Episode 11 and 12: Hiawatha Completion

December 4, 2004 was the day of the grand opening celebration for the completion of the Hiawatha line. On this day service was extended on the line from Fort Snelling through the airport and on to the Mall of America.

Because my video of the June Grand Opening was hampered by camera troubles I was ready to get lots of good video of this day's events, so I had plenty of batteries and my small Canon ZR-65 camera that fit easily in my backpack with my shotgun microphone and headphones.

I rode my bus downtown and caught the train to Fort Snelling. This was a couple hours before the line would open the rest of the way, so after getting off the train at Fort Snelling I got on the bus to the airport and the mall. As the bus rounded the corner onto the crosstown highway, a train went over the highway 55 bridge, and I got some nice video of the train passing over us.

The celebration was to be in a tent at the Bloomington Central station. As there was no regular bus stop for that station, the driver let us off at a corner about a block away from the station. As I got off the bus, somebody asked me where the celebration was to be. I had seen the tent and pointed that out to him. At that moment I turned and saw that the person who asked me was radio journalist Eric Eskola.

I got to the tent a few minutes before the speeches were to begin. I found a good spot near the stage. The area immediately in front of the stage was cordoned off with a fence, so I had to stand behind it. While waiting I saw my old friend Steve Share, and he introduced me to his friend Jeff Syme. It is Jeff's photos that I have placed on the left side of this page.

After nearly an hour of speeches, everybody left the tent to greet the arrival of the trains. When the trains pulled up, one going north and one going south, the people standing back applauded. Although the initial rides were only supposed to go to people who had special Hiawatha Line first ride tickets, after all those people had boarded there still was room, so I got on the southbound train, where I did an interview with one of the volunteers from the Minnesota Transportation Museum.

I rode the train to the Mall of America station, where I saw Peter McLaughlin, Hennpin County Commisioner, standing. He volunteered to give me an interview. After getting a couple more interviews at the Mall station I caught a train and rode it to the airport.

At the airport station: more interviews. I hung out at the table of Transit for Livable Communities and found many people to tell me about their passion for transit. This was uplifting to me. I've always grumbled about how Twin Cities residents don't really understand mass transit, and here I was hearing from so many people who were so enthusiastic about transit, and particularly rail transit.

I rode the new section of the line back to Bloomington Central where I did more interviews, then back to the mall, for more. And then once again to Bloomington Central and then I rode a standing room only train back up to downtown Minneapolis after the sun had set beautifully over the Mall of America.

The last two interviews I made were two of my favorites. They were with a gentleman who grew up in New York City and rode all around the city on the rail system long before he was a teenager. The last interview was with a man who remembered the last years of the streetcars in the Twin Cities.

My body ached the next day from holding my small camera so tight to try to make steady shots. I had recorded five hours of video, from 10 that morning to seven that evening.

I edited the tape into two shows. Show #11 looks at the celebration and really looks at the past of transit in the Twin Cities. Show #12 looks toward the future, with information on upcoming transit lines and on the relationship between transit and development and how they can build the Twin Cities of the future. I hope you like the shows.

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Photos by Jeff Syme


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