Even if you are not an aficionado of old trains you are sure to fall in love with the Fremont Dinner Train. Most people like to eat, and sitting down to a fine meal in the grandeur of a refurbished railroad dining car is going to enhance the enjoyment a hundred-fold.
We stumbled across this fine train one year while crossing Nebraska picking up information for my scenic travel guide The Lure of Pine and Sage . The Town of Fremont is found in Nebraska on the banks of the Platte River near the Iowa state line. Farther to the north are the scenic rolling Sand Hills.
Fremont has long been a railroad town. The Burlington Northern SantaFe Railroad runs north-south through the town, and the Union Pacific Railway runs east-west. In 1984 the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, which ran north out of Fremont, decided to abandon the line. A group of citizens, who didn’t want to see the line dug up and sold, gathered up grants and donations and purchased a long section of the line. A couple of years later they were running an excursion train making their dream come true, and continuing the life of a railway started back in 1869. Their new line was called the Fremont and Elkhorn Valley Railroad (FEVR) and the new owner was the Nebraska Railroad Museum.
In 1988 Bruce Eveland and a group of investors started the Fremont Dinner Train using their own train cars but using the engine and tracks of FEVR. The trains run Sunday afternoons and a special romantic train runs on Friday and Saturday evenings along with a mystery theatre to entertain you as you travel and eat.
Bruce Eveland says that they may include more dinner theatre events because of their immense popularity. The murder mysteries are put on by actors who come aboard to give the show. Each table in the dining car is part of the official investigation team and is supplied during the trip with enough clues to solve the case.
The décor of the coaches dates to the 1940’s with matching music that will be enjoyable, and listenable, such as Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra. Proper dinner clothing is required for the Friday and Saturday Dinner trains.
You are welcomed and escorted onto the train as valued guests by attractively dressed staff. As you are shown your table you notice the beautiful way in which they have rebuilt these cars with attractive table settings, nice curtains, and historical paintings along the walls. Three of the cars are former Canadian National Railway running gear. The multicourse gourmet meals are cooked to set your juices flowing. Although the menu items are too many to list, the prime rib, or blackened tuna steak, come to mind. I don’t know who plans the meals but they are great!
The entire experience is definitely worth a stop if you are driving anywhere near Fremont. There are clouds on the horizon, however. The tracks are getting older and maintenance is expensive. The railway museum was forced to sell and the new owner’s company is involved in salvage. One hopes that he is dedicated to preserving the line, not selling it. Floods in recent years have also dealt unkind blows to the operation. The ride used to follow the pretty Elkhorn Valley as far as Hooper. Washed out line and a damaged bridge now mean the turn around point is at Nickerson which is not as far, but it works out just right for a slow, relaxing, special dinner aboard The Fremont Dinner Train
For more than four decades James Stoness has travelled the roads of North America, photographing and writing about what he has seen. His travel articles and beautiful pictures have been published in several magazines and newspapers. He is also the author of five western novels. Visit his website at: www.stonesstravelguides.com