A visit to Eureka Springs, Arkansas offers a chance to slow down from the hectic pace of everyday life. This quaint town in the Ozark Mountains is more geared toward leisurely pleasures, and we certainly were looking for some to sample. The Eureka Springs Train hosts a lunch ride that looked perfect for a romantic lunch date. We haven’t spent much time on trains, so the idea of dining onboard was quite intriguing.
The Train Yard
We pre-scheduled our visit, which includes picking the date, and meal choices for everyone in the party. We arrived about a half hour prior to our departure, which gave us a little time to look around the grounds. The Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway once serviced a large territory throughout the Ozark Mountains. Other transportation modes eventually replaced the need for the rail service, and these days it is mostly used for tourism. We watched as the engine scooted down the tracks to hitch up the dining cars for our trip. It was a beautiful Fall day, and we waited with the other passengers for our chance to board.
Much like we have seen in countless movies, once the train was in place the conductor gave out the familiar cry of “All Aboard”. This trip was actually hosting two different options. Our lunch train party all filed into the 1920’s era dining cars, while the excursion group had their own cars. Once everyone had found a seat, we heard the sound of the train whistle. The initial lurch of the cars meant that we had started our journey. The dining cars are quite comfortable, with leather tufted seats, and solid wood dining tables. It is easy to understand why this form of transportation was so popular. It lends an upscale feel to traveling, as well as the dining portion.
The train chugged along, and the familiar click-clack of the wheels blended with the piped in music overhead. The trip is not extremely long, and covers about 4 1/2 miles in 1 1/2 hours. This is plenty of time to reflect on the beauty of the scenery around us, while we enjoyed our lunch. A small creek runs beside the tracks, and moves closer until we crossed it on an elevated trestle. On our return the engineer stopped over the creek, and this gave us an opportunity to watch a school of small fish dart around in the water.
Dining in Style
Just after departing the station, our luncheon began. Our server, Ronni, was quite efficient at making sure everyone had what they needed. Crystal had chosen the Chicken Salad option, which is served on a bed of lettuce, and comes with fresh fruit. It all looked so good, and she was quite pleased with her selection.
I didn’t want to pass up a chance to test out the Beef Stroganoff, which is ladled over egg noodles. Man, am I glad I made this choice. The beef was so tender, and the sauce had great flavor without being too salty. My meal included a side of green beans, which are served country style with bacon pieces. The fresh rolls were a nice compliment, and the table service added a nice air to the meal. As we dined, we watched the countryside slip by.
Heading Back to the Station
The train is set on a straight spur, so it travels down and back. At the far end, we stopped so that Ronni could collect all of the empty dishes. Now that we had finished our lunch it was time for dessert. A slice of cake, which is accompanied by a scoop of ice cream blended perfectly with a fresh cup of coffee. Our trip back had begun, and now we slowly savored our sweet finishing.
Too soon we arrived back at the station, but not before I was able to capture a photo of Ronni with Crystal. We enjoyed our excursion, and recommend it highly to others who are looking for a memorable temporary escape. Thinking back on our experience, this would be an excellent place to host a Roaring 20’s party, as you roll down the rails. Just be sure that you tip your server. It doesn’t look easy balancing a tray filled with dishes on a moving train.