Visiting the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum in Tracy, Minnesota.
the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum in Tracy, Minnesota is a very interesting place. It's got a lot of historical significance from the region. It's also got a lot to offer to those willing to make the trek to visit it. There's literally stuff for the whole family to do. This is also a great place to stop if you are going to or from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum on a weekend.
The museum sits about 90 miles from Sioux Falls. It's a boring drive out to Tracy, but if you are going to hit up this museum you should also be able to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove and see the sites of Little House on the Prairie. However if you live closer it is well worth the trip for the chance to see this museum alone. Visiting both Museums would be a wonderful day trip.
We visited on Saturday, May 25th. I'm unsure as to why we didn't find anyone there at 10 AM.
I'm not sure if we did anything wrong but we put some money in the donation box and walked around the museum grounds anyway.
I'm not sure if we did anything wrong but if we did I do apologize to the curators of the museum. We didn't try to open any doors or play with anything. I'm also confused as to if we visited the museum the way it was intended as the sidewalks lead around to the buildings.
There is a lot of interesting history that has been moved to this place. Of special interest to me is the steam locomotive that sits prominently out towards the front of the museum. This Alco 0-6-0 locomotive has had an interesting history. Built in 1915 It was owned by the Soo Line. At some point it was sold to the owner of a resteraunt in Rochester, Minnesota that used it as part of the Depot House Restaurant. In the early 90s this locomotive was left in horrible condition as the building of the restaurant was torn down around it.
The locomotive has been with this museum as far back as 2002. The depot is the old CNW Depot from Volga, SD. There also a boxcar and a CNW caboose.
The caboose is far newer than the locomotive, about 40 years newer. I'm not sure why they thought it was a good idea to put this consist together. But I'm glad to see all these railroad artifacts anyway. Maby in the future they could create a couple sidings and get more cars. There are a few scattered around the area that need some cosmetic restoration before display. There's a lot of room for growth here.
The locomotive is in rough shape. There's been some good work done repainting it. I think the windows are plexiglass. There is some serious wood rot going on in the cab area. Fresh paint has clearly been applied everywhere though. That's good, they are really trying to preserve this locomotive. I've found no information on how good of condition the boiler is in but the amount of rust inside the firebox seems to indicate that the boiler is in good condition. I suspect all the pipes will have to be replaced though.
This gives us a wonderful and rare chance to see what the train crew would have seen.
Also at the museum are several buildings that are of historical significance. It's great to see them here because they are being well preserved. Seen here is the wonderfully preserved St. Marks episcopal Church. Built in 1891 it was moved to the site after commercial buildings threatened to overtake it in the downtown. It was bought by the Lyon County Historical Society for only $2,000 in 1973 before it was sold to the city of Tracy for merely one dollar.
Nearby sits a log cabin with modern window panes. The cabin shows the method of construction used to create a house at the time and place of Laura Ingalls Wilder. You can see how well built these structures were made. This cabin has stood up to over 100 years of weather.
It'd be neat to see inside these buildings but just being able to walk around them and look at them was neat enough to make this a worthwhile trip. If you can come by at a time when they are open, it'd be a very worthwhile trip. Riding their garden scale railroad would also be a cute treat. I think this place is wonderfully laid out and designed with a lot of room for growth into a real tourist attraction. In the meantime though, I hope you get a chance to visit.