Chehalis-Centralia Railroad and Museum Launches Stationary ‘Escape Room Dinner Train’ at the Depot 

Adjusting: Railroad Hopes to Resume Passenger Operations as Early as October 


A scoundrel has taken the controls of Chehalis-Centralia Railroad and Museum’s 1920s dining car and, with no outside help on the way, it’s up to the passengers to use their puzzle-solving skills to help stop the runaway train. 

Sure, the train isn’t moving. There’s not really an unsavory figure running rampant in the engine car. But the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad and Museum (CCRM) is trusting passengers will use their imaginations to fully bring Shankz 3D Blacklight Miniature Golf owner Guy Steele’s escape room concept to life. 

“We hope our loyal passengers will find the fun in this event,” said CCRM President Mary Kay Nelson. 

They seem to like the idea, as CCRM has sold many tickets for its upcoming “Escape Room Dinner Train, On the Train — At the Depot” events within a few days of the announcement, Nelson said. 

“I've got people inquiring about birthday parties and wanting to buy tickets for the Polar Express already, and I can't sell those tickets, obviously, yet. But people are inquiring so I'm glad to have something to offer them. This is a response to the folks to let them know that we're not going out of business,” Nelson said. 

CCRM shut down all revenue-generating passenger rail operations in early March after it lost its liability insurance coverage. 

With a mile and a half of track still unusable due to flood damage sustained in January, CCRM is waiting until track repairs are complete to reapply for insurance that would allow it to resume revenue-generating passenger rail service, according to Nelson. 

CCRM did obtain premises-liability insurance in early April, which allowed railroad workers to return to the site and allows CCRM to hold fundraising events at and around the depot, so long as the trains aren’t moving. 

“We started doing some brainstorming and at the same time they gave us permission to do that, we had been getting requests for especially the Murder Mystery Dinner Train, it was just so popular,” Nelson said. 

Due to COVID-19, CCRM has had difficulty finding actors who were willing to take part in the highly-interactive, close-quarters performance, Nelson said. 

Someone soon had the idea to reach out to Guy Steele, who runs an escape room at his business, Shankz, inside Yard Birds in Chehalis. 

“We approached him and said, ‘Hey, would you be able to take your program off site?’ And he goes, ‘Well, that would be really unique, I'd love to do it. But we're gonna have to really create something new and different,’” Nelson recalled. 

Passengers on the escape room trains will stay at their respective tables and solve puzzles there rather than moving around the car, Nelson said. 

Tables of four passengers will each be given an assigned suitcase where they will find a key or

clue to help get the engineer to regain control of the train. 

Dates for the escape room trains are July 16 and 30, Aug. 27, Sept. 10 and Oct. 8, with one 2 p.m. train and one 5 p.m. train each day. Seating is limited to 52 passengers on each train. 

Tickets are $40 each for the 2 p.m. slot, which doesn’t include dinner, and $65 for the 5 p.m. slot, which includes a three-course dinner. Passengers choose their entrée of Italian lasagna or chicken fettuccine alfredo when they reserve their seats online at 

Following the escape room events, CCRM is planning a Wizard Express for Oct. 1-2, and the

Pumpkin Train for Oct. 15-16 and 22-23. 

If the track repairs are completed and the insurance coverage issue is resolved by the holiday season, CCRM plans to offer the Polar Express as usual, Nelson said. 

While the damage to the track is “quite phenomenal,” Nelson said “it’s not taking as long to do the repair work as it is to get funding from the federal government that we’re relying on for the repair work.” 

CCRM has completed applications for state and federal funding for the track repairs and is just waiting to receive the funding, Nelson said. 

“We aren't starting (repairs) till we know that we have money in hand to do it with, but all indications are that we'll have that within a month or so,” she said. 

CCRM’s goal is to have everything in place to resume passenger operations in October.  

In the meantime, CCRM is taking advantage of the time off to renovate some of the coaches and provide some extra training for the crew. 

“The property is getting kind of a makeover to make sure that all of our risks are reduced,” Nelson said. “We're taking advantage of the opportunity. It was kind of forced upon us, but we're responding in a way that I think makes perfect sense.”

Regardless of how long it takes to get back to full operations, Nelson wants to assure the community that CCRM is here to stay. 

“The community loves the train. The response has been terrific. Nobody wants to see it go away. So you know, it's kind of up to us. No matter how long it takes. We're going to keep working at it,” she said. 

CCRM is looking for volunteers and is accepting community donations to help with management costs. Visit for more information.