Doubling the train runFirst it was steam engines. Then Sunday runs. Bit by bit, the North Shore Scenic Railroad and Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce are trying to increase the number of passengers on the summer excursion train that runs from Duluth to Two Harbors and back.
First it was steam engines. Then Sunday runs. Bit by bit, the North Shore Scenic Railroad and Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce are trying to increase the number of passengers on the summer excursion train that runs from Duluth to Two Harbors and back.
This year, there will be an on-train guide to talk about area history and attractions, more people greeting passengers at the Two Harbors Depot, and a Gooseberry Falls State Park option during the two-hour layover in the city.
Those were the plans outlined to city business owners Wednesday by Ken Beuhler from the Scenic Railroad.
“The goal is to bring people into Two Harbors, show them around, and hope they come back for a future visit,” he told a group of more than 20 people at the Moose Lodge.
Trains will arrive in Two Harbors about noon beginning Memorial Day weekend and run into October. Passengers generally have two hours to explore the harbor area, downtown, or get on a bus and visit Seventh Avenue.
This year, there will be another bus taking groups up Highway 61 to Gooseberry Falls.
Some business owners grumbled that the park trip does the opposite of what the excursion trains are designed for, boosting tourism in Two Harbors. Beuhler said showing more options would likely bring people back on their own to the area.
“We want to expose people,” he said. “This is a long-term plan to bring more people to the area.”
Last year, about 8,000 people took the 25-mile train ride to Two Harbors. Scenic Railroad added a Sunday run to accommodate people staying at resorts for a whole weekend. It will do that again beginning July 3.
Steam trains that hearken to the past have also been popular. They will run for four weeks beginning in late August.
The efforts, with input from the chamber, go toward an end goal of doubling ridership, Beuhler said.
Beuhler said the guide, who would hop the train in Larsmont, would have great knowledge of the area and work with the Lake County Historical Society to provide a unique perspective on what riders can expect in town.
He encouraged businesses to greet passengers coming off the train with coupons or other enticements.
“Offer surprises and they will tell other people,” Beuhler said.
The historical society, which runs its museum out of the depot, will periodically have people on the platform greeting passengers in historic character roles. There are also plans to have musicians play, such as a jazz group from the high school.
The visit to Gooseberry would last about 40 minutes at the visitors center there or a quick walk to the falls.
Buses in the past have taken people up Highway 61 a few miles from the city to Betty’s Pies or some resorts.
The chamber is working on maps explaining what there is to see in the area and has formed a task force to look at other ideas to lure tourists off the trains.
While the summer schedule is now set, Beuhler told business owners that trains could be shuffled around next year to allow a longer layover in Two Harbors. People have been rushed, business owners said.