Vintage steamliners from the Golden Age of rail travel will begin offering daytime travel, brunch and dinner trips from Tavares.
The Royal Palm Railway Experience will travel from Tavares to Mount Dora and Eustis for trips up to two hours. It will recreate an authentic train ride reminiscent of the streamlined passenger trains that once served Florida.
“This will be the finest tourist train experience ever offered in Florida,” said Neil Bagaus, spokesman for Orlando & Northwestern Railway, which will run the train. “Central Florida is the entertainment capital of the United States. The other tourist lines that have operated here did very well. When an opening for a new operator opened up, we jumped at it.”
The train fills a void left by the Orange Blossom Cannonball, which ended a five-year run in Tavares January 29. Tavares has a long history with tourist trains, including the Mount Dora Meteor and Dora Doodlebug, as well as visits by Thomas the Tank Engine.
A dozen 1950s-era passenger cars are heading to Tavares and will carry from 70 to 500 passengers, depending on the number of cars running. The air-conditioned dining, sleeping and observation cars will also include glass-enclosed dome coaches. The trains are expected to begin running by late August to mid-September, according to Bagaus.
The train rides will feature narration and entertainment. Special event train rides will include Pumpkin Patch trains, Easter trains and staged train robberies. They also plan to bring the Polar Express Train Ride for the holiday season. The book and movie-based trains currently run in locations across the country, including the Great Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon.
Orlando and Northwestern Railway, which will market the railway experience, negotiated a lease to use the Tavares Station and an agreement with Florida Central Railroad, which owns the tracks on which the trains will operate.
The one- to two-hour train rides will cost $20 for adults and $12 for ages 2 – 12. Special event trains will range from $25 to $99.