The Old Road Dinner Train, Blissfield, Michigan
One of the things we enjoy about RVing is experiencing new and interesting places. But that doesn’t mean you can’t discover fun experiences nearby. The Old Road Dinner Train in Blissfield Michigan is less than an hour from our home and it has only taken us 25 years to “discover” it.
The Dinner Train travels the historic rail line known as the “Old Road”. It was the first railroad built west of the Allegheny Mountains which actually predates the state of Michigan and the founding of the city of Chicago. In 1836, there were only 200 miles of railroad track in the entire U.S. Back then, coaches were basically stagecoach bodies on flanged wheels. The conductor told us passengers had to help gather wood along the way to fuel the steam locomotive.
We arrived at 6:15 PM and departed promptly at 7 PM. It was already dark given the time of year, but the station and rail yard were well lit and festive. There’s a quaint, whimsical quirky-fun feeling about the place as evidenced by the sign below.
The train cars are restored carriages from the 30’s and 40’s. The tables are surprisingly roomy given the constraints imposed by the rail car. There is a full bar and prices are less than what I see in many of the area restaurants. That night they were serving bottles of Budweiser for $3. There were craft beers and wine on the menu as well, but hey, I can roll with $3 beer any day.
The trip takes about 2.5 to 3 hours with the train leisurely moving at 5 mph. No worries of motion sickness here. The train travels approximately 6 miles in one direction. It stops so the locomotive can detach and move to the other end of the train. It then proceeds back to the station along the same route.
The staff are friendly and you can tell they really enjoy their work. And work they do. I talked to the staff after our trip and discovered they arrive at 2 PM in the afternoon to prep the train. Linens, plates, glasses, and tableware are all brought on board. At the end of the evening, they pack it all up and take it elsewhere to clean and store.
The food is first rate. I’m told the Hathaway House in Blissfield caters all the meals. The Hathaway House has a deserved reputation for fine dining. My Prime Rib was outstanding and the sides nicely dressed the plate. My wife’s Salmon was a bit dry for her taste.
(Sorry, I took a bite before remembering to snap a photograph)
Portions were just right. I’m a big eater and I was sated before dessert. The pacing of the meal was appropriate and the atmosphere relaxed but not overly casual. There were 5 courses, including cheese and crackers, soup (a scrumptious tomato basil), salad (and a nice one, not an iceberg lettuce abomination), entrée and cheesecake for dessert.
Since the food has to be prepared in advance, it’s probably best to stick with dishes that can hold up to a few hours in a warming tray. Beef is a better choice than fish for this venue. It’s an impressive feat of logistics considering that 100 or more meals have to be served at the same time, on a moving train no less.
The entertainment is intentionally campy and is a nice compliment to the package. While, Murder on the Ornament Express was not all that mysterious, it was fun and I enjoyed it. (Boo, Howey Cheatum! Yeah Dewey Cheatum!).
Don’t forget to ask the staff about the train and railroad. They are well versed in the history and tell some interesting stories about the rail cars and their restoration.
And here’s a tip: When you book ask to be seated in the middle of the car where you will be closer to the entertainment.
Open year-round. Highly recommended.