A dinner train is a type of tourist train service whose main purpose is to allow people to eat dinner while experiencing a relatively short, leisurely round trip train ride. This contrasts with conventional passenger trains, whose main purpose is to transport passengers to some destination as quickly as possible but which also might serve dinner on long-distance routes.
Dinner trains have become popular in recent years, particularly in the United States. This is in part a result of a nostalgia for passenger trains (which are less common in the U.S. than in many other countries) and in part because it provides a very different experience from driving and from eating at ordinary restaurants.
The first dinner train in the United States was the "Supper Chief" that ran on the Sierra Railroad in California in the 1970's. Dinner train service was renewed in 1999 with the Sierra Railroad Dinner Train.
There are over 80 dinner trains currently operating in North America. Most such trains operate either seasonally or a few days a week, but some operate daily (or even twice daily on weekends in a few cases).
Almost all dinner trains run on lightly used branch lines or tourist lines, and virtually all use older passenger cars. Almost all dinner train trips are characterized by 2–4 hour trips that return to where they started since the emphasis is the experience and not traveling to a destination. Some feature the use of steam locomotives for at least some of their runs. Speeds are usually between 10–25 miles per hour (16–40 km/h), much slower than ordinary passenger trains, not only due to lower track standards but also to the fact that the emphasis is on the journey itself, not the destination.
Dinner trains can be fun not only for the passengers who ride them but also for the train crews and other employees. They can also provide jobs and be a profitable business. Moreover, they can generate substantial benefits for local economies, including boosting tourism and increasing sales at nearby businesses. For example, the Spirit of Washington, which operated daily on the Woodinville Subdivision near Seattle, provided 80 full-time jobs and contributed roughly $10 million annually to the local economy before ceasing operations in late October 2007. There was also the Michigan Star Clipper Dinner Train which was a dinner train that operated for 24 years out of Walled Lake, Michigan, with trips heading from West Bloomfield to Wixom.
In addition to just providing dinner while riding on a scenic route, some dinner trains have developed additional functions, such as hosting wedding receptions, reunions, company retreats, murder mystery events during the dinner.
Some so-called dinner trains do not actually serve meals aboard the train. Rather, the food is served in a building or outdoors after the train has reached its destination; the passengers then re-board for the return trip. This is particularly true for narrow gauge railways, on which it would be impractical to prepare and serve formal meals.
Dinner Trains by State
Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway
Address: P.O. Box 310, 299 North Main Street, Eureka Springs, AR, 72632. Phone: 479-253-9623.
California Western Skunk Train
Address: Foot of Laurel Street, Fort Bragg, CA, 95437 Phone: 1-800-866-1690.
Address: 250 Central Avenue, Fillmore, CA, 93015. Phone: 805-524-2546, Toll Free: 1-800-773-8724.
Golden Sunset Dinner Train - Sierra Railroad
Address: 220 South Sierra, Oakdale, CA, 95361. Phone: 209-848-2100, Toll Free: 1-800-866-1690.
Moonlight Special - Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad
Address: 56001 Hwy 41, Fish Camp, CA, 93623. Phone: 559-683-7273.
Moonlight Steam Train Dinner Party : Roaring Camp & Big Trees Narrow Gauge
Address: P.O. Box G-1, Felton, CA, 95018. Phone: 831-335-4484.
Napa Valley Wine Train
Address: 1275 McKinstry Street, Napa, CA, 94559. Phone: 707-253-2111, Toll Free: 800-427-4124.
Nevada County Traction Company
Address: 402 Railroad Avenue, Nevada City, CA, 95959. Phone: 530-265-0896, Toll Free: 1-800-226-3090.
The Twilight Dinner Train
Address: Campo Depot, Campo, CA, 91906. Phone: 619-595-3030.
Brew Train - Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway & Museum
Address: 479 Main Ave, Durango, CO 81301. Phone: 970-247-2733, Toll Free: 877-872-4607.
