Archive for Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dinner train move to Baldwin City planned for next week

The dining cars that will offer service at Midland Railway as the Kansas Belle Dinner Train will start arriving in Baldwin City next week if all goes as planned. Bruce Eveland, manager and co-owner of the business, said the four cars will be trucked to Baldwin City from Fremont, Neb.

The dining cars that will offer service at Midland Railway as the Kansas Belle Dinner Train will start arriving in Baldwin City next week if all goes as planned. Bruce Eveland, manager and co-owner of the business, said the four cars will be trucked to Baldwin City from Fremont, Neb.

October 18, 2012

The four dining cars that will operate on Midland Railway could start arriving next week in Baldwin City.

Bruce Eveland, manager and co-owner of what will be the Kansas Belle Dinner Train, said the plan was to start moving the cars by truck next week from Fremont, Neb., to Midland Railway in Baldwin City.

The cars would be moved one at a time. Eveland said each car’s move would require a 36-hour turnaround time.

The goal is to start offering rides and dinners on the Midland Railway line in late November or early December, Eveland said.

“We hope to capture some of that holiday traffic,” he said. “We already missed one of the best months of the year in October.”

The air-conditioned and heated dining cars will operate year-round behind Midland Railway’s locomotives on the railroad’s tracks between Baldwin City and Ottawa.

The dinner train had a similar arrangement for the last 24 years with the non-profit Fremont & Elkhorn Valley excursion line. However, the sale of that 15-mile line last year and concerns about the railroad’s maintenance prompted the dinner car’s owners to arrange the move to Baldwin City, Eveland said.

The regular schedule would be the same as in Nebraska: five-course evening dinners on Friday and Saturday and three-course Sunday afternoon meals. The $54 evening meals are considered formal dining, and passengers are encouraged to dress accordingly.

The dinner train has the capacity to service 192 diners, Eveland said.

When not in use, the dinner cars are to be parked on a spur line built with the help of a $54,000 heritage grant approved by the Douglas County Commission. The project also will extend utilities to the cars needed for food preparation and storage.

“That won’t be ready when we’re ready to start, but we have a contingency plan in place,” Eveland said.

A caterer will be contracted to provide the meals. In making a request in August to the Baldwin City Council for financial help for the move, Eveland said the dinner cars had a staff of about 15 part-time employees.

At that meeting, Mike Fox, Midland Railway president, said the dinner cars would supplement Midland’s operation and predicted the dinner train would be a tourism boost for Baldwin City.

Comments

Stacy Napier 1 year, 10 months ago

$54 a plate in Baldwin City. and for food catered in from somewhere else, like Lawrence I would guess. LOL. Good luck with that.

Good thing for us is that they will have to pay property tax for their cars just like anyone else does for their business. So Baldwin City and the County will win at that level.

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hyperinflate 1 year, 10 months ago

Mark my word. Their last run will occur in the summer of 2013 and then the City will be fighting with the banks for "ownership" of 4 worthless dining cars. This is wishful thinking at its worst.

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Stacy Napier 1 year, 10 months ago

Well I hope not. and I don't think the city will be able to lean against the cars they will just have to eat the loan, but I just hope that it doesn't compete with our local family resturants and put hard times on them, but I would guess that won't happen at $108 a couple. That is 5 meals at Baldwin Dinner for me and the wife.

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1776attorney 1 year, 10 months ago

I had an opportunity to speak at length with the representatives of the Dinner Train at Maple Leaf Festival. I will say they are very sincere and devoted train enthusiasts. My impression was that they geniunely want the dinner train to benefit Baldwin City. And they were quite appreciative of the support they have received here.

While I generally do not support government participating in business ventures, with or without taxpayer funds, I think the assistance provided in this case is very small and the public relations offered by these trains is beneficial to our community.

From the financial information provided by the Dinner Train, I don't see an unreasonable risk here.

The customer base for the dinner train is not the same as for the local restaurants.

While I still remain opposed to the industrial park idea floated by the city council, I feel comfortable with the dinner train and the old timers who own this venture.

It would be great now if the city could get the businesses around the train depot to clean up their properties. You have a nice, vintage train depot sitting in a neighborhood of very unsightly buildings and junk.

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hyperinflate 1 year, 10 months ago

Really? You're gonna walk back your prior aversion to "picking winners" by the local government because you met a couple of nice people at Maple Leaf? So much for core principles, eh? They may be the nicest folks in the world, and may really, really, really like trains. It still doesn't make it something worth the City investing in.

It troubles me more than just a little bit that somehow a dinner train got rolled into the strategic plan for our city. Kinda interesting that it wasn't a strategic thing a year ago, but now it just perfectly fits into what the Council views as the future of our town. This is a weak play at best. I'd say the $20,000 of City funds tied up in this could most definitely go toward better economic development than this shot in the dark.

All those Council members who read this and get angry with me, please take note. If this thing does go south I believe you owe it to the town to publicly admit that you were wrong, and then you should go on to state how you will avoid making the same kinds of mistakes in the future.

And 1776, I expect you to do the same.

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Stacy Napier 1 year, 10 months ago

I have to agree with Hyper on one point 1776. You base this just on meeting one or two people? I am sure they want this to work, what business owner wouldn't? Did the owners move to our area with the business or are they running it by proxy? That would say a lot as to who they want to benefit.

As for the customer base. duh I know the target customer is not the same as local business. That is my point why would that target come to the shabby town we have, park in a gravel lot and ride through no scenery to Ottawa for that price. That target customer is going to drive downtown KC or the Plaza to someplace that the food is cooked there on the spot not catered in. This is not western KS where the target customer doesn't have those options.

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