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. Enlarge photo

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.

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