COLUMBIA — The smell of paint and new carpet overwhelms visitors to the recently repaired Columbia Star Dinner Train, and there is another good sign: running water.
General Manager Greg Weber said he plans to begin taking reservations in the next week or two, with rides beginning a week or two after that.
“We are very close,” Weber said.
He said crews are down to the details such as painting, wallpapering and cleaning. They also are waiting on a few stainless steel tables for the kitchens.
Amy Schneider, interim director for the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she does not want to put an exact time frame on the opening.
“It is a historic train," Schneider said. "Like a historic house, you can run into many delays."
The dinner train was originally set to open in August. It arrived in Centralia in February and was set to start operating sometime between April 1 and the middle of May. Now the expectation is for the middle of June, Weber said.
The train was originally built in 1938 in California to run as a passenger train but was rebuilt in 1987 to operate as a dinner train, Weber said. It served as a dinner train in Michigan until 2003.
Because the train has been out of service since then, significant maintenance was needed. The Columbia Star Dinner Train needed to check electricity, plumbing, air conditioning, heat and a variety of other things, Weber said.
The kitchen still needs to be organized, as tools and equipment cover the workstations, the bars still need to be installed, and the dishes stacked in the dining car still need to be washed, but Weber is confident the train will be operational soon.
However, the train was exposed to harsh snow in Columbia, causing a lot of frozen and broken plumbing lines, which was an unexpected problem.
Weber said about 15 to 20 local contractors and suppliers were hired to finish the job.
“We really tried to utilize local craftsman,” Weber said.
There are five cars with different color schemes, including green and silver. Four cars are for dining with the kitchen car in the center.
The chef and sous chef have been hired, though Weber said the bar and wait staff must still be hired. He plans on employing 25 to 35 people.
Travelers will board the train at 6501 N. Brown Station Road in Columbia, ride to Centralia and back to Columbia on the COLT Railroad. Passengers will pay $69 each for the three-hour trip, according to a previous Missourian report.