The whole of the United States used to be connected by the great Railroads of History; from East to West the rails carried people of all ages, and ethnicities. Railroads carried slaves to freedom, soldiers to wars, women and children to their gold mining husbands in San Francisco, and President Lincoln from Washington D.C. to Gettysburg, where he would give one of the greatest presidential speeches in history.
Now the steam ages is past us and the great rails that men struggled to build and slaved to finish are being abandoned to turn to weeds. The once great railroad is starting to vanish in light of the great combustion engine; and the now hybrid engines that have conquered the world over the last hundred years. But in the wake of the automobile age a gift has been given to the people of the States, the gift of trails.
Where once there were great rails, iron beams that held great steam engines, there are now paved paths, and gravel trails that hold titanium bikes, and rubber track snowmobiles. The feats of our past ancestors to connect this great country is not all together lost, for the work and remarkable feat of the railroad beds and bridges can still be seen across the country. The beauty of the states can be seen in every state. The nonprofit organization Rails-to-Trails Conservancy works across the country to conserve the beauty of the great railways by turning them into trails. Lake Woebegone trail is one of over 1600 trails that crisscross this country where old railroads once shuttled people from the hustle and bustle of city life to the calm tranquil country side.
The Lake Woebegone trail stretches from Saint Joseph thru many great small towns and ends in Sauk Center. It is 54 mile long trail, with many stops including Albany, which has an additional 24 mile trail that leads to Holdingford, not all of which is Woebegone, but it is a very scenic ride. Albany MN makes a great stopping point not just because it has such a great history along the Soo and Great Northern rail lines that once rolled by on a regular schedule, but because some of the greatest late 1800’s and early 1900’s architecture can still be seen along Railroad Ave. where some great shops and restaurants now make those historical markers their homes.
Some of these great places include, Melina’s Bistro and Coffeehouse, which shares the main level of 401 Railroad Ave. with Albany Country Floral, both places now occupy the main level of the old general store. The building was build in 1899, they cherish what remains of the original interior of the general store including the tin ceiling, and columns seen in Albany Country Floral, and Melina’s is proud to also have the same glorious tin ceiling and a small but precious portion of original hard wood floor. Happy to tell anyone the history of the building, feel free to ask Tina, one of the Barista’s who loves history, and knows as much as she can about the building that gives her business a home.
Just one block over, sits Roadies Market, an occasional store that makes itself at home in what was once an old Saloon. Build in 1905 this narrow yet remarkable building now is a great place to find gifts and take a few minutes to enjoy what the seasons can bring. Open every second weekend of the month as well as many other days, this market is a treasure Albany is happy to claim.
Melina’s is open every day; Albany Country Floral is open every day but Sunday. Feel free to take a short drive or walk over to Railroad Ave. the decadent road that follows the old rail line that now boasts itself home to the Lake Woebegone Trail.
We hope to see you soon, and wish you the best of a ride, drive or walk along one of the greatest rail-to-trail lines in the area.