Before the age of the lightrail and bus system, Minneapolis residents used electric streetcars to get around the city. The streetcars, or trolleys, have been powered by everything from horses to steam to electricity throughout the years, and have changed ownership several times as well. The history of these amazing cars and railways are deeply rooted in the history of the city of Minneapolis. The cars themselves have been restored and are now operating as a “living museum,” capable of taking passengers on a ride while providing an amazing story of the past.
Minnesota Streetcar Museum
4200 Queen Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55410
Como-Harriet Streetcar Line
Ride a fully-restored streetcar from the early 1900s above the beautiful Lake Harriet and through to a view of Lake Calhoun. The Como-Harriet Line takes passengers along a 15-minute round trip ride that used to serve as part of a major part of the public transit system in Minneapolis. The Streetcar run on the Como-Harriet Line is operated and maintained by volunteers and history buffs with a passion for sharing information and living history. Purchase a “token” for $2 and ride along the old railway just like commuters did every day in the early 20th century.
The volunteers that operate the streetcars wear replicas of the uniforms that the conductors of the past wore. In the car, you can enjoy reading the old advertisements and signage above the seats and listen to the bell of the trolley as it runs down to Lake Calhoun and back. The car is operational during the summer and stays in the garage when it rains to keep it in pristine condition. Not only is this a fun historical site to visit, but the location is also great for an entire day at the lake or parks around the Linden Hills neighborhood.
Excelsior Streetcar Line
The Excelsior Line of the Minnesota streetcar system was the westernmost terminal in the Twin Cities system. On Water Street, between 3rd and George Street in Downtown Excelsior, a restored streetcar is available for display and function. Ride up to Old Excelsior Boulevard, where an amusement park used to operate and enjoy the ride over the old tracks from the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway. The electric streetcar on the Excelsior Line is fully operational and provides a fantastic afternoon of history and fun.Check out the schedule as well—throughout the year, events are planned on the streetcar that include story time for the kids, a Halloween ride, and Santa on the trolley over Christmas.
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Excelsior Car Barn
Along the ride down the Excelsior Streetcar Line, a stop at the Car Barn provides a place where passengers disembark and are able to see some old cars in the process of restoration. Volunteers from the Streetcar Museum have spent many hours restoring and working on salvaged streetcars from the old system. The most current project, an effort to rebuild and restore a streetcar, Number 10, from the old Winona line in southern Minnesota, has been in process for many years now. Volunteers have replaced the entire frame of the streetcar and are working to create a perfect replica of the Streetcar No. 10 of the past.
Another car held in the car barn is one of the oldest electric streetcars in Minnesota. Part of the first generation of electric streetcars, the trolley, known as Streetcar Number 78, replaced the horse-drawn trolleys of the past. Heated by a stove and brought down from Duluth, Streetcar Number 78 is restored and available to walk through at the Car Barn.
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Andrea Wodele is a freelance writer who has lived in the Twin Cities for the last 10 years. Her hobbies include exercising, driving kids around, watching Minnesota sports, and reading self-help literature. Examiner.com.