Royal Gorge Route Dinner Train
Address: 1111 Rose, Georgetown, CO, 80444. Phone: 303-569-2403, Toll Free: 1-888-RAILS-4U.
Essex Steam Train & Riverboat
Address: 1 Railroad Ave, PO. Box 452, Essex, CT, 06426. Phone: 860-767-0103, Toll Free: 800-377-3987.
Wilmington and Western Railroad
Address: 1601 Railroad Ave, Wilmington, DE, 19808. Phone: 302-998-1930.
The Dinner Train Theater - Seminole Gulf Railway
Address: 2805 Colonial Blvd, Fort Myers, FL, 33912. Phone: 239-275-8487, Toll Free: 800-SEM-GULF.
Paniolo Express Dinner Train
Address: 975 Limahana Place, Suite 203, Lahaina, Maui, HI, 96761. Phone: 808-667-6851, Toll Free: 1-800-499-2307. Note: This train has been out of service. Check website for latest information.
Dinner in the Diner - Hamiltonian Dinner Express - Indiana Transportation Museum
Address: P.O. Box 83, Noblesville, IN, 46061. Phone: 317-773-6000.
Whitewater Valley Railroad
Address: 455 Market St, Connersville, IN, 47331. Phone: 765-825-2054.
Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad
Address: 225 10th Street, Boone, IA, 50036. Phone: 515-432-4249, Toll Free: 800-626-0319.
Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad
Address: 417 S. Buckeye, Abilene, KS, 67410. Phone: 785-263-1077, Toll Free: 888-426-6687.
Kansas Belle Dinner Train
Address: 1515 High Street, Baldwin City, Baldwin City, KS, 66006. Phone: 785-594-8505.
Cincinnati Dinner Train
Address: 11013 Kenwood Road, Cincinnati, KY, 45242. Phone: 513-791-7245.
Address: 602 N 3 St, Bardstown, KY, 40004. Phone: 502-348-7300.
Kentucky Railroad Museum
Address: P.O.Box 576, Louisville, KY, 40201. Phone: 502- 361-2496, Toll Free: 800-272- 0152.
Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad
Address: One Depot Street, Unity, ME, 04988. Phone: 800-392-5500, Toll Free: 800-392-5500.
Walkersville Southern Railroad
Address: P.O. Box 651, Walkersville, MD, 21793. Phone: 301-898-0899, Toll Free: 877-363-WSRR.
Western Maryland Scenic Railroad
Address: 13 Canal Street, Cumberland, MD, 21502. Phone: 301-759-4400, Toll Free: 800-872-4650.
Cape Cod Central Railroad
Address: 252 Main, Hyannis, MS, 02601. Phone: 508-771-3800, Toll Free: 888-797-RAIL.
The Old Road - Murder Mystery Dinner Trains
Address: 301 East Adrian Street, Blissfield, MI, 49228. Phone: 517-486-5979, Toll Free: 888-467-2451.
Mountain Explorer Dinner Train
Address: RR 315 Railroad Ave., Elkins, WV 26241. Phone: 304-636-9477.
Spirit of Coopersville - Coopersville & Marne Railway
Address: 311 Danforth St, Coopersville, MI, 49404. Phone: 616-997-7000.
North Shore Scenic Railroad
Address: 506 West Michigan St, Duluth, MN, 55802. Phone: 218-722-1273, Toll Free: 800-423-1273.
Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway
Address: 114 Depot Road, Osceola, Wisconsin, MN, 54020 Phone: 715-755-3570.
Address: 206 E. Main, Branson, MO, 65616. Phone: 417-334-6110, Toll Free: 800-287-2462.
St. Louis Iron Mountain & Southern Railway
Address: 252 E. Jackson Blvd., Jackson, MO, 63755. Phone: 573-243-1688.
Charlie Russell Chew-Choo
Address: 224 W Main St, Lewistown, MT, 59457. Phone: 406-538-2527.
