Close this search box.
Lakesider News

Historic Tram Tour has successful return

By Kevin Greer
Lakeside Communications Manager

The Historic Tram Tour returned for Lakeside’s Sesquicentennial Celebration last year and quickly became one of the most popular attractions in the community.

After a three-year absence and a challenging but successful search for a new vehicle, the tram was filled for nearly every excursion throughout the summer. There were 135 tours and over 1,000 people took the 70-minute ride while being educated about the history of Lakeside and hearing a few stories along the way. Many rode it more than once and encouraged other Lakesiders to take the jaunt.

“I was surprised by the consistency of having it run that well all summer,” said Tram Tour Guide Laurie Beam. “To have people still signing up and mostly having full vehicles in August was impressive.”

The tour was started by Carol Murray in 2001 and ended following the 2019 season after the tram needed major repairs. It needed a part, but it was uncertain if the tram would run even after being replaced since it was 20 years old.

“It was going to need a sizable investment,” Beam said. “The tram broke down every other trip and we had to keep calling (former Vice President of Municipal Services) Dave Geyer to rescue us.”

Once the pandemic started, health and safety came first, so the tram tour took a back seat on the list of Lakeside’s priorities for a few summers. With the 150th season on the horizon, Sesquicentennial Committee Co-Chair Cindy Grimm approached Beam about bringing the Historic Tram Tour back as part of Lakeside’s milestone celebration. However, there was one small problem.

“I said that’s a tall order because we have no tram,” Beam said. “I told her I was happy to do that, but I don’t know about trams or where to order one.”

Lakeside made efforts to revive the tour, but things stalled until a Lakesider stepped up. Wayne Warden talked with Beam one day and said he wanted to donate money to buy a tram.

His wife, Susan, was a Tram Tour Guide for three years before she passed away. Warden knew how much the tour meant to his wife, so he thought having a tram in Lakeside for the 150th season was the perfect way to honor her memory.

Other Lakesiders followed Warden’s lead. Brad and Jeri Hoopes made a contribution in honor of Jeri’s mother, Marie Bowman. Barbara Martin, the Lakeside Women’s Club and other families chipped in.

The next step was finding a place that sells the right tram. They had a chance to look at the one purchased in 2022 by the Friends of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge from a company in Florida.

All the donations were a huge help because with the extra features needed for the tram, the price kept going up. It needed a more powerful motor and brakes to go up and down Lakeside’s hills. Roll down guards were needed to go on each side so tours could continue in the rain.

“It’s no different than buying a car,” Beam said. “There’s a base price, but if you want more features, the price goes up.”

Beam said the price tag for the tram was around $40,000 and it arrived in Lakeside more than a month before the start of the 2023 season. The tram seats nine passengers comfortably. All the tour guides are volunteers and were well-prepared to take Lakesiders for an educational ride.

Beam and Jeri Hoopes are veterans from the previous tours and Jim Heikes and Ginger Leonard were rookie drivers. What makes the tours unique is that the guides have their own style. If you ride it a second time with a different driver, you’ll see the same landmarks, but get different stories and perspectives.

“You’ll always get the same concrete factual tour and the same route,” Beam said. “But it’s enhanced by the storytelling of each individual.”

With a new tram in place, the tours are once again a Lakeside staple. Just like last summer, there will be rides Monday-Friday at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and the price remains $5 per person. Private tours are also offered for $50 per group. All four guides will also be back.

“I think the tram is very well built and it will last well into the future,” Beam said. “We don’t see the tour as a fundraiser, but a facilitator and goodwill for Lakeside. It makes people more comfortable in Lakeside, especially if they’re new, to understand the old Lakeside.”


Related News