Some Duluth museums, railroad reopen with cautions in place

The Duluth Children's Museum, North Shore Scenic Railroad and Duluth Depot reopen to the public July 1-2.

Directions designed to reduce risk of spreading COVID-19 greet visitors to the Duluth Children’s Museum. The museum was open to members last weekend. It opens to the public Thursday. (Steve Kuchera /

Three more Duluth attractions are set to open up after long closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Duluth Children's Museum, North Shore Scenic Railroad and St. Louis County Heritage, Arts, and Culture Center at the Depot are reopening their doors — each with new regulations and safety precautions in place to ensure guests' health and safety.

Not kidding around with sanitation

The Duluth Children's Museum opened its doors last weekend with a soft opening for museum members only. The museum officially opens to the public Thursday. President and CEO Cameron Kruger said the soft opening was a trial run to "see what it's like to have people back in the museum."

"It allows us to test all our new policies and procedures that we've been planning to keep people safe," Kruger said.

Some of those new policies include moving exhibits farther apart to allow for proper distancing, installing markings to designate routes through the museum and placing sanitation stations which allow parents to grab wipes to clean surfaces on their own.


Bentley Rowan, 5, Amira Freeman, 3, and Jaxton Freeman, 1, play with a device that uses flowing air to move foam blocks during a members-only reopening at the Duluth Children’s Museum on Sunday. Adults are required to wear masks to enter the museum, while children 5 and older are encouraged to wear masks. (Steve Kuchera /

"That's in addition to our staff being basically armed with cleaning products and wipes, scouring the museum throughout the day," Kruger said.

Moving parts have been removed from some of the museum's exhibits to eliminate high-touch surfaces, but some interactive touch exhibits remain, which will be regularly cleaned. Kruger said the staff have all been trained on new cleaning procedures, but that the museum already had fairly extensive regulations in place.

"We've always been pretty intensely diligent when it came to cleaning, given our prime audience, who like to put things in their mouths," Kruger said.

Adults will be required to wear masks, with children ages 5 and up encouraged to wear masks as well. The museum will have limited hours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays to allow for extra cleaning time.

Martin Dean of Duluth AV Logistics works on a new motion detector in the Lake Superior Railroad Museum Monday. The museum replaced touch buttons on its exhibits with the touchless detectors. (Steve Kuchera /

Soon boarding at the North Shore Scenic Railroad

Starting Wednesday, guests can once again ride the rails at the North Shore Scenic Railroad. Executive Director Ken Buehler said the train schedule will be slightly scaled back to allow for more cleaning time.


The railroad usually runs three Duluth Zephyr trains a day, but will instead run at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to allow time in the afternoon for cleaning. The evening pizza and music train ride will also run at 6 p.m. To allow for better social distancing, guests will board the trains via concierge seating.

"We'll start boarding 20-25 minutes ahead of departure and call people on board by parties," Buehler said. "Then you'll be assigned to a boarding area along the train so that not everyone is entering from the same vestibule. We're avoiding lines."

On the train, guests will be spaced apart to allow for social distancing. There will be a staff member on the train who will continually wipe down high-touch spots and the train will be deep-cleaned in between runs. Guests are encouraged to wear masks.

Connected to the North Shore Scenic Railroad is the Lake Superior Railroad Museum where Buehler said a big change was made due to COVID-19: All button-powered exhibits have been replaced with motion sensors to eliminate touching surfaces.

"There are over 30 different buttons that start videos, power on equipment, turn wheels, give you an explanation, etc. We've replaced all of those buttons with motion sensitive switches," Buehler said. "All you have to do is wipe your hand in front of the box. It's hands-free, touchless."

Additionally the museum will open up the big gallery doors to provide more ventilation into the space and provide signage to guide visitors along a one-way route through exhibits.

Elsewhere in the Depot

Mary Tennis, executive director of the St. Louis County Heritage, Arts, and Culture Center, installs a directional sign at one of the Depot’s stairways. (Steve Kuchera /


Although the North Shore Scenic Railroad will run seven days a week, the rest of the St. Louis County Heritage, Arts and Cultural Center at the Duluth Depot will be open Tuesday to Sunday. Executive Director Mary Tennis said the day off will allow the organizations in the building a chance to deep-clean and shift exhibits if necessary.

The Depot will also reopen with adjusted hours, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., starting Wednesday. The building now has a designated one-way path throughout its various exhibits. Guests can enter via the lobby doors and exit through the Great Hall, following the signage throughout the building.

"We also moved our greeting person close to the front door so that they can provide information on getting through the Depot, remind guests to wear masks, and let them know about any activity which might be happening," Tennis said.

As a welcome back to visitors, the Depot will have no gate fee and will ask for donations.

"We feel like everyone needs a break and some relief, so we thought what better way than to extend this to everybody," Tennis said.

The facility has implemented strict cleaning protocols and sanitation checklist, and will remind guests to wear masks and keep distance between others while in the building.

"We're really excited to have people back in the building," Tennis said. "It's been a long time."


Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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