Experience the Golden Age of Railroading with the North Shore Scenic Railroad
Video by Joe Fairbanks - joefairbanks.com
If you’re game to experience Duluth from a totally unique vantage point, consider a ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad (NSSR).
“A train ride is good for everybody,” said Ken Buehler, Executive Director for the Lake Superior Railroad Museum (LSRM), and General Manager for the NSSR. “Something happens when you’re on the train, relaxing with family and friends, and looking out the window. You can feel the stress just wash away.”
“The anticipation of boarding the train is part of the fun,” he added. “Then, the engine pulls up, the bell is ringing, the horn blasts and people start boarding.”
“It’s a narrated excursion that moves through town,” added Josh Miller, NSSR’s Station Manager. "The NSSR provides a great option for making memories. You’re not going to forget your train ride in Duluth.”
The NSSR and its partner business, the Lake Superior Railroad Museum (LSRM), are housed in Duluth’s Depot; a beautiful structure that was originally constructed by the Northern Pacific Railway in 1892. Visitors can start by taking a tour of the Museum - to see and learn about a variety of local railroad artifacts - and follow it up with an actual experience riding a train.
Buehler provided some historical context. “We had the opportunity to take archival material of the railroad, meaning its classic, vintage railway passenger coaches, along with private cars and dining cars, and put those to use for the purpose they were designed and built: which is to provide transportation, good times, and memories out on a real working railroad,” he said.
“So, the NSSR became an operating arm of LSRM. Here, people can ride the cars, see the scenery, and experience the golden age of railroading.”
When it comes to choosing the excursion that’s right for you, there is something for everyone. There are elegant dinner trains; beer and wine tasting trains; and even a first-class experience under a beautiful glass dome, in a car known as the Duluth Zephyr. A concession car selling snacks and beverages is available on every excursion.
And, for the youngsters in your group, there is a pizza train; “The Great Pumpkin Train;” and even “A Day Out with Thomas,” featuring the much-loved children’s character, Thomas the Tank Engine.
Route choices include ample variety, too. “Our route goes between Duluth and Two Harbors, which is 30 miles,” Miller said. “There are full-day excursions, but many are much shorter. We’re geographically located in a unique spot – our train track runs right along the shore of Lake Superior, between Duluth and Two Harbors.”
This means that, whichever excursion is chosen, passengers enjoy a front-row seat to many of Duluth’s most well-loved treasures. For instance, “The train goes by the Great Lakes Aquarium, and Lake Superior is right there outside your window,” Buehler said.
“Along the Lakewalk, passengers can wave to people, which is part of the fun,” he added. “We go through the Lakeside/Lester Park neighborhood, and the Northwoods, up into Two Harbors. It’s never-ending panoramic scenery, with all those different backdrops out your window - all in a single train ride.”
Success and Accolades
A train ride on the NSSR has simply become a “must do” for visitors to Duluth. “Just in the past ten years, we’ve seen a huge boom of tourism here in Duluth,” Miller said. “Along with that, we’ve seen an increased number of riders on the NSSR. We’ve watched our ridership essentially double over the past 10 years. It’s been pretty exciting for us and for tourism as a whole.”
“We see about 100,000 passengers a year,” Buehler added. “We’re one of the major tourist attractions in Duluth, and we take that very seriously.”
Beyond Duluth, the word has also spread; both far and wide. Over the years, the NSSR has received many appreciative nods from a variety of local, regional, and even national publications and websites.
“Better Homes & Gardens said we were one of the best family-friendly scenic train rides in North America,” Buehler noted. “And, CNN listed our fall colors train as one of the top five in the nation.”
Joy for all Ages
Buehler, Miller, and the rest of their hard-working team of staff and volunteers take great pride in providing a memorable “train story” experience for all of their passengers, including tourists and local residents alike.
“I like to sit on a park bench and watch people get off the train,” Buehler said. “I love seeing the smiles on kids’ faces; tiny tykes that fell asleep peacefully to the rocking motion of the train; and excited parents and grandparents talking about their train experiences. After a train ride, our guest passengers are in a completely better place.”
To view itineraries, reserve tickets, and more, please visit Duluthtrains.com.