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Dinner Train Survival: Tale of Two Trains

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BOONE, Iowa -- The Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad (BSVRR) has been operating its Dinner Train since the mid-1990's. The Dinner Train carried a portion of the 50,000 riders on the BSVRR last year.  While the Boone meal train has met with success that hasn't been the case in other places.

The Iowa Northwestern Dinner Train started in 2003 on a track which had been abandoned by Union Pacific.  The line served meals and gave rides out of the Spirit Lake area. It didn't last long, operations stopped about nine years ago.  Since that time, its passenger cars and kitchen dinning car have been parked on a rail siding near Superior, Iowa.

Vandals have broken windows and dismantled seats. Many things used in the operation of the Dinner Train were left behind, including an electric food warmer, coffee dispensers, plates and Christmas decorations.

Gallery: Abandoned train in northwest Iowa

Other dinner train operations have also ceased including the Star Clipper in the mid-1980's in Waverly, and on train lines in St. Paul and Nebraska.

The Boone and Scenic Valley's success with its dinner train is fairly simple, according to BSVRR General Manager Fenner Stevenson.  He gives much credit to having a good catering company, in this case- HyVee of Boone. "They do what they do best that's cater. We do what we do best that's trains," said Stevenson. He also says a big measure of the success is do to all the volunteers who drive the trains and take the tickets. Volunteers come from all over just to run a locomotive.

Jim Vilsvorrow comes up from St. Louis to drive a diesel locomotive. He said that he had a Lionel train set as a kid.  "Then life happens, you put your trains in the closet," he said.  But when grandkids came along, out came the trains, and memories of how much he liked trains.

"You hear about a place like Boone where you can drive real trains," said Vilsvorrow.  He said the train and well maintained equipment are another big plus for volunteers.

The Boone train is expecting it's biggest weekends of the year when Thomas The Tank Engine visits the Railroad September 13 and Sept 20.



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