Saturday, July 16, 2011

Columbia Star Dinner Train Review (Part 1)

ColumbiaDinnerTrain_V5_whiteThis is a really hard review to write.   Not because everything about the experience is wrong, but because there were so many things that were right….yet the things wrong were so glaring.  In addition, there were some heated political and ethic (pertaining to the disabled) debates the could have impacted on the evening/future of the business.

To begin with,  I will outline some some history –

The Columbia Star Dinner train was originally built in 1938 in California to run as a passenger train but was rebuilt in 1987 to operate as a dinner train, which is important…as you will see later.  It served as a dinner train in Michigan until 2003 and around June 2010 the dinner train’s operator (Central States Rail Associates) began tabling the idea of bring the train to CoMO. 

Later that year, the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau dedicated $45K to the company as an attempt to offset costs and further lure the Dinner Train to Columbia, believing that it would also bring tourist dollars from St. Louis and Kansas City to the community.  An additional $20K was dedicated to the upgrade of  existing train station's facilities there on Brown Station Road.

The proposed new business did not progress without some bumps along the way.  First, there was the disabled community (organized by the Mid-Missouri Advocacy Coalition) here in Columbia, who protested that the train cars were not Handicapped accessible….ignoring the fact that this had been an operational dinner train from 1987 (being properly vetting to be complaint with the law since that time) and  was exempt from the requirements of FTA Title 37, specifically by Sec .  37.107 due to the historic nature and age of the train.

Secondly, there was the subculture that believes that $65K in Tax funds should not have been allocated to a private business. 

Me personally, I think the first case is a mute point….it is exempt and was 100% a business decision by the Central States Rail Associates not bring in the handicapped accessible car to CoMO.  A further (interesting) read, can be found in the Columbia Missourian (HERE), which highlights that the $175K for an additional handicapped car would be “excessive and unreasonable burden on our new business.” and explains they had written to the City Council back in 2010 highlighting this and their exemption.

I can agree with the second part, regarding use of Tax Dollars, however…this was a decision by your local elected officials of CoMO.  Rather than attempting  hurt the business (that brought several jobs to the community, instead take  your complaint to the Council…particularly in the ballot box.

Now that you have the back story, you should now go to Part 2 (found HERE) that describes how the night went.


  1. Your information on this is incorrect. The money received was not tax payer money. The hotels in the local area put aside money every year to use to try and promote functions in Columbia to gain hotel stays. The money came from the local area business and not the tax payer money. This is the story was written by college students and published unverified in the Missourian. The city did give 20,000 to revamp the parking lot in the station. 20,000 that was then paid to city employees to do labor on city property that will be here permanently. The Columbia Star Dinner train brings over 200 hotel stays each month to the city of Columbia. The Columbia Star Dinner Train pays over 50,000 dollars a year to the city of Columbia to be here in this town. Very tired of people not having their facts correct and inappropriately trying to make it look like we are hurting this town or the people. The city has received a recent grant to fix up their rail lines in part because we are using passenger cars and that is something that many people want to keep alive. Instead of writing things you think are going on, maybe you should get some of the facts correct first.

  2. Please see my response in Part 4 of the Review -

  3. Three of us celebrated adult birthdays with brunch on the Columbia Star train on October 29, 2012. We enjoyed the ride but the food was extremely disappointing. The fruit appetizer had a flakey pastry topped with something. The flavor of this topping was horrible and nothing we could identify. The 'quiche' was not a fluffy confection but a hard, jellied, chewy substance with no flavor. Two of us had Belgian waffles. Again there was some underlying flavor we could not identify. The syrup bowl had a film on top and was cold. We thought dipping the waffle into it would make it more palatable but it actually made it worse. Neither of us ate more than a small portion of the waffle. I ordered milk with my meal and was told the chef had used all the milk preparing meals. I asked for pineapple juice but they did not have this either. We had considered the dinner train but if the food is as bad we would merely have had a train ride in the dark. Rather than advertise a "chef-prepared elegant four course gourmet meal" they should concentrate on simple, well-flavored courses that are edible and have in stock items on the beverage menu. We just look at the experience as a nice ride past housing developments and some farm properties. We certainly will not recommend the Columbia Star.

    1. Who on earth drinks pineapple juice?


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