All Aboard The Mystery Train

by Marie Duvall

YOU may have passed by the railroad tracks off Colonial & Metro Blvds. in Fort Myers and wondered about the Seminole Gulf Railway. That is, if you haven’t had the pleasure of riding the train yet. Is is a dinner train? An excursion train? A freight train? A great way to spend an afternoon with the family? Actually, it’s all of the above.

The ‘Sem Gulf’ (as it is commonly referred to) offers many different ways to enjoy the experience of a train ride—from Murder Mystery Dinner Trains to Holiday and Daily Excursions—all aboard one of the vintage dining cars that date from the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s. The four reconditioned railcars are called Sanibel, Marco, Gasparilla and Captiva. The vintage cars and the accompanying tracks were brought to life again by the Fay family, who has owned the Seminole Gulf Railway for a couple of generations.

Robert F. Fay is Vice President, and along with his brother G. Bruce Fay, manages the daily operations. Their parents, Gordon and Susan Fay, are the principal owners, and have been in the railroading and logistics business for more than 40 years.

“This November is actually Seminole Gulf Railway’s 20 year anniversary,” says Robert F. Fay, adding that five new Murder Mysteries will be starting in 2008. “30,000 people a year enjoy the ride. And our staff has as much fun as our passengers—and it shows in everything we do.”

The Seminole Gulf is known for its exciting Murder Mysteries, where as many as 200 passengers enjoy watching a crime unfold before their eyes as they dine on a five-course meal freshly-prepared onboard. Meals include a fruit and cheese platter, soup du jour, fresh rolls, garden salad, and a selection of entrees such as prime rib and fresh Atlantic salmon—and dessert. All food is prepared on board the train in the Marco kitchen. A full bar and wine menu is available.

While enjoying the trip and dining, passengers take notes on the action, and write down clues as they try to guess ‘Who did it?’ “Many of our passengers come year after year to see our new murder mysteries. It’s a chance to getaway for the evening,” says Robert. “We also offer hotel packages for passengers coming in from out-of-town.”

For those who want to enjoy an excursion only, there is that option. Seminole Gulf offers a variety of excursion trains, including holiday-themed rides that run during the day and are great for the whole family. “It is truly a unique and memorable excursion—any way you go,” says Robert.

In addition to the passenger train rides, Seminole Gulf Railway has been the only provider of rail freight in Southwest Florida since 1987. “The train hauls much of the region’s building materials, newsprint, food products, beer, LP gas, plastics, stone and other commodities,”says Robert, who explains that the Railroad owns and operates almost 100 miles of tracks from a connection with the national rail system at Arcadia to North Naples, while a separate 24-mile line of Seminole Gulf Railway serves the Sarasota area. Both lines contain segments of the former Seaboard Air Line and Atlantic Coast Line railroad systems.

Seminole Gulf Dinner Train Theater
Playing every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday

Travel back in time to 1973, when big lapels and even bigger bells were the fashion statement. On board the train is Gabe Parker, self-help guru who guarantees that you will become a millionaire in just 6 short weeks. He offers a seminar based on a "pyramid theory"—where you get 2 friends to join, who in turn get 2 friends to join, and you become rich beyond your wildest imagination. But in order to make money, you have to spend money. Your hard earned money is given to Gabe Parker, who promises to turn your money into champagne and caviar dreams. Find out what happens as four very gullible but determined disciples of Gabe Parker uncover his unscrupulous "pyramid theory" and take matters into their own hands.

‘Till Murder Do Us Part’
Playing every Friday and Saturday

It’s the star studded spectacular wedding of Loralee LaBellington, star of the silent screen and her betrothed (number 6), Jay Schmidt. However the upcoming nuptials are not met with joy and bliss by all, which is no surprise considering the guest list includes husband number 1, the best friend, and the mother-in-law to be. And let us not forget the un-invited guests.
It's 1921 and the roaring 20's are off to great start. Prohibition is in full swing, and ridge runners are everywhere peddling their own special concoctions to the public. Watch out or you might end up in their scheming, as they take on the forces of Hollywood in this hilarious mix of I do's, You shouldn't have's, and How dare you's.
Train departs Colonial Station promptly at 6:30pm Wednesday-Saturday and at 5:30pm on Sunday. Includes 31/2 hour train ride, murder mystery show and five-course dinner. •

from the November-December 2007 issue

More than 350,000 passengers have enjoyed the Seminole Gulf Railway in 20 years.
Seminole Gulf Railway
Colonial Station
2805 Colonial Blvd. at Metro Pkwy.
Fort Myers
Upcoming Holiday Schedule

All Aboard for Thanksgiving
November 22
Family Dinner at 12:15pm
Murder Mystery Dinner at 5:30pm

A Holly Jolly Murder
November 23 – December 24
Wednesdays-Saturday 6:30pm & Sundays 5:30pm

Explorer Boat Train Ride
December 10 & 11, 17 & 18
Dinner & ride from Fort Myers to Punta Gorda Depot and boat ride through canals of Punta Gorda Isles with Christmas light displays.

Jingle Bell Special Train Ride
November 21 - December 30

Wednesdays-Saturday 9:30am and 11:45am
Sundays 11:45am only
Familiy sing-a-long, christmas crafts, reading from The Polar Express, holiday punch and cookies. Bring unwrapped toy for Marine Corps’ ‘Toys for Tots’ or canned goods item for Harry Chapin Food Bank.

New Year’s Eve Train Ride
December 31
Festive 5 Course Dinner at 7:30pm
Murder Mystery and midnight Champagne toast.

Triangle Pose
Courtesy Health & Harmony Center