By Riley Holcraft, Staff Writer –
The Tennessee Valley Railroad’s Dinner Train offers five-star service, gourmet meals, and historical charm that make for the perfect date night on Valentine’s Day.
This Valentine’s season, The Tennessee Valley Railroad (TVR) Museum produced its annual Valentine Dinner Train. This is a two-hour experience that serves a four-course meal in a vintage dining car.
Participants arrive at Chattanooga Grand Junction Station before departure time. Once on board, the trip follows a route through the city of Chattanooga. The train passes through Warner Park Zoo and Chattanooga National Cemetery at a relaxed pace.
The Valentine’s Train ran all week, and visitors from local areas in Chattanooga, as well as tourists, all came together to enjoy the ride.
Sarah Knott and her significant other are locals in Chattanooga, and have visited TVR before. After enjoying their time, they decided to come back for another ride.
“I’ve always lived in Chattanooga, and I used to live by the train tracks,” Knott said. “I’ve always loved trains, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity for my boyfriend and I this Valentine’s Day. We actually received a gift certificate from a coworker, which makes it even better!”
Other visitors traveled from farther away to see what all the talk was about. Chris Schroder and his girlfriend sat in the railway station waiting room, admiring the historic details of the facility. Both were dressed in formal clothing, and expressed their interest in the unique experience TVR offers.
“I am not local,” Schroder said. “My girlfriend and I are visiting from Indiana, and I am a huge train buff. I absolutely love trains. So, it’s actually our anniversary, and we came down here. We are staying in a cabin for a couple days and did a lot of hiking around Chattanooga. This was supposed to be a surprise, but google maps ruined it. She pretty much already guessed it anyway because she knows how much I love trains, but I made the mistake of typing in the destination with the sound at full blast. Regardless, we are super excited for the experience.”
All the guests boarded within minutes, and at 8:15 p.m. on the dot, the train was on its journey.
Meryl Sutton is an employee at the railroad. She worked the ticket desk during the Valentine’s season, and she expanded on what makes this dinner train such a special rarity.
“We are ranked the number two dinner train in the country,” Sutton said. “The number one actually only serves pizza, but we offer more intricate meals.”
The main focus of TVR is to keep the history of Chattanooga’s railway community alive and relevant.
“What you see on board is exactly what it would have been like in the heyday of rail travel in the 1940s, 30s, and even into the 20s, because these train cars are that old,” she said.
The service also reflects historical dining methods. Waiters wear white coats, black bow ties, and even carry the food on authentic cloches.
“The food is cooked on the train, and there are choices for entrees,” Sutton said. “The meal is slow-paced and romantic, serving each course and leaving time for enjoyment of the made-from-scratch, gourmet cuisine.”
Sutton also said that TVR not only offers this Valentine’s Dinner on an annual basis, but also provides a regular dinner train service year-round.
“It is a really cool experience that everyone should try,” she said. “And we have also started something new within the past year, called the wine train. It is very similar to the dinner experience, but they are specially paired with wines from a local provider.”
From a wine night with the girls, to a romantic dinner with your Valentine, the Tennessee Valley Railroad has experiences for everyone on the tracks.