Keep It Local: The Train Wagon

Driving through the Netherlands on the Peak to Peak Highway, you can’t help but notice the bright red caboose on Highway 101 119. The closer you get to The Train Cars, the more you discover. The first thing you notice is that it’s not just a galley, but three train cars, amazingly located at the entrance to the Caribou Village Mall; and then you notice the neon “Open” sign.

The Train Cars has been operating in the Netherlands for several decades not just as a monument to early 1900s American ingenuity, but as a coffee and frozen yogurt cafe that embodies the same innovative spirit as a business. Recently, local residents and visitