Being a Tourist by Trolley

The Burlington Traction Company trolley in Burlington, VT, 1906. Photo source: UVM Landscape Change program.

The Burlington Traction Company trolley in Burlington, VT, 1906. Photo source: UVM Landscape Change program.

Eighty-four years after burning a trolley in the street, to signify the end of the streetcar era, Burlington, VT once again has trolleys rolling about the city. Maybe these aren’t electric streetcars on steel rails, but they are historic and do take people around the city.

The Historic Trolley Tours of Burlington began in summer 2012, offering historical tours of the city as well as chartered trolleys for special events. Ride onboard one of trolleys and you’ll likely have the owner, Ric Crossman, as your tour guide. He gives the tours, instructs the drivers, and his wife does the research and script writing. The couple got the idea for Burlington trolley tours after visiting places like St. Augustine, FL and enjoying the trolley tours there.

In Burlington you choose between the north tour or the south tour. A few weeks ago, I hopped on the trolley for a north tour, hoping to learn more about the city. The 1.5 hour tour did just that, taking loops through the north side of Burlington in places that I don’t often get to explore. I appreciate a good tour. This one was accomplished by making figure 8s through some areas that way you were able to see both sides of the street and hear the history, without having to look in every direction at once. The tour is given by recording, but it is keyed to the GPS location of the bus, and our tour guide was able to pause the recording, add more information and comment.

On a sunny spring afternoon, it was fun to play tourist in my own city – see some photos below. Ric Crossman hopes to add tours, improve the tours and expand operations. He’s off to a good start.  Next time, I’ll take the south tour. Any trolley tours by you?

All aboard. When not in operation, the trolleys are parked near Perkins Pier in Burlington.

All aboard. When not in operation, the trolleys are parked near Perkins Pier in Burlington.

Otherwise you can catch a ride from the bottom of College Street, at the Visitor Info building at the RR tracks (near the Echo Center).

Otherwise you can catch a ride from the bottom of College Street, at the Visitor Info building at the RR tracks (near the Echo Center).

The owner found this trolley from a company in Quebec. Keeping it local (basically).

The owner found this trolley from a company in Quebec. Keeping it local (basically).

The immaculate interior of the trolley.

The immaculate interior of the trolley.

Trolley view of Church Street.

Trolley view of Church Street.

Funky new redevelopment in the Old North End.

Funky new redevelopment in the Old North End.

A historic firehouse.

The oldest firehouse in Burlington on Mansfield Avenue.

Crossing into Winooski, the Champlain Mill in the background.

Crossing into Winooski, the Champlain Mill in the background.

Over the Winooski River (Winooski is Burlington's neighbor). Don't look too closely at the railing.

Over the Winooski River (Winooski is Burlington’s neighbor). Don’t look too closely at the railing.

Owner, tour guide, Ric Crossman dressed to play the part.

Owner, tour guide, Ric Crossman dressed to play the part.

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5 thoughts on “Being a Tourist by Trolley

  1. Dave & Sharynne Wilder says:

    Re: the B&W photo of the trolley – and you were concerned about telephone wires spoiling the view of some historic buildings in one of your recent posts? I think it was even worse back then (especially in New York City!).

  2. Paula Sagerman says:

    That looks really fun! It’s also nice to see such a cool new building.

    I recently met a man whose grandfather drove the trolley in Brattleboro.

  3. Chad says:

    Atlanta is restoring its first trolley line in over 60 years this month–Centernnial Park to the MLK district, just a couple miles. It is supposed to eventually tie in with the light rail proposed for the Atlanta Beltline–the 22 mile former RR that encircles the city. The Beltline is currently being converted into a bike and walking trail. It has been fanatastically successful in created development around it. Eventually, light rail will parallel the trail.

  4. Elz Curtiss says:

    Removal of the trolleys did more than change the transportation patterns. Businesses keep failing at the intersection of North Winooski Avenue and North Street because what used to be a bustling intersection for riders and walkers is now just another four-way stop sign on the drive downtown.

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