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Museum on the right track

In the Dec.13 edition of the Duluth Budgeteer, Dick Palmer commented on financial problems currently facing the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center: the Depot. While I share Palmer's concerns, I take issue with his observations regarding th...

In the Dec.13 edition of the Duluth Budgeteer, Dick Palmer commented on financial problems currently facing the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center: the Depot. While I share Palmer's concerns, I take issue with his observations regarding the Lake Superior Railroad Museum (LSRM) and the North Shore Scenic Railroad (NSSR).

Palmer asserts the LSRM is "reflecting diminished attendance receipts." In fact, ticket sales at the North Shore Scenic Railroad were up again this summer, for the fifth year in a row. In the past year, membership at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum doubled.

Palmer claims the museum needs display renovations and new concepts. Just months ago, the museum displays were rearranged and Depot Square repainted, giving the entire indoor display area a fresh new look.

There are several new additions to the railroad collection. These include the Soo Line #700-GP-30 diesel locomotive and the historic Erie Mining Company F unit #4211. The Cedar Rapids lounge car, from the Milwaukee Road's Hiawatha Passenger train, is on display at the museum for the winter. Also new is Curator Tom Gannon's wall display, "Fallen Flags," which details the history of local railroads. The display covers nearly one third of the museum's walls.

Next summer, another new display is expected to draw a great deal of public interest. The Canadian National Railroad has donated a full size locomotive simulator that will offer visitors the opportunity to "drive the train."

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The Lake Superior Railroad offers several exciting options during the season. In addition to regular excursion runs, dinner trains and pizza trains, this summer's unique Sunday afternoon tea train was a great success. In November, the NSSR sponsored the Polar Express, which was sold out for every run.

The LSM and the NSSR are fortunate to have strong community support from volunteers. During the summer season, as many as 90 area residents serve as volunteers on the North Shore Scenic Railroad. The Lake Superior Railroad Museum benefits throughout the year from 20 dedicated volunteers. That's a total of more than 100 volunteers, compared with less than 40 paid employees, even during peak season.

I feel it is important to introduce these new additions and improvements to Budgeteer readers. Although he appears to endorse the need for renovation and change, Palmer failed to mention even one of the many new offerings.

Palmer suggests the railroad and exhibits need community interest. He's right. All local attractions and arts organizations need community support and interest.

Perhaps we could expand our support to include a tour for Mr. Palmer of the LSRM. The next time he comments on activity and exhibits at the facility, it would be appropriate for him to have firsthand knowledge.

Ken Buehler is executive director of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum and General Manager of the North Shore Scenic Railroad.

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