When we were visiting SW Minnesota with my sister and nephew, we drove by the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum in Tracy, Minnesota, and my train buff nephew suggested we visit the next day.
The 1915 Chicago & Northwestern RR steam engine dominates the view from Highway 15. The train station, though bearing the Tracy name, was an original C&NWR station moved from Volga, SD. Stations were first established about every 20 miles so the engine could refill at the water tower seen here. Laura Ingalls Wilder rode here from Walnut Grove, the next eastern stop. In the distance is the 1901 Episcopal Church which can be rented for weddings, though before the ceremony, I assume they move out the moldering casket on display inside.
The museum opened in 1985 after local citizens strove to preserve some of their pioneer heritage. While named Wheels, much of the museum consists of nearby buildings moved to the site and filled with period-appropriate furnishings. We were given a personal tour by a college student who enjoyed sharing his deep Tracy roots.
The summer kitchen struck a personal chord. A few days earlier, we stopped by the (now vacant) house in NE Minnesota that my mother and her eleven siblings grew up in. They had a wood burning stove just like the one on exhibit and a summer kitchen to relieve the house of the heat since the stove was always going to keep a family that size fed. The barns and animal pens that surrounded the house are all gone, but the kitchen and the old home that was originally a log cabin still stand.
Scandinavians settled much of this part of the country, and the delightful cottage got a wonderful paint job by the owner when it was donated. Though I hope the teacher from the Murray County Schoolhouse was more friendly looking.
The museum built a large shed to hold its growing collection, including adding the counter from the local cafe when it closed. Our college student guide was proud to show that stools he sat in as a child were now part of the collection.
A local resident volunteers at the blacksmith shop, and what Great Plains collection would be complete without some tractors.
After working up a hunger touring on Americana, we drove into town where the old bank had been converted to Bonnie & Clyde’s Bar & Grill. What’s more American than celebrating outlaws?