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Northstar's free-ride extravaganza

Posted by: $author under Light rail and rail transit Updated: November 15, 2009 - 9:03 PM

From Aquatennial queens to dairy princesses, Minnesota is a land of abundant, accessible royalty. So I shouldn't have been surprised that some of the first people I encountered at Saturday's Northstar commuter-rail festivities were wearing crowns:

These young women were official Anoka ambassadors, chosen at a recent celebration of Anoka's status as the Halloween Capital of the World. If anyone should have been among the 700 people who got to take a special free Northstar preview train from the Anoka station to downtown Minneapolis, they were it.

Each of the five suburban stations filled five cars' worth of seats for the rides, according to Metro Transit (1,200 people showed up at Big Lake, meaning 500 didn't get to ride). And presumably, each station had its own commeorative hanky: 

On board, the mix of riders was a little different from what it probably will be during Monday's commute:

Seems unlikely that there'll be a lot of crayons on the laptop tables during rush hour, but either way, these folks knew how to make the most of the ride. (In another car, I saw a woman stuyding a book about web design.)

Here was the scene at the Target Field station in downtown Minneapolis:

The train on the left stayed there all day so Minneapolis people could take tours (no rides for them). The train on the right was the one I came in on from Anoka and stayed about hour or so. I don't know whether everybody made it back on my train, but I learned that a half-dozen people missed the Elk River one. Metro Transit was planning to get them home, but come Monday, missing your train could mean a reeeeally expensive cab ride.

And what transit event would be complete without...

... Civil War re-enactment characters?

One of the guys told me that they were there because Anoka got its first-ever rail service during the Civil War. (And, after apparently wearing his uniform for one too many summertime festivals, he reported that he was enjoying the chilly weather: "It's a great day to be in wool.")

Our last photo, and perhaps my favorite, is this shot of a young man named Alexander, who was riding with his grandparents. He was very, very excited to see whatever was coming next (in this case, the Coon Rapids park-and-ride). He had the slight misfortune of sitting in one of the backward-facing seats for the ride back to Anoka, so this is pretty much how he looked the whole time:

In front of him, on the table, was a cardboard boxcar he picked up in the welcome tent at the downtown station. We'll have to see what sort of goodies await the first commuters on Monday -- beyond a $317 million train, of course. (My Sunday story about Northstar is here.)

 

 

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