Tourist in My Own Town: Dinner Train!


The last time I took the Essex Steam Train, my daughter was five years old, and I was caught in an elaborate lie about why Cinderella no longer lived in Gillette Castle. Regardless, it was a fun and memorable excursion. The Dinner Train has been on my summer bucket list forever, and I finally made it last weekend. And here’s what I have to say: GO!

Laura and I reserved the 4 pm Sunday trip. Yes, an early bird dinner, but all the better to gaze at the glorious scenery during daylight. The restored 1920’s Pullman diners are surprisingly elegant, and we couldn’t help but congratulate ourselves for FINALLY buying tickets as we were led to our seats. I’m not exaggerating when I say that our cares slid away as the train set off.  No cell phones to distract us, and no escape for the next two and a half hours; we were happily held captive as we sped by Gillette Castle, the Goodspeed Opera House, and broad vistas of the Connecticut River.

After the train chugged away from the station (and our drinks order), we got a short and exciting history of the rails from our conductor, Paul Scarborough, also Chairman of the Board for the Valley Railroad. We would have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves with just our Cosmopolitans, dinner or not, but our meals arrived at a speedy clip. First, a fresh green salad with a choice of dressings, next salmon for me and chicken Francaise for Laura, both quite yummy.  The food is prepared (down to the hot rolls) right on board in the circa 1953 kitchen car. There’s nothing tricky or elaborate about it; our mains were served with steamed broccoli and rice pilaf, and we happily cleaned our plates. For dessert, you can’t miss with the chocolate pot de creme or key lime pie (served here in a mini casserole).  The service was attentive and delightful.  All of a sudden we were heading back to Essex, our escape from the real world all too short.

essex steam train

essex steam train