The Essex Clipper Dinner Train in Essex, Connecticut was the perfect setting for the "Adventure Kids" aka Debra C. Argen and Edward F. Nesta to have a romantic 2.5-hour summer dinner, 1920s style. Comfortably seated in the beautifully restored 1924 Meriden dining car we enjoyed the scenic views and the stunning sunset as the train made its way through picturesque New England scenery. So close your eyes, let 1920s music play, pop the bubbly or enjoy a cocktail, and imagine yourself onboard the Essex Clipper Dinner Train, perfect for couple's, families, or for celebrating life's special occasions.
Essex Clipper Dinner Train
Elegance and romance abounded on the Essex Clipper Dinner Train as we boarded the attractive 54-seat 1924 Meriden dining car pulled by a vintage 1940s diesel locomotive in early June 2016. Comfortably seated at a white linen draped table for two accessorized with a vase of pink freesias, we enjoyed looking over the extensive cocktail menu which included classic cocktails as well as fun cocktails with names like Copper & Brass (bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and red wine), Top Hat (bourbon, lemon juice, bitters, and ginger ale), and Victorian Mistress (vodka, lemon juice, pomegranate juice, and simple syrup), to name but a few.
Adventure Kids Enjoying Romantic Dinner
Essex Clipper Dinner Train
They also offer a selection of wines by the bottle and by the glass, and in keeping with the theme of the 1920s, we let the bubbly flow by ordering a bottle of Charles de Fère champagne to pair with the scenic views from the train windows dressed with deep red velvet swags, and the crudités appetizer of cream cheese with salsa and hot sauce spread to accompany a selection of crackers, grapes, and skewers of mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, basil, mozzarella balls, dried apricots, olives, and red pepper.
Fresh Garden Salad
1920s music and wait staff dressed in black pants and black vests over white shirts with black ties, wearing long white aprons created the perfect backdrop for an evening of summer romantic dining. Sweet details included molded butter as well as piped honey butter to accompany the hot rolls and mixed green salads presented with a selection of three dressings.
View from Essex Clipper Dinner Train
During the course of our dinner and journey, the conductor told about the interesting aspects of the train and also pointed out scenic highlights including Essex Station, built in 1892, Deep River Landing, Deep River and Chester Creek Bridges, Gillette Castle, once home of actor William Gillette, the East Haddam Swing Bridge built in 1913 which swings open to 90 degrees to allow water traffic to pass by, and the Goodspeed Opera House, as the chef prepared the food in the Essex Clipper Train's kitchen car, the Colonial Hearth built in 1953 as an Army kitchen car.
For our entrées, we had the Chicken Francaise with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans, and the Salmon dressed with a cream sauce and garnished with capers and chopped parsley with Rice Pilaf and Zucchini, both of which were tasty and were very ample portions.
A gorgeous sunset coincided with the dessert course of a sinfully rich three-layer Chocolate Cake garnished with a large dollop of whipped cream and a maraschino cherry, and the smooth and silky Cheesecake with Apples and Cinnamon drizzled with caramel. As we sipped our coffees, we enjoyed the last moments of the ride as the train made its way back to Essex Station and the music played into the night. Upon disembarking at the station, each lady was handed a beautiful, long stem rose, the perfect ending for a romantic evening onboard The Essex Clipper Dinner Train.
Cheese Cake with Apples and Cinnamon
The Essex Clipper Dinner Train four-course menu changes seasonally.
Spring/Summer Menu (May 7 - September 4, 2016): All entrées include Crudités Appetizer, Mixed Greens Salad, Warm Rolls with Sweet Honey Butter, Chocolate Cake or Cheesecake with Apples and Cinnamon. Complimentary ice tea, coffee, and water included.
John Evans Director of Food Service
Entrées include a choice of: Prime Rib served with Roasted Potato and Chef's Choice Vegetable, Chicken Francaise with Roasted Potato and Chef's Choice Vegetable, Salmon with Rice Pilaf and Chef's Choice Vegetable, or (Vegetarian) Grilled Vegetable Ravioli with Chef's Choice Vegetable.
Gluten-Free Entrées available include a choice of Prime Rib, Salmon, or Large Dinner Salad with Chef's Choice Vegetable. (call to arrange Gluten-Free option).
Fall Menu (September 10 - October 23, 2016): All entrées include Crudités Appetizer, Mixed Greens Salad, Warm Rolls with Sweet Honey Butter, Chocolate Cake or Cheesecake with Apples and Cinnamon. Complimentary ice tea, coffee, and water included.
Conductor and Edward Nesta
Entrées include a choice of: Prime Rib served with Roasted Potato and Chef's Choice Vegetable, Stuffed Chicken with Cranberry Orange Glaze, Roasted Potato, and Chef's Choice Vegetable, Seafood Newburg, Rice Pilaf, and Chef's Choice Vegetable, or (Vegetarian) Grilled Vegetable Ravioli with Chef's Choice Vegetable.
