What Columbia really needs is a…dinner train?

This dinner train thing has been in the works for a while, but still has me scratching my head. How many people are going to pay $70 to get on a train in Columbia, ride up to Centralia while eating, then ride back?

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “That might be a nice anniversary dinner,” and assuming the food’s decent you’re probably right. But this very clearly falls under what 44 Stone’s Mark Sulltrop brilliantly referred to as “The Curse of the Special Occasion,” a place you go once a year (and quickly goes out of business).

Other issues:

  • What caliber of chef are you going to get for two nights a week plus Sunday brunch?
  • One wonders what “entertaining passengers” might consist of. <shudder>
  • The Tribune reporter states, with absolutely no explanation or supporting quote, that “The anticipation for the dining train’s launch has grown after months of delays.” Really?
  • The man behind this operation believes it will be a success because there are only ten other such trains in the United States. Actually, sir, that’s how capitalism says “Do not touch.”

I wish them well, but do envision this whole enterprise as a rolling Gibson Girls Cafe with a $70 per person price tag. It smells of calamity. Would love to be proven wrong.


Author: Scott

I am a married father of two. I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and then Mizzou before spending six years in the Washington, D.C. area. We returned to Columbia, Missouri in 2006.

5 thoughts

  1. Can’t imagine it will survive long. Now if you lined the sides of the tracks with wild exotic animals and aboriginal villages. Toss in a smoking volcano, 1200 ft. high trestle and some train tunnels….. you might have something.

  2. The US is big on trains. Amtrak has been a financial powerhouse in the region and nationally, hasn’t it? I’ve had one train meal in my life, on a train owned by the Orient Express, in Peru, and it made airline food seem great.

    This isn’t Peru though, so I hope I’m wrong, for the sake of the owners. No one wants a new business to tank. I’m sure the demographic they are after with a dinner train isn’t 30-ish year olds who can cook pretty well. 🙂 I am guessing it is the same people who enjoy dinner theatres and murder mystery dinners.

    I’d pay someone to cook me locally caught decent fish better than I can myself, on a sandbar in the river, by candlelight or torch, with some music, were I opting for a regional character dining choice with a different twist. I never pay $70/person for a meal unless it includes better and more alcohol than I usually drink though.

  3. Tamara,
    In the Columbia Tribune over the last few days, they have mentioned the rather large amount of money that Amtrak has lost within the last few years and the amount they are projected to lose next year. It’s disheartening.

  4. Well, Mrs. SMEs and I had an AMAZING meal on a rickety-ass train in Thailand. It can be done. But probably not here.

  5. Lucky you! I bet your ticket was less as well.

    It seems like it should be possible on a train. I’d totally go for an old cocktail car on a train, making the classics, as if out of an old movie, if I went out. With the old crooners.

    I’m not the likely client for a Columbia/Centralia route though, but one with a pretty cocktail car done right could be fun for bachelor(ette)/client/office/rehearsal dinners/small parties too, besides the brunch/anniversary crowd. Like a pub crawl, but with a private crowd in some cases. Cabs at the end of course.

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