrace and showcase the history and present role of railways in a lively and interactive fashion using the various means at its disposal. Its program is diversified and includes exceptional permanent and temporary exhibitions, guided tours, animations, educational activities, conferences, tram and train rides, demonstrations of the telegraphy and steam train operations as well as several thematic events.