Red Wing Bucket List: Ride the trolley“All aboard!” David Hinrichs said, his voice loud and deep like that of a classic train host.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
“All aboard!” David Hinrichs said, his voice loud and deep like that of a classic train host.
As passengers settled into their seats, driver Bob Schwieger stretched his left arm high above his conductor’s hat and grabbed ahold of a string. With just a few tugs, a bell rang out to signal the start of everyone’s journey.
That’s when the Red Wing Trolley slowly pulled away from the curb outside the St. James Hotel, ready to give tourists a historical overview of what the town has to offer.
After welcoming everyone to pretty Red Wing, tour guide Hinrichs assured travelers they would be plenty safe for the coming hour as long as Schwieger was behind the wheel. After all, the man has decades of experience driving trucks and knows numerous tricks that can astound people of all ages. This ride wouldn’t showcase his main talents, but instead remain simple and straightforward, Hinrichs joked.
“Bob is not allowed to do wheelies … with passengers on board. Sorry, folks,” he said.
Red Wing Trolley rides have been available every summer since 2009. They’re offered from May through November, weather permitting.
In addition to giving visitors the opportunity to relax while being taken throughout the town, the rides are educational and provide a lot of historical facts about Red Wing.
As passengers are taken from landmark to landmark, they’re welcome to get off and explore the area. They can then be picked up when the trolley comes along on its next tour an hour later.
“We have five stops on the trolley,” Hinrichs said. Small signs mark those spots at the St. James Hotel, Pottery Place, Bay Point Park, Sheldon Theatre and Discovery Garden in Colvill Park.
The tour highlights obviously significant areas of town such as Barn Bluff, the pottery district and the Red Wing Shoe museum, but also makes note of lesser known locations like historical mansions housed along Third Street and one-of-a-kind shops downtown.
“You might be in a small town in Minnesota if you’ve got a store called the Uffda Shop,” Hinrichs said.
Rick and Deb Bracey are no strangers to small towns, but theirs isn’t anywhere near Minnesota. In fact, they live about 300 miles away in a town just outside of Milwaukee. They prefer taking random short trips to unfamiliar locations rather than planning extensive vacations to high profile cities.
“We’d rather keep the little towns in business,” Deb said. “We just find a place to go and go.”
This week they opted to come to Red Wing and, after speaking with the Visitors and Convention Bureau staff, decided a trolley ride would be an ideal way to take in the town.
“This is what America is about right here,” Rick said, referring to the life that can be found in rural regions of the United States.
A trolley ride Tuesday morning took the Braceys from the St. James Hotel to Levee and Bay Point parks where they got to see direct views of the Mississippi River.
The tour made its way to several locations over the next 40 minutes as the Braceys gazed out the side of the trolley, all the while learning dozens of facts from Hinrichs, including when Red Wing was founded, how Plum Street got its name and what materials early residents used to build many local churches.
“There’s a lot of history in this city,” Rick said after the tour.
The educational aspect of the trolley ride is what helps it provide something for everyone. Even Red Wing residents who live among the town’s buildings may not have ever learned the history behind them.
Of course, a majority of those making use of the trolley are out-of-towners like the Braceys.
“July and August it picks up because schools are out, families are on vacations and conventions are in town,” Red Wing Trolley Company employee Susan Crocker said of the trolley’s busiest times. “It’s hard to say why people are here.”
Whether they come to celebrate an event, relax on a getaway or drop in while passing through to elsewhere, a ride on the local trolley can help them capture the atmosphere of Red Wing in just less than an hour.