Bellevue railroad museum recreates dining-car experience for restoration fundraiser
You could almost feel the old dining car rollicking down the Seaboard Air Line, clinking glasses and conversation thick in the air.
Everything down to the slow-braised Swiss steak was part of an authentic railroad experience for almost 50 guests who enjoyed the first public dinner aboard The Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum's 1940s dining car in almost 40 years.
The only difference was instead of roaring down rails between New York and Florida, the car stayed in its place at the museum, 253 South West St.
Ruth Fuehring and other railroad society directors donned white coats to play the role of conductors, offering guests glasses of champagne and punching their tickets before they boarded the cars.
Fuehring said the first-time event was created to raise money to renovate the museum's 1939 dome car -- the first one built in the United States. The car features a second floor, where passengers enjoyed the view from a transparent dome.
"What we are hoping to do is return the car back to its former glory," said Chris Beamer, president of the railroad society.
The $25 a plate dinner will help support restoring the car to its original form, before a 1978 Amtrak renovation that decked the car out in gaudy red and orange upholstery.
Fuehring said a there is no firm estimate on how much the renovation will cost, but it will be in the thousands of dollars.
She said if the dinner is a success, the museum society hopes to host the event quarterly to raise money for the project.
Dave Wallingford, Bellevue, said he came to the dinner with this daughter, Emily, 15, because it was a unique experience for a good cause.
"I wanted to support the museum," he said, as waiters squeezed through the narrow aisle holding plates of salad and pitchers of water.
Wallingford said he ordered the Florida shrimp Creole over rice for dinner, a recipe once served aboard the Seaboard Air Line. Emily ordered the saut of chicken breast a la marengo from the Pullman Co. menu, and potatoes romanoff, once served aboard the Illinois Central Railway.
Fuehring said classically trained Chef Phil Bowlin volunteered to prepare the dishes, which were served with salad, bread and dessert.
For information about future dinner events, go to www.madrivermuseum.org or call 419-483-2222.