This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight.
When the Osceola & St. Croix Valley train pulls out of the depot in Osceola, Wis., many people on board are having a new experience.
“They have never been on a train,” said Barb Sheldon, office manager. “That is a very common response, because nobody travels by train anymore.”
101 Things To Do: Set sail on Lake Pepin | Something for everyone at the Minnesota State Fair
Sheldon noted that in an earlier era, people dressed up to travel by train. Train travel was so common that heavy rail schedules, especially in metropolitan areas, were so frequent that people used the train to commute, a function now served by light rail.
At the height of train travel in the U.S., “it was entirely possible to put a 10-year-old child on the train to go see grandma, and the conductor would know where that kid was supposed to get off,” Sheldon said. ‘Train travel has changed enormously.”
Visitors on the Osceola and St. Croix Valley Railway get to experience a bit of that historic time. The train features cars from three generations, including dining cars and a mail car.
Conductors, as well as the operating crew, including the engineer and brakeman, are volunteers. The railway has a training program for volunteers to get them ready to safely operate the train and take care of passengers.
While the train is in motion, visitors are free to walk through the cars. Some of the tours have meals served in the dining cars, but on the tours without food service, passengers are free to use the tables for their own food.
“Fall is a beautiful time of the year up here,” Sheldon said. “Buying tickets in advance is definitely recommended for the fall trips and any of the dining service trips. Those are catered, and we need to know how many people will be on board.”
The railway offers two destinations - a 90-minutes tour to Marine on St. Croix, Minn., and a 50-minute tour to Dresser, Wis Both trips are round-trip, leaving from and returning to the depot in Osceola. Charter tours are available.
“It is very popular with seniors groups,” Sheldon said, “because they remember what it was like to travel this way.”
If you go...
Name: Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway
Address: 114 Depot Road, Osceola, Wis.
Hours: Multiple tours every weekend from May to October
Cost: To Marine on St. Croix - Adults $20, Seniors/military $17, Children $12. See the website for prices on other options including brunch, pizza, and dinner tours, as well as shorter, less expensive rides to Dresser.