All Aboard for a Unique, Memorable Stay on the Northumberland Shore
Admittedly, “Caboose # 5 would be just perfect for you” is not something I’ve ever heard when reserving accommodations. After speaking with Carol at the Train Station Inn in Tatamagouche, I knew my Northumberland shore weekend was on the right track. Having made a reservation to eat in a dining car and sleep in a Victorian themed caboose, it was clear this would not be a typical getaway. The Inn brings together locomotive heritage, local food and Maritime hospitality to deliver a unique package – perfect for a weekend getaway to explore the less discovered, yet incredibly beautiful, Northumberland Shore – one of Nova Scotia’s many hidden secrets.
The Train Station Inn is the creation of James LeFresne, who in 1974, at age 18, entered into an entrepreneurial venture that would help to define tourism in Tatamagouche for years to come. As a teenager, LeFresne had recognized the importance of the railway station as a part of the region’s history. So when in the mid 70’s it was slated for demolition, he stepped up to purchase it, laying the ground work for a business that has welcomed visitors to the town for over 20 years. The station itself served as the initial guesthouse until, in the 1990’s, LeFrense began purchasing decommissioned cabooses and converting them into stylishly decorated, comfortable and fun rooms. The rest, as they say, is history. Over the years, the Train Station Inn and its many (currently nine) cabooses have won multiple awards, served as accommodations for the Governor General, and has been recognized as one of the most unique places to stay in Canada.
Kelly, my girlfriend, and I had dinner reservations for 7pm. We entered the dining car to the sounds of local country music goddess Christina Martin playing on the radio. An avid Christina Martin fan, Kelly was particularly tickled to learn she will be performing a live show at the Inn on Tuesday July 19th, as part of their summer concert series.
In my ongoing quest to find the world’s best seafood chowder, I opted to start with the menu item that boasted a freight train of flavor. Again, using my ABC criteria to evaluate, the Inn’s chowder passed the test:
Appropriate use of ground provision (excellent usage of finely chopped onion)
Bundle of Seafood (hearty helpings of haddock, lobster, and scallops)
Consistency (a well-balanced creamy broth)
The Dining Car menu features a variety of local food and beverage, including Jost Wines, which are produced about 15km away in Malagash, NS. Kelly and I were offered the house red, Jost’s Cabernet Foch, to compliment our locally produced AAA Tenderloin. This was a wonderful recommendation, offering a full-bodied oaky vanilla taste with hints of black cherry that paired well with the tenderloin.
Served with garlic mashed potatoes, broccoli and carrots, my AAA local Tenderloin steak was nicely cooked to medium rare. It hit the spot the way only a perfectly home-cooked meal can.
For dessert, the Inn’s chef successfully managed to pack an entire boxcar of flavor into a single dish. The “Poor Man’s Pudding” was anything but poor, offering up the perfect meal finisher by combining pound cake complimented by blackberries, local maple syrup, whipped cream and lemon zest. Absolutely delicious!
After a beautiful sunset stroll through the town of Tatamagouche along the Waugh River, Kel and I made our way to Caboose #5, a retired rail car retro-fitted with Victorian furnishings. A particularly neat feature of the car was a cupola sitting area (a table and chairs in the dome atop the car, which, in its day, would have been used by passengers to take in the sights of passing country side). It made for a great spot to read through the guest book, which was full of great stories of romance from couples who had come to Tatamagouche to relive their experiences of travelling by train together across the country. While the Inn isn’t just for the railway enthusiast, it does inspire curiosity in rail travel, both future and times past.
I continue to be amazed by the number of options in close proximity to Halifax to get away to for a peaceful, relaxing weekend. Tatamagouche, which derives its name from the Mi’kmaq term Takumegooch, meaning “meeting of the waters” is home to stunning views of the Waugh and French rivers, in particular at sunrise and sunset. All aboard for hometown hospitality, great local food and a unique experience at the Train Station Inn!