CORDELE — The SAM Shortline excursion train will kick off the 2021 season on Feb. 13 with a romantic Valentines Day Dinner Train. The train departs from Georgia Veterans State Park at 5:30 p.m. and will take passengers on a two-hour ride while they enjoy a multicourse gourmet meal.
In addition to the weekly Saturday trips to Plains, the SAM plans some very special events for the year including a wine-tasting train in April, murder mystery dinner trains, spirits-tasting trains, May Day at Archery, 4th of July dinner train, as well as trips to the Peanut Festival and Railfan Festival. Holiday trains are planned for Halloween and Christmas.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, “Day Out With Thomas The Tank Engine” returns to the SAM in June for three weekends, during which kids can take a ride with Thomas the Tank Engine, star of the popular “Thomas & Friends” TV series. In addition, little engineers can meet Sir Topham Hatt, controller of the railway and participate in Thomas-themed activities, including crafts, photo ops and more.
In addition to the regular vintage coaches, three historic railcars are now part of the train, including two with outdoor porches. All the cars feature large windows and are climate-controlled.
Staff and volunteers are committed to keeping passengers safe and continue to follow state COVID guidelines. While those restrictions are in effect, the train will not be sold to capacity, seats will be assigned to maintain staggered seating and prescribed social distancing and the cars will be regularly disinfected. Manager Chris Lockwood said that despite lower passenger loads, the trips fill up quickly.
“We recommend you watch our website and buy your tickets in advance,” he said in a news release.
Once again, the “Americus Local,” an available stop on most trips, will provide visitors with a shorter afternoon ride and is more convenient for west Georgia and Alabama residents. Tickets are available at the Americus Visitor Center at 101 W. Lamar St.
The historic SAM Shortline excursion train travels from downtown Cordele through Georgia Veterans State Park in Crisp County and the towns of Leslie, Americus, Plains and Archery in Sumter County along the route of the original 1880s Savannah, Americus, Montgomery (SAM) Railway. SAM operates under the Southwest Georgia Railroad Excursion Authority. It is staffed by volunteers and by Georgia Department of Natural Resources and State Parks and Historic Sites employees.