Trolley a unique way to see the lights

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The Trolley Girl provided a free trolley shuttle to shoppers at Keizer Station last holiday season. (KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)

The Trolley Girl provided a free trolley shuttle to shoppers at Keizer Station last holiday season. (KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

If you’re going to be in a line anyway to enjoy the Miracle of Christmas lights display in the Gubser neighborhood of Keizer, why not be on a trolley?

McMinnville-based The Trolley Girl provides trolley service around the Gubser neighborhood on the evenings of Dec. 13 to 15 and Dec. 20 to 22.

Jeannie Johnson, who bought the business from Bob Bunn last year, enjoys giving the tours.

“That’s really popular and people love it,” Johnson said. “I think it’s awesome. It’s something people can do, then donate money or food for the (Marion-Polk Food Share). It brings out the spirit of Christmas. Families love it. We love the Miracle of Christmas. You should just hear the comments people make.”

As of earlier this week, it was not known yet if Johnson would again be shuttling shoppers around Keizer Station.

Two years ago the trolley took shoppers from Keizer Station to Copper Creek on River Road and back. Last year, the route was shortened to just going around Keizer Station.

“We are still waiting to hear about whether the Keizer Station owners will be sponsoring that again this year,” said Christine Dieker, executive director of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, which has its office in the shopping area. “People enjoyed it a lot. It was fun. We had a lot more ridership last year. Keizer Station is on the grow, too.”

Tours for the lights run from 6 to 10 p.m. on each of the six upcoming nights, starting at McNary Restaurant and Lounge (165 McNary Estates Drive N). The tour costs $10, which includes a $10 meal or beverage voucher to the restaurant, to be used that evening. For reservations, call the chamber office at 503-393-9111.

When Johnson started driving the trolley for former owner Bunn in September 2009, it wasn’t much of a stretch.

“I used to be a school bus driver,” she said. “The regular driver that drove for Bob was a person I worked with. She asked me to fill in one weekend.”

Johnson said bringing a trolley to the Mid-Willamette Valley was a dream Bunn had been harboring for years, going back to a trolley ride he’d taken on a trip.

“He found this 1995 model online in Seattle,” Johnson said. “He had been wanting to do it for eight years. He couldn’t get it out of his brain.”

The trolley features red mahogany slat benches with burgundy wrought iron ends, brass rails and poles,  handmade cushions, a microphone and an MP3 player.

Johnson has found the reactions to the trolley are a bit different than that of a school bus.

“It’s much more fun,” Johnson said of the trolley. “It makes people smile, just looking at it. They’re thinking it is fun. It’s all about having fun. There is no other reason for them to really be on there. It’s all about having a good time.”

Once people get past the initial surprise of seeing an old-fashioned trolley, that is.

“They stand there with their mouths open, especially the kids,” Johnson said with a laugh. “It’s pretty comical, really. People take pictures of me driving down the road. People stare at you. It makes people smile, it really does.”

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