Gluten Free Entrées available include a choice of Prime Rib or Large Dinner Salad with Chef's Choice Vegetable, Fruit Cup Dessert (call to arrange Gluten-Free option).
Cost: The Essex Clipper Dinner Train fare of $80 per person includes a 2.5 hour train ride and four-course dinner with coffee service and tax. There is a full cash bar service available on board. You can also purchase a Beverage Package for Two. Gratuity and beverages are not included in the fare. Advance reservations and payment required.
History of the Essex Steam Train
"Unlike many railroad museums and excursions, the Valley Railroad Company has been in existence in one form or the other since 1868. In some ways, the history of this little railroad is as exciting as a ride on the railroad today, and reflects the ups and downs of the American rail system from the early days of steam to the present. In the 1830's the first growth of railroads began in New England. After one failed attempt to start, the Valley Railroad Company, headed by the President of the Charter Oak Life Insurance Company (James C. Walkeley), obtained the state charter to build and form the company on July 17, 1868.
Meriden Dinner Car
"Hard times fell on the New Haven Railroad itself and in 1961 it fell into bankruptcy. With a major reduction on spending money to maintain its branch lines, the Valley Railroad soon fell into disrepair, finding only two slow moving freight trains a week using the rusted rails. Business failed along the Valley Railroad line and the New Haven also failed. In 1968 the New Haven was no longer a railroad with the last train run over the Valley in March 1968."
"Concerned volunteers got together to keep the railroad from being torn up by the new owners, Penn Central. This group managed to obtain a temporary lease from Penn Central in 1969 and on August 15, 1969, the Penn Central turned over this branch line to the State of Connecticut."
Relax and enjoy the ride and sights
"The State of Connecticut granted a formal lease to the Valley Railroad Company on June 1, 1970. This lease authorized the company to use the 22.67 miles of track for freight and passenger service; and on July 29, 1971 (100 years to the day of the first ceremonial run), after thousands of hours of mostly volunteer effort, the first train of the new Valley Railroad steamed from Essex to Deep River and has been steaming ever since."
More options on the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat Schedule: Dates of Operation (2016)
Spring Season: May 7 - June 12, 2016
Saturday - Sunday Only and Memorial Day (May 30)
Summer Season: June 18 - August 28, 2016
Monday - Sunday (Daily)
Fall Season: September 2 - September 25, 2016
Friday - Sunday Only and Labor Day (September 5)
Foliage Season: September 30 - October 23, 2016
Daily except Wednesday & Thursday
Steam Train & Riverboat Connection
11:00 am / 12:30 pm / 2:00 pm plus 3:30 pm on Saturdays Only
Total trip approximately 2.5 hours
Steam Train Only
11:00 am / 12:30 pm / 2:00 pm / 3:30 pm
Total trip approximately 1 hour
Steam Train & Riverboat Connection
Adults: $29.00 / Children (2 - 11): $19.00
Infants (Under 2): Free
Steam Train Only
Adults: $19.00 / Children (2 - 11): $10.00
Infants (Under 2): Free
Special and Extras:
First Class Car: $12.00 per passenger
Open Car¹: $7.00 per passenger
Caboose²: $5.00 per passenger
¹ - Open Car is available seasonally
² - Caboose part of the train on selected "Caboose Weekends".
The extra fare of $5 is a direct donation to the non-profit, Friends of the Valley Railroad.
Parking and Pricing: There is free parking, and all prices include tax. Senior Discount everyday; Double Senior Discount on Mondays. Coupons and other Discounts: Please see agent at station Ticket Window. Fares do not include Special Event Trains such as Day Out with Thomas, North Pole Express, Dinner Train, etc. Schedule, Equipment and Route are subject to change.
Special Events for 2016: Day Out with Thomas, Eagle Flyer, Fall Foliage, Friday Night /Date Night, Haddam Special, Hand on the Throttle, Neighbor Appreciation Weekend, North Pole Express, Passengers from the Past, Santa Special. Check their website for all events and dates. www.EssexSteamTrain.com
See you on the next Esses Clipper Dinner Train
Approximate Driving Times
Boston: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Springfield: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Worcester: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Bridgeport: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Danbury: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Greenwich: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Hartford: 45 minutes
New Haven: 45 minutes
Stamford: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Waterbury: 1 hour
New York City: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Providence: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Please visit their website, www.EssexSteamTrain.com for more information on special packages and upcoming events.
The Valley Railroad Company
One Railroad Avenue
Essex, Connecticut 06426
Toll-Free Telephone: +1-800-377-3987
Instagram or Geotag: www.instagram.com/explore/locations/97569397
Official Hashtag: #essexsteamtrain, #essexstation
Read more about the surrounding area in the Destinations, Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Chefs' Recipes, and Spas sections.
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© June 2016. Luxury Experience. www.LuxuryExperience.com All rights reserved.