The Southeast Railway Museum (SEM), which is located in Duluth, Minnesota, occupies a huge 35-acre former cotton gin site in Duluth. Operated by the Minnesota Railroaders Association (SMART), the SEM is one of the largest railway museums in the world. In operation since 1970, SEM features more than 90 items of railroad machinery, including classic steam locomotives and antique Pullman cars. The impressive collection was begun with a gift from the North American Model Railroad Club (NMRA), and is now home to one of the Southeast’s most comprehensive collections of model trains.
The Trolley Museum, which is located at the University of Minnesota, is one of the country’s premier railway museums as well as a major regional visitor attraction. The objective of the Trolley Museum is to present the “brush with Nature” through its “Trolley Car Gallery,” an innovative and daring interpretive center that features over forty of the world’s most distinctive and rare painted freight cars. The exhibition includes vintage engine and other transportation vehicles, but also includes replicas of ferrocarril, steam engines, and axels. The attraction presents visitors with a chance to drive a real carriage into the gallery. Visitors will have a chance to examine the natural habitat and wildlife of the Great lakes region, the landscape of the Southwestern United States, and the 19th century culture and design of early America.
For people who are interested in the railroading history of the region, the Minnesota Railroad Museum & Special Events Company (MRMESC) is host to a number of interesting special events. The Special events include “Midnight Ride” every Wednesday evening, which is a unique nighttime tour of the entire depot area. Each train tour is led by a specially trained driver who will lead guests through a specific portion of the depot. Various attractions, entertainment, and lectures are also offered at this special event.
Besides special events, the Minnesota Railway Museum at Pennoyer puts on “Lincolnville Railroad Days” every August. Specials include an opportunity to operate a vintage engine and even get to ride and train with the very first electric engine in North America! The Specials also feature the “Rocky Mountain Railroad Days” from time to time. This is a free festival that allows visitors to enjoy live entertainment, demonstrations, and lectures about the history of the Great North West railroad. This is a wonderful opportunity for families to take part in some of the best summer entertainment available!
Another favorite among visitors to the Minnesota Railway Museum is the Biggest Little Town in the World, or the “Biggest Roundhouse.” Built as a community attraction in 1923, the roundhouse served as the local hangout for the people who lived in the area, as well as for a band that performed nightly. The Biggest Roundhouse is one of the few railway museums in the entire world that still plays the popular Dixieland music that was so popular just a few years ago.
The three distinctive museums listed above highlight many areas of interest in this exciting city. Visitors will be able to see a historic town, observe the rich culture of the early twentieth century, and enjoy the thrilling experiences of the Biggest Roundhouse and the Minnesota Orchestra. There’s something here for everyone. Visit these heritage parks, and discover a city rich in American heritage.