COLUMBIA — In early to mid-August, Columbia could be home to a dinner train service.
The train would do dinner runs on the COLT railroad to Centralia and back on Friday and Saturday and a brunch run on Sunday, said Lorah Steiner, executive director of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The market for the train is not just local, Steiner said. The train would aim to attract people in a 150-mile radius. The dinner runs would return to Columbia after 9 p.m., which Steiner thinks would increase the likelihood of overnight stays in Columbia.
Steiner anticipates a 1 percent increase in hotel occupancy, partially because of increased interest from group tour companies polled by the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“About 50 percent said they would want to stay overnight,” Steiner said.
The average price point for dinner and train ride is anticipated at $69 for the 2.5- to 3-hour roundtrip, Steiner said.
Steiner said the train holds promise for film and would create five professional jobs and 12 server positions.
Ideally the train would be located downtown, Steiner said, but it will be located at the COLT Transload location, 6501 N. Brown Station Road.
The location will need to have electrical, water and sewer utilities installed to meet city standards, Columbia Water and Light spokeswoman Connie Kacprowicz said. According to the contract, Kacprowicz said, the utility upgrades are to be funded by Central State Rail, the train’s operator.
The tourism bureau approved $45,000 from the Attraction Development Fund to help transport the 224-passenger train from Waterloo, Iowa, to Columbia. If the Columbia City Council approves the assistance, Steiner said the train could begin its runs in early to mid-August.