The old train station in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia was slated for demolition in 1974 when 18 year old Jimmie Lefresne rescued the venerable building by buying it. Jimmie grew up near the station and at age seven even used to sell cold lemonade to thirsty railway workers for pocket money. Hence began the innkeeper’s love affair with the railroad in general and with Tatamagouche Station in particular.
Built from 1897 to 1899 it is the oldest train station in Nova Scotia and was once part of the old Inter-colonial Railroad, which later became Canadian National. It stood empty for over a decade until Lefresne hit on the idea of turning his acquisition into a unique bed and breakfast, The Train Station Inn.
Now fully restored, its guests can choose from four elegant Victorian guest rooms in the station itself, all with private bath, or opt to spend the night in one of the six cabooses, which line the tracks.
Getting the cars accepted as licensed accommodations was not an easy job and ultimately required a special act of the Nova Scotia Legislature to get past narrowly defined building codes.
Jimmie is constantly purchasing new cars and locals never know when a flat bed truck is going to turn up bearing yet another railroad relic of yesteryear. Some say Lefresne has the fastest growing railroad in Canada, having quadrupled his rail cars from two to eight in only four years!
We chose to stay in Caboose 79095, built in 1911. The entire car is paneled with vintage wood and furnished with antiques, giving the feel of yesteryear. Jimmie welcomes children, and 7 year old Meaghan and 11-year-old Gavin delighted in the upper and lower berths of our caboose. Separated by a sliding door, my wife Krista and I were quite comfortable in the second sleeping area featuring a queen size bed and colonial ambiance.
Larger and more modern cabooses incorporate such amenities as propane fireplaces, decks and kitchenettes. For example, Caboose 79510 has a king-size bed, fireplace and its own living room. In 1991 Governor General Roy Hnatyshyn chose to stay at The Train Station Inn while on an official visit to Nova Scotia. However, another governor general, Lord Aberdeen beat him to the draw by almost one hundred years, passing through the station in 1894.
Lefresne’s inn is the only converted rail station in Canada that offers railway cars as accommodation. In fact, it is only one of two in North America (the other appropriately being in Chattanooga, Tennessee). No wonder Lefresne won the prestigious Nova Scotia tourism industry’s entrepreneur of the year award in 1990.
The owner continues to collect old railroad cars the way some collect model trains. Recent acquisitions include two rare and unique box cars and in 2006 the Vice Regal Railway Car, Alexandra, built in 1905.
A converted passenger car now serves as a restaurant providing fresh Nova Scotia produce including the province’s famed seafood as well as prime steaks. Guests can breakfast in the station and can peruse the hundreds of old railroad memorabilia on the walls while munching on fresh blueberry waffles with real maple syrup.
In addition to the usual bed and breakfast clientele, Jimmie finds that the inn attracts railroad buffs, many who would never have otherwise considered a B&B. A third type of clientele, often honeymooners, simply want to enjoy a new and different experience. They certainly came to the right place!
Other nearby restaurants include The Villager which serves wholesome home style meals and Honey’s which specializes in healthy dietary choices. After supper guests can walk off the calories on the extensive park land behind the inn which Lefresne makes available especially for his guests. “We try to make each guest’s stay a unique experience,” said Lefresne. He most certainly succeeds.
Things to Do in Tatamagouche…
- Tour the town’s cultural centre and learn about Anna Swan, the Nova Scotia giantess
- Stroll through the town and visit craft shops, and art galleries
- Visit nearby Jost vineyards where German style wines including Eiswein are vinified
- Hike or cycle the 56 miles of trails converted from the old rail line, part of the Trans Canada Trail
- View the working nineteenth century grist mill at Balmoral
- Enjoy the historic Sutherland steam sawmill in Denmark (yes, Denmark). While in Denmark also be sure to drop into Forbes Brothers to see some of the finest furniture available in Canada)
- Swim in the Northumberland Strait, the warmest Atlantic waters north of the Carolinas.
If You Go…
The Train Station Inn, 21 Station Rd., Tatagamouche, Nova Scotia B0K 1V0
Tel. 1-888-RAILBED (902) 657-3222 Fax (902) 657-9091
“On The Platform” courtesy of Train Station Inn.
“Dining Car” © George Burden
“Lounge Car” © George Burden