To paraphrase Paul Simon, there’s something about a train … that’s very romantic and nostalgic and hopeful. There’s a place in Clearfield County, PA not far off Rt 80, that offers all the romance and nostalgia anyone could desire!
Five restaurants, one location, and each one of those restaurants in a very cool historic railroad dining car, caboose, and box car, with more to do besides. It’s not just a restaurant experience — it’s like stepping back in time, a time that you chose!
The Depot at Doolittles complex currently contains lodging in rail cars, entertainment, microbrewery, restaurants, a creamery, a Party Barn, and the Little Caring Caboose.
So take your pick, depending on your mood, time and budget, from the Fine Dining/Parlor Car, a 50s Diner, the Boxcar Pub and Brewery, Rail Car Pizza (a pizzeria), and the Kids Cafe. The 50s Diner is in a renovated 1950s Pullman Standard passenger car. It is like stepping back to the 50s, serving a variety of sandwiches, burgers, and more casual entrees such as meatloaf and fried chicken.
For a more upscale meal, you might want to eat in the vintage, 1913 Parlor Car. One of four ever made, this dining experience takes you back to the over a 100 year to an era of luxury and elegance, when ladies wore long dresses and their hair up in elaborate buns. Although the menu is always changing, you can expect a variety of upscale fish, chicken or beef entrees; the restaurant locally sources its ingredients — freshness counts — but that means you never know what new, fresh, fun and delicious menu items or chef specials will be available, which is part of the charm of the dining experience.
The Caring Caboose is a converted caboose set up for private family dining for families of children with special needs.
The Depot at Doolittles is rolling out a bed and breakfast, and currently the Teddy Roosevelt traveling car — actually one of the Pullman Palace cars, exceptionally opulent railcars of the era — is available for overnight stays. Constructed by Pullman in 1901 as a private car for the Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern Railway company president Alex Banks, the car was used by Teddy Roosevelt for speaking engagements while traveling to Joliet, IL. Now you can stay in the same bed a President slept in.
The rail car remained as a dignitary railcar with the railroad until it was sold to Russ Porter, a famous railroad artist. It was used as an art studio and summer camp in Wisconsin, and then it was then housed inside an enclosure connected to a summer cottage. (A portion of the cottage was demolished to free the railcar when it was purchased by Dr. Jeff Rice, the owner of the Depot at Doolittles.)
If you get bored by all the railroad history, you can play a round or three of miniature golf — all the rail cars surround the miniature golf course. You’ll notice several other rail cars sitting up on the hillside, future additions to the bed and breakfast. Dr. Rice jumped at the chance to acquire the Barnum and Bailey Circus cars when the circus closed down in early 2017. In chatting with him a few weeks ago, I got the impression he’s not done adding to his railroad collection, which he admitted with a chuckle started with small-scale rail road models when he was a kid.
Perhaps the coolest aspect of the Depot at Doolittles is that it helps support charitable efforts for children in northern Honduras—in the villages along the coast and in the mountains near the Guatemalan border, through the Rice Foundation. Currently, the Rice Foundation includes education, construction, and clean water projects, in addition to providing medical relief and leadership development to the people of Honduras. For more about Dr. Rice’s foundation, check out www.ricefoundation.us.
Getting there: 1290 Rich Hwy, Dubois PA 15801
Hours: Times vary for the five restaurants; please check the website for times. In general: Monday – Saturday: 11 a.m – 10 p.m.; Saturday Brunch 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Beginning in March, I started a series of posts about Clearfield County, PA. This is the third of this series. To see others in this series, click on the label “Clearfield County” at the bottom of this post.