Chehalis-Centralia Railroad Offers Variety of Experiences
By Lydia Denney
As one of the few remaining steam powered railroads in Washington State, the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad and Museum is a popular site for people near and far to visit. The railroad’s 2019 season holds their normal seasonal events as well as a new dinner train schedule.
President of the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad Bill Deutscher has been involved with the railroad for more than 10 years. He said he has always had an interest in railroads and has been involved with other railroads in the past.
“It’s a sort of thing you can’t do elsewhere,” Deutscher said. “It’s nice that the folks in the town in the ‘50s had the foresight to preserve two of the three locomotives that ran on that railroad.”
The railroad’s regular season starts May 25 and runs through August 31, but there are special events that occur throughout the whole year, starting with the Valentine Sweetheart dinner train that runs for two weekends in February. The railroad has four kinds of trains, Deutscher said: regular excursions, dinner trains, special events and the Polar Express rides. Everything outside of the regular excursions requires buying tickets in advance, since most events sell out, Deutscher said.
“Sometimes (visitors) are people who come here on purpose because they want to ride the train and they live a long way away,” Deutscher said. “Other times it’s people that are just driving up and down the freeway and they go, ‘Oh look! There’s a steam engine running over there. Let’s go check it out.’”
The train’s regular excursions are available during the season on Saturdays and Sundays. This year, the railroad added a dinner train option every Saturday, with a Murder Mystery dinner train available the last Saturday of every month. During the Murder Mystery dinner train, passengers will try to solve a crime while they are given clues throughout dinner.
Other dinner trains include the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day trains, where passengers can choose what dinner they would like when they purchase their tickets online. All of the dinners are catered, with entree choices like prime rib, baked salmon and vegetarian pasta dishes.
The railroad’s special events include the Steam Train Eggspress, Pumpkin Trains and the Santa Steam Train. Special events include fun activities for families and are also a shorter train ride to accommodate the amount of children in attendance.
On the Eggpress, there will be an egg hunt for children and a visit from the Easter Bunny. Pumpkin trains include costume contests, candy and a chance for children to find a pumpkin. In December, Santa will make an appearance on the Santa Steam Train.
Special events at the railroad bring visitors from all over the Pacific Northwest, but the most popular train is the Polar Express, Deutscher said. On the Polar Express, passengers will be read the book, “The Polar Express,” and children are encouraged to come in their pajamas, just like the movie. There are cookies and cocoa provided and children will receive their first gift of the season from Santa.
Some unique ticket options that people may not know about are cab rides and charters. During train rides, there are two tickets available for passengers to sit in the cab with the train crew and see how a steam locomotive operates.
“Obviously, the locomotive isn’t really made for carrying passengers up there so it’s a different environment,” Deutscher said. “But you do get to see the guys running the real steam locomotive and go down the track.”
People can also charter one car or an entire train for special events, where they can take a train ride for a couple of hours. The train has two main routes, a shorter ride to Milburn and a longer ride along the river to Ruth.
“It’s a pretty cool thing for the community,” Deutscher said. “Not every set of small towns has a nice steam train that runs out alongside the river where you can go for a nice relaxing ride out in the country.”
Deutscher encourages people to call the office if they have questions about the railroad’s events. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit steamtrainride.com.