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Trolley tours link Mister Rogers to St. Vincent campus

| Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Austin Bachand | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Asher, 6, Mollie, 8, and Abigail Owen, 4, of Woodbridge, VA, look out the window of the trolley at a passing marching band with their aunt, Elke Slack of Charlottesville, NC at St. Vincent College on Saturday, July 26, 2014. This is the first time the trolley is being used for these tours.
Austin Bachand | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Mollie Owen, 8, of Woodbridge, Va., sits with her siblings Abigail, 4, and Asher, 6, and her aunt Elke Slack of Charlottesville, N.C., in the trolley being used for tours at St. Vincent College on Saturday, July 26, 2014. The Steelers training camp was the first time that St. Vincent unveiled their trolley that is a life-sized version of the trolley on the TV show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
Austin Bachand | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
The St. Vincent Basilica passes by the windows of the trolley used to give tours during Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp on Saturday, July 26, 2014. The tours show off the highlights of St. Vincent College.
Austin Bachand | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
The trolley, modeled after the one used in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, sits in front of the St. Vincent Basilica while giving a tour on Saturday, July 26, 2014.

The new trolley at St. Vincent College in Unity is a bit bigger than the one that famously tooted across TV screens for 33 years in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

Built on a bus chassis, the life-sized trolley holds up to 30 passengers and is traversing the campus with daily tours during Pittsburgh Steelers training camp.

“We want to show everyone our neighborhood and that's St. Vincent,” said Kelsey Harris, a 2014 St. Vincent graduate and Somerset native who is leading the tours.

The trolley takes one-hour loops of campus from the visitors' parking lot to the basilica, gristmill and Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve from noon to 4 p.m. on most days of afternoon practice through Aug. 13 and 2 to 6 p.m. Aug. 14.

Harris and her classmates worked on an interpretive plan last year detailing the historical value of aspects of the college campus and the group's goals to connect that to the legacy of Fred Rogers' iconic children's program.

It included a mission statement for the trolley to “engage visitors to experience history and traditions fostered within the unique academic, religious and cultural neighborhood of St. Vincent,” Harris said.

The trolley will otherwise be used on an “occasional basis” for special events, said the Rev. Paul Taylor, the college's executive vice president. It was first used during an event surrounding the presentation of the Fred Rogers Legacy Award to cellist Yo-Yo Ma in May.

The customized Molly Trolley from Molly Corp. of Wells, Maine, cost about $137,000 and was funded in part by a $7,000 Westmoreland County tourism grant.

Harris said she was glad to draw the connection between the Benedictine values at St. Vincent College and the lessons taught by Rogers.

“It's really neat to have the two come together,” she said.

Taylor said he hopes the tours will help training camp visitors answer questions they often have about the campus landmarks, especially when arriving early before the Steelers take the field.

“From the time they (fans) get here until they get to the field, I always watch to make sure they have the best possible experience,” he said.

With Harris taking the lead, Taylor said he has confidence that visitors will enjoy the new tours. A history major, Harris served as museum curator and tour coordinator at the gristmill during her senior year.

“She was great at doing that and works very independently and was able to create a lot of things with her own ideas,” Taylor said.

The tours will be reviewed to determine whether they'll become a regular feature of the annual Steelers pilgrimage, he said.

Regardless, the three weeks when the football players and their fans are on campus is an exciting time, Taylor said.

“I'm always glad to see the Steelers come and see the crowds,” he said.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or