The train trolley car at The Zephyr Theatre has a new name and new purpose. (Submitted photo)
Stillwater Gazette – April 23, 2021 Hikers, bikers, runners, and dog walkers taking advantage of the Brown’s Creek Trail soon will be able to slake a thirst, take a break, and down some calories at Traintrax.
Starting May 1, the renovated train trolley car resting on tracks between the trail and The Zephyr Theatre will be open from 7 a.m. to noon Thursdays through Sundays.
The handy rest stop, just a few feet off the trail and near the theatre’s south entrance, will offer hot coffee from the local Bridge City Roasting Co, cold bottled water and juice, and portable snacks, including beef jerky, trail mix, and dried fruit mix. All products will be sourced from local vendors, said Calyssa Hall, The Zephyr’s executive director.
Last summer, when covid restrictions prevented indoor entertainment, the train trolley car served refreshments during the theatre’s outdoor concerts and the stage production “Much Ado About Nothing.” This year, Traintrax will also be open during outdoor events. Still mindful of covid safety rules, all workers will wear face masks and gloves, and all food will be prepackaged.
However, getting Traintrax up and running, figuratively speaking, took a lot of work.
The train trolley car had been an “entertainment oddity” when owned and operated by David Paradeau, who ran a dinner train from the Minnesota Zephyr Train Depot between 1985 to 2008, said Franz Hall, the theatre’s operations director.
The six-mile stretch of track, redeveloped by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, opened as Brown’s Creek Trail in 2014. The old train trolley car became one of the assets The Zephyr acquired when the theatre purchased the train depot in 2018.
Work on that asset started in June 2020.
First off, to make the trolley car more visible, it had to be moved, but it hadn’t run on its own in 20 years, Hall said. Thankfully, the short stretch of track the trolley car rested on was level and the trolley car itself had been left in neutral. It was nudged down the track with a tug from a truck and a push from two men.
Then, ironwork — at some point, the dinner train had run into the trolley and damaged it — was repaired or replaced. The broken fiberglass panel at the end of the trolley where the conductor stood was repaired and repainted. New wiring was installed for lights, refrigerator, and freezer. Maimed railings were rewelded.
A service countertop was built and so was a wood platform to help theatre and trail customers easily access the refreshments.
Eventually, Traintrax will be part of an “artistic oasis,” Calyssa Hall promised. Theatre staff have plans to install a sculpture garden nearby.
“Part of our mission has always been to be a gathering place for people interested in the arts,” she said. “Traintrax will broaden awareness of the theatre and hopefully bring more people into our circle.”