BALDWIN CITY — Baldwin City officials are entering negotiations with a Nebraska dinner train to move the business to Midland Railway.
This week, Baldwin City Council members gave City Administrator Chris Lowe the authority to discuss incentives the city might be willing to provide to Fremont Dinner Train.
Bruce Eveland, manager of the dinner train and one of five investors in the business, had asked the city for financial help moving the business, which has operated the past 24 years on the Fremont and Elkhorn Valley Railroad.
“It seems like we’ve been in the Olympics all year long,” he said. “We’ve received a tremendous amount of help. We’ve cleared a lot of hurdles, and we can see the finish line. We need just a little more help.”
In a memo to the council, the cost of moving to Baldwin City was pegged at $220,000. The owners have secured all but $25,000.
City help with that shortfall would be unprecedented, Mayor Ken Wagner said.
“This is uncharted waters,” he said. “To my knowledge, the city has never done anything like this to lure a company like this to the community. But, we all have to realize we are in a different time.”
Motivating all the interest is the tourism potential of the dinner cars. Eveland said the restaurant draws 8,000 to 9,000 riders a year to its Fremont site from a 150-mile radius to the east, north and south and 250 miles to the west. He said there is more than twice the population within similar distances of Baldwin City.
A total of 6,000 visitors to the community would mean $8,760 a year in additional revenue for the city from sales, bed and liquor tax receipts, Eveland said.
The dinner restaurant operates year-round in heated and air-conditioned cars and has about 15 part-time employees.