No, Mr. Rogers neighborhood has not moved to Manhattan. That green and red trolley complete with whistle and wooden benches being driven around Manhattan is a collaboration of ideas between insurance salesman Josh Runyan and Mr. K’s owner Scott Sieben.
Originally, the trolley was only going to be used for weddings. But the purpose is expanding because as Sieben and Runyan came to discover, the “possibilities are endless with this.”
In order to drum up fanfare, the duo has already begun driving family members around town. The trolley could also be seen driving Manhattan High School students to prom. It has a Facebook page, a Twitter page, and a website, http://www.MHKtrolley.com.
All of that is by means of expanding visibility of the trolley, which Sieben and Runyan believe could eventually as a shuttle service between Mr. K’s restaurant and Aggieville, for haunted house tours, Christmas light tours, and Underground Railroad tours. The trolley will also be available for use by residents in Junction City and Wamego.
Even though Sieben and Runyan have yet to officially open for business, groups have already started reserving time. The trolley holds 15-20 people.
“I have people message me about wanting to use it on alumni gatherings to take them to the Discovery Center, the alumni center and various places for activities during the day,” Runyan said.
“We have got some October and a couple November (bookings),” Sieben said. “It’s starting to book up pretty well.”
The trolley is actually scheduled to begin its runs in June. Right now, Sieben and Runyan are taking the steps that will enable guests to bring alcohol aboard and putting a subwoofer in to complete the sound system.
Already the trolley is attracting attention.
“We went through campus and people would stop their bikes and get out their camera phones and take a picture,” Runyan said. “I have friends who stop their car and take a picture and tag us on Facebook.”
After receiving 100 “likes”, on their Facebook.com page, Sieben and Runyan decided to give a free hour away.
A group of military families, who are getting ready to deploy won the prize. The military group enjoyed the ride so much that they are going to rent the trolley again before they deploy.
Currently, there are 192 “likes” on the MHK trolley’s page.
Getting the trolley to Manhattan has been the biggest obstacle thus far.
After locating a trolley in Estes Park, Colo., Sieben flew out to Denver and then took a train to Estes Park to pick the trolley up.
Because the trolley tops out at 45 mph, driving on I-70 was out of the question. Sieben was forced to drive back roads and smaller highways, turning the 8-hour trip in to a 16-hour journey.
They also first had to convince the former owner to sell it.
“The guy we bought it from, one of his friends had died,” Runyan said. “In honor of him, he named his trolley “Herbie.”
Runyan said the former owner told him, he “has a lot of enemies in Estes Park because he sold it.”
As a goodwill gesture, Sieben and Runyan said they would keep the name Herbie. A bumper sticker with the name is posted on the inside of the trolley.
They also were willing to keep the former owner abreast of where Herbie is.
Sieben said the drive from Colorado back to Manhattan frequently became a paparazzi experience.
“I probably had 50-100 people that would just take pictures with their camera phones as they were passing me,” Sieben said. “I had one guy who jumped in to the backseat (of his car) and took pictures with a nice camera.”
Hoping to build off the excitement and uniqueness of the first trolley, there are plans to possibly secure a second trolley. The pair has tossed around the idea of painting the second trolley a more KSU appropriate set of colors: purple, silver, and white.
Runyan said initial cost stopped them from doing that with the first trolley.
Once the pair has it paid off, then they may paint the original trolley purple, silver, and white. But that is not guaranteed, Runyan called the current paint job “remarkable.”
Unlike the prospective paint job, Runyan and Sieben are already certain about the impact of the trolley around the community.
“It brings a different flavor of transportation to Manhattan,” Runyan said.