Ed Note -This is Part 2 of our experience with the Columbia Star Dinner Train. Part 1 details some of the history with the project and touches upon the political/protest situations that are currently swirling about the situation.
Now, one with Part 2.
Debi and I arrived at the depot located at the Colt Railroad Terminal on Brown Station Road and were directed to our spot by two uniformed police officers. It appears the police were on hand to separate the paying public from a group of protestors located at the north end of the station, away from the entrance to the train.
The Columbia Missourian reports that the number of protestors on hand was around 14. While I didn’t count, I would say that it was a fair assessment, and if more showed up….as we were pulling out, it appeared no more than 20. While the Columbia Tribune quotes some passengers as being sympathetic to the protestors cause, but I can honestly say that everyone I heard thought they were being rather silly and that there should be other areas they should have been focusing their concern upon.
The train itself looked gorgeous on the outside and the interiors were comfortable, if not a little crowded. I can definitely see how special accommodations would have to be made to allow wheelchairs or scooters. Debi wondered why the either the train company or those who were handicapped, did use the smaller/skinner wheelchairs used on airlines, and I can see that point. However, to justify the additional costs of the lifts and other hardware, this would require the business to be viable…..something I am sure the owners weighed before brining the operation to Columbia. I wonder what would have happened if someone would have tried using a smaller wheeled chair and took the onus upon themselves to board the train. I personally think they could have accomplished this (possibly with some assistance from staff) and then this whole hubbub would have been mute.
We were in the 100 (First) car, and due to limited visibility, I was unable to determine how many customers boarded the train. I do know there were approximately 50 in our car, and announcements during the trip indicated there was a 2nd car, leading me to believe the 85 quoted by the Columbia Missourian to be fairly accurate.
The interior was tastefully done and fitted with period level hardware. Since we boarded mid-train, this allowed us to peer into the Kitchen (that looked immaculate) and pass by the bar (much smaller than I anticipated).
We were seated with a couple from Columbia (if you want a private table, you much make an additional seat purchase if you have a party of 2) that was both engaging and fun to talk to. This is part of the allure of this type of dining experience, as it harkens back to the days when trains were the primary mode of long distance transportation and you met people from all over the country. (Glenn, Jeremy and those who have lived in Europe will also be reminded of the “slow trains” we often took). We had great conversations throughout the 3 hour experience and we both thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the trip.
Drink orders were taken before we left the train depot, and the limited drink menu is probably the only glaring problem with the current system. With NO tequila on board (for Debi), no tonic (also for Debi) and no Scotch (for me), this did not bode well. There were limited soda choices (no diet 7-Up/Sprite) and the only whiskey was Crown Royal and Jim Beam. There was apparently Bacardi Rum, but that didn’t interest us.
The wine selection was next to minimal, with several whites (including a Moscato for dessert), but only two types of red, a Cabernet and Merlot. The Cab was the “by the Glass” wine and the Merlot was by the bottle. Our biggest regret was not buying a bottle early, as it became obvious later (and confirmed by staff) that they ran out of bottles before the train even left the station.
Debi and I both had a few glasses of the red, and I agree with Debi’s assessment that it tasted like a medium level Box Wine. I didn’t ask the brand, as it would have slowed down our waitress to go check (she didn’t have it written down). They did however allow Debi a sample beforehand….so that was nice.
Beer selection wasn’t much better. You might as well have called it the InBev Experience, with the choices being Budweiser, Bud Lite, Michelob and Michelob Ultra. According to our waitress, there were no Imports or Drafts. A price list of the offerings can be found HERE.
Dinner began as soon as we were moving. It was a basic 4 Course meal, with the option to purchase additional “Upgrades”.
This is what we experienced -
- Appetizer - a bruschetta that had an excellent wild mushroom taste.
- Additional Appetizer (for a cost) - Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail Avocado. We didn’t have this, but the other couple did and they enjoyed it.
- Salad – Your typical house salad with Italian Dressing. I will say the ingredients seemed very fresh.
- Prime Rib – This was the main that both Debi and I chose. We both ordered it rare, and surprisingly…they did a good job with this. I’m not a big fan of Prime Rib, but it was the only beef option, yet this was a great cut and had very little fat. The vegetable medley accompanying it was very good and again, seemed exceptionally fresh. My only complaint was with the baked potato half, which seemed to have been reheated. It was edible, but the skin was a little tough.
- Dessert – A delicious two layer white cake with a lemon custard filling. This was so good, I brought an extra piece home.
Now head over to Part 3 to read about the “Rest of the Trip”