Friday, 5 October 2012

Taking Winnipeg's Heritage Trolley


If you hung around downtown at all this summer you probably noticed the Winnipeg Trolley Company's vehicle cruising the streets. Though common in many other cities, we've not had a unique tourist sightseeing vehicle since the double-deckers that ran for the Gray Line until the 1990s.

As someone who has both attended and presented walking tours, I know that a major drawback is that buildings and sites are not in the order that you want them to be in. You end up having to jump from era to era, industry to industry as the buildings present themselves and it's sometimes hard to present a good overall story. When you're on wheels, though, you have a lot more options.

One Sunday afternoon I thought I would give the “Winnipeg: Heart of a Nation” sightseeing tour a spin !

Winnipeg Trolley Company tour

I was looking forward to the trip as the team behind the trolley have great local history cred. The front man and tour guide is Benjamin Gillies, a veteran of the interpretive tours at Lower Fort Garry. The other  partner is the man behind the Winnipeg Streetcar 356 website.

Our 90 minute trip started at the Forks focusing on the province's pre-history, then it was off to old St. Boniface and a stop at Riel's grave. From there, across to downtown and Upper Fort Garry then through the Exchange to the Civic Centre. By the time we pulled back into the Forks the topic was present-day Winnipeg.

Ben has has put together a great presentation. Rather than let the route dictate the content, he has woven together a thoughtful and colourful history lesson and the trolley follows him.

Winnipeg Trolley Company tour

The vehicle itself is quite comfortable with great windows and good sound system. It's small enough that it can pull over into loading areas to allow people to get a good look at certain sites, rather than having a rushed commentary while zooming through traffic.

It's definitely a trip that I would recommend to both visitors and locals alike.

Update: My bad. Seems the public tours ended at the end of September and will resume May 2013. You'll still see it on the road fro charters and at Boo at the Zoo.

Tours run on Thursdays and Sundays through the end of September 2012. Tickets ($23 for adults and $13 for children) can be purchased at the Two Rivers store on the main floor of the Forks Market. (I went on the 1 pm Sunday tour in late September and it was two seats short of a sell-out so you might want to buy early, especially if you have a small group.)

Winnipeg Trolley Company
Putting History on Track: Using Heritage as a Tool for Downtown Rejuvenation in Winnipeg Benjamin Gillies
Trolley pays homage to Winnipeg's History Metro

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