Trolley continues good run amid COVID-19 challenges

Ray Scherer


All systems remain go for the Hermann Trolley, which is so far managing to cope effectively with changes to the services fostered by the pandemic.


Owner Kevin Sanderlin said he's been successful in working with groups that use the trolley while visiting Hermann, in a system that is adhering to guidance on COVID-19 from all levels of government.


"We try to social distance them on the trolleys," Sanderlin said of his customers.


And his process of ensuring safety among those users -- and those who are lodging in Hermann and frequent the trolleys for their local travels -- includes a follow-up contact after the visits. He's able to do the phone calls on Saturday nights, once the day's business is done.


"I do it for size," he explained of the contacts he's making with groups of more than just a few individuals. "It's groups that travel together."


It's a method Sanderlin has followed for the past six weeks. He's on his fourth circuit of the phone calls, and he obtains phone numbers from riders no matter where they happen to overnight in town.


"I ask them how all their friends are doing," he added, along with other questions that check on health. "I do (the calls) two weeks after they've been here. I'm up to about 1,000."


Thus far, no one at all has reported being sick with any coronavirus-related symptoms, according to Sanderlin, who states those customers are even professing a pledge to return to Hermann.


Trolley users and those who are staying at Sanderlin's guest properties come from locations such as St. Louis, Kansas City, and even Illinois.


"Nobody's uncomfortable," he said of public reactions, despite the virus.


The idea for making the follow-up checks was helped through conversations with the governor's office, who recommended doing the health updates due to the large groups using the trolleys.


The service continues following other guidelines to ensure safety, including wiping down the trolleys and offering hand sanitizer. There is no human contact whatsoever for riders in getting on and off the vehicles. Larger groups are seated toward the back, while riders seeking an extra dose of security are accommodated nearer the front.


Yet with all the measures being taken, there have been some impacts to the amount of people using the trolley.


"Our numbers are jaded a little bit," said Sanderlin. For example, whereas in the past one of his guest houses may have seen 14, now there typically eight to 10 lodgers.


He also continues to see a decline in Amtrak riders coming in to Hermann, he continued, along with a slowdown in party buses and limousines that cater to the city. Sanderlin called that consequence "disturbing" for the Hermann economy.


The Fourth of July weekend went well, Sanderlin said, with numerous families choosing to partake of Hermann's holiday schedule of activities over offerings in larger cities. Visitors have been showing an immense amount of respect for each other as the concerns for closeness remain and taking the protective measures to heart.


There's optimism for the rest of the summer. Wineries have been doing very well in following the health recommendations, he stated.


"The next three weeks, we're completely full," he said of bookings at his facilities.