Fremont Dinner Train
Address: 650 N. "H" St., Fremont, NE, 68025. Phone: 402--727-8321, Toll Free: 800-942-7245.
Nevada Northern Railway
Address: P.O. Box 150040, East Ely, NV, 89315. Phone: 775-289-2085, Toll Free: 866-407-8326.
Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train
Address: 3 Crossing at River Place, North Woodstock, NH, 03262. Phone: 603-745-3500.
Chocorua - Conway Scenic Railroad
Address: Rt 16, Norcross Circle, North Conway, NH, 03860. Phone: 603-356-5251, Toll Free: 800-232-5251.
Lakeside Dinner Train - Hobo Railroad
Address: 64 Railroad Street, PO Box 9, Lincoln, NH, 03251. Phone: 603-745-2135.
Saturday Night Barbecue Train - Santa Fe Southern Railway
Address: 410 S. Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe, NM, 87501. Phone: 505-989-8600, Toll Free: 888-989-8600.
Beer and Wine Train - Adirondack Scenic Railroad
Address: Boehlert Transportation Center (Utica Station), 321 Main St, Utica, NY 13501. Phone: 800-819-2291.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Address: 45 Mitchell St, Bryson City, North Carolina 28713. Phone: 828-586-8811, Toll Free: 800-872-4681.
The Cincinnati Dinner Train
Address: 2172 E Seymour Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45237. Phone: 513-791-7245.
Bellefonte Historical Railroad
Address: Train Station, Bellefonte, PA, 16823. Phone: 814-355-0311.
Liberty Limited - Northern Central Railway
Address: Unknown, New Freedom, PA, 17349. Phone: 717-235-4000, Toll Free: 800-94-TRAIN.
Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad
Address: 136 Brown Street, Middletown, PA, 17057. Phone: 717-944-4435.
Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad
Address: 7 Elm Street, Oil City, PA, 16301. Phone: 814-676-1733.
Address: PO. Box 96, Strasburg, PA, 17579. Phone: 717-687-7522.
Tioga Central Railroad
Address: 35 Charleston Street, P. O. Box 269, Wellsboro, PA, 16901. Phone: 570-724-0990.
Newport Dinner Train
Address: P.O. Box 1081, Newport, RI, 02840. Phone: 401-841-8700, Toll Free: 800-398-RIBS.
Historic Prairie Village
Address: 45205 SD Highway 34, Madison, SD, 57042. Phone: 605-256-3644, Toll Free: 800-693-3644.
Heber Valley Railroad
Address: 450 South 600 West, Heber City, UT, 84032. Phone: 435-654-5601.
Champlain Valley Dinner Train - Green Mountain Railroad
Address: P.O. Box 498, 54 Depot St., Bellows Falls, VT, 05101. Phone: 802-463-3069, Toll Free: 800-707-3530.
Mount Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum
Address: P.O Box 921, 54124 Mountain Hwy E., Elbe, WA 98330. Phone: 360-492-6000.
Chehalis Centralia Railroad
Address: 1101 SW Sylvenus St, Chehalis, WA 98532. Phone: 360-748-9593.
Chelatchie Prairie Railroad
Address: 207 Railroad Ave, Yacolt, WA 98675. Phone: 360-686-3559.
Cass Scenic Railroad
Address: P.O. Box 107, Cass, WV, 24927. Phone: 304-456-4300, Toll Free: 1-800-225-5982.
Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad
Address: Wappocomo Station, P.O. Box 657, Romney, WV, 26757. Phone: 304-822-7464.
Address: E8948 Diamond Hill Road, P.O. Box 358, North Freedom, WI, 53951. Phone: 608-522-4261 Toll Free: 800-930-1385.
East Troy Electic Railroad
Address: PO Box 943, 2002 Church Street, East Troy, WI, 53120. Phone: 262-642-3077.
Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway
Address: 114 Depot Road, Osceola, Wisconsin, WI, 54020. Phone: 715-755-3570.
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