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Columbia Star Dinner Train Inaugural Run, July 15, 2011 by Bob Cox

Columbia Star Dinner Train Inaugural Run

July 15th, 2011

Columbia Star Dinner Train, 6501 North Brown Station Road, Columbia, Missouri, USA 65202-9324,
Phone: (573)-474-2223

By Bob Cox,

Inaugural Festivities and Ribbon Cutting

After a long journey and many schedule changes the Columbia Star Dinner Train is ready to go. Two F-Units dressed in Wabash colors are ready to pull our train with vintage Ex SP articulated coaches. The ex-Burlington baggage car in the middle serves as the kitchen car. The engines are placed on each end of the train as there is no turnaround point on this line.

History of the Colt Railroad

What is the Colt railroad you may ask?  Let me give you a brief history:

The Colt (Columbia Terminal) Railroad is a 21 mile (ex-Wabash) branch line from Centralia, Missouri to Columbia Missouri. It was formed in 1987 when the Norfolk Southern Railroad discontinued service on this branch. The city of Columbia stepped in and bought the line and then set up the operations we see today. They own two engines one is a GP18 and the other is an SW1200 otherwise known as the big and little engine. Both engines are more than 50 years old but you would never know it by looking at them. The Geep looks great in its Wabash inspired paint

(Click any photo below to see a double-sized copy on your screen; Click BACK in your browser to return to this page.)

The Colt railroad Geep on a rainy day in 2008. This was the first time I saw this railroad.

Another view of this Wabash inspired paint Scheme engine. This engine they call their “Big Engine”

This is the “Little Engine” crossing the grade crossing on 63 Hiway. A bridge has replaced this crossing as of last year.

The Dinner train and the Geep resting together.

The Geep was on the back of the coal move to get it over the 3 or 4% grade to get up into town.  The bridge replaced this grade also.

The Colt railroad now has a large trans-load facility along with many other online customers that ship and receive lumber, coal, chemicals etc. If you are traveling through this area on 1-70 keep your eye out for the bridge that still says Wabash.

The Columbia Star Dinner Train Equipment:

 The Columbia Star Dinner Train is comprised of two locomotives and three cars. A locomotive is located on each end of the train so that the train may operate in either direction. Our F-7 locomotives were built by the Electro-Motive Division (EMD) of General Motors in 1948 and 1953. These locomotives were originally built for the Great Northern Railroad.

Our dining cars were built by the Pullman Car Company in 1938 for the Southern Pacific Railroad as coach cars. Later they were converted to dining cars for dinner train service. Originally these cars served on the famous Southern Pacific train named the "Daylight" running between Los Angeles and San Francisco. These cars are unique in that they are articulated, meaning that they share a set of trucks (wheels) between the two car bodies.

Our kitchen car is a former Chicago Burlington and Quincy (CB&Q) baggage car. This car has been converted to a full kitchen in which we prepare all of our meals right onboard the train. The kitchen car is in the middle of the train so meals are served out of both ends of the car to the adjoining dining cars.

--(The above information is from the website)

The author's first view of the train when it arrived in Columbia in late March.

Love the Wabash Colors

Another Artsy View of this great looking train.

The classic lines of an F-unit. This unit is the lead when the train heads back to Columbia.

This engine is the lead when the train heads to Centrailia.

This is a view of the unique articulation of these Ex SP coaches. These cars are more roomy than their standard counterpart.

Getting fired up and ready for the inaugural run.

This is the Kitchen Car. Yes the food is prepared on the train.

We all boarded the train at 6:30pm sharp.


Our car Captain Amando gave us our tickets and we stepped on board. Ladies First and we took our seats at table 103 side A. The seating is done just like a real dining car. You have no idea who your tablemates are unless you have four people. Our tablemates were a reporter from the Columbia Missourian paper who was working for the VOX magazine for this report and an inspector from the FRA. The reporters name was Waqas (pronounced Vakas) and the FRA Lady was Anne. Anne and Steve Lee both started with the Union Pacific at the same time. Anne joined us a little later in the ride as she was working on this inaugural run. Waqas was a student reporter from the university and this was his first ride on a train in the USA.

My wife. Amy, throwing a big smile before she lets me get on the train.

Our great waitress Melinda came by to see what we would like to drink. Amy and I had Sweet Tea. It was fresh brewed on the train and tasted great.  After the drinks were served and just before departure time our appetizer was served.  Tonight the appetizer was Brucetta with cheese, pepper and spinach topping.

Our Appetizer.

Next up was some assorted breads with butter, horseradish and sour cream spreads.  YUMMY stuff.

The bread basket and assorted spreads.

Our Signature Salad was next and it consisted of balsamic vinaigrette, mixed greens, cucumber, tomato, julienned vegetables with parmesan cheese.

Columbia Star Dinner Train Salad.

The salads were fresh and light and did their job of preparing us for the main course. Keep in mind all this is being done while we are moving. While the main course was being prepared our car captain Amando came by and punched tickets. He also asked us how things were and we all said at once GREAT!!!.

Amando  punching Amy’s Ticket

I posed my train ticket

Of course, we enjoyed the scenery and the people at all the crossings that were there to see this first run of The Columbia Star Dinner Train. We had the sun on our side of the train so the scenery will be saved for your visit to see for yourself. And then, we saw the servers coming with our main course. Amy had Chicken with a Mango topping, potato wedges and a vegetable medley.

The Chicken and Mango Platter

I had prime rib with baked potato and mixed vegetables. I wondered why there were not any steak knives at our table and soon found out why. You did not need them. The meats were so tender a fork worked fine. Our meals were great and the portions were just right. We all cleaned our plates. Waqas was equally happy with his Chicken meal.

The Prime Rib Platter.

Waqas getting ready to  enjoy his meal.

After the main course, we soon reached the end of our run in Centralia. I took a moment to get some photos inside the car while the train was not moving.

Some of the wines offered on tonight's train. There are other wines being considered for use on the train.

A view in our part of the car. I like how the lights cast a neat design on the ceiling.

A view in the next section of the car. Everyone was having fun.

Looking down the hallway. The porthole windows and brass handrails add a great touch. This is original also.

Remember the mention of the engine on each end? The end of the outbound run is where this comes in handy. The crew simply walks beside the train to the other engine, and uses it to pull the train back to Columbia.  After a few minutes we were on our way. The lights in the car dimmed and the candles were lit. There are running lights on the outside of the train and they were turned on to illuminate the scenery. This along with the music playing lightly inside the car made for a great atmosphere.

Amy alerted me that something was going on behind us at another table. I turned with my Camera and found Michael Easton proposing to Kathy Jackson with Kathy's daughter Abby looking on with great excitement.
Kathy said, "Yes," and they posed for a quick shot of the three of them.  Congratulations Kathy and Michael on your engagement and being the first marriage proposal on the Columbia Star Dinner Train.

The Proposal

She said yes!!!!

Dessert came soon after the successful proposal. Tonight's dessert was a lemon cake.

Our wonderful dessert.

Who prepared all this great food?

Chef Hine, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, brings over 25 years of culinary experience to the
Columbia Star Dinner Train. His passion for fresh, local food was further inspired through his experiences at Columbia restaurants and in the Corporate scene. Chef Hine is also the owner of Creative Ice Designs and Ice Sculptures. His culinary creativity has earned him media attention in Mid-Missouri.
--from the website

Yes, Chef Hine is why the food is so good. He was quite busy so I did not get a photo of him. His passion and experience show up on all the plates and on the happy faces of the people eating their meals. It seemed like no time before we were back to Columbia and it was time to detrain. I am not sure what time it was because I only looked at my cell phone clock once when we left.  When you are able to forget about time it means you are having a good time and the atmosphere is great!

A short re-cap of the evening. 

The train looks great in its Wabash colors and the COLT Railroad maintains their right of way well, providing a smooth ride. The atmosphere inside is a fun and light-hearted. Lots of laugher and good conversation can be heard, but you can also talk at your table without having to raise your voice. Food is wonderful and the staff is friendly and helpful.  So add this to the top of your list of things to do.

You can learn more about the train and see schedules for special trains via Facebook, the website or the If you are staying at the Depot Inn and Suites in La Plata, MO, this great evening is only an hour and ten minute drive straight south. Enterprise rental car options are available if you are traveling to La Plata by train.

Authors, Bob and Amy Cox are heavily involved in the Silver Rails Country ventures in many ways. This is their second story for


What is in store for the future of the Columbia Star Dinner Train? Murder Mystery? Polar Express? Sweetheart Train? You never know. 

Become a fan the Columbia Star Dinner Train on Facebook and visit their website for updates.

Click Here for a Slide Show of all Photos, in large format, in this report.

Enlargements available by emailing Bob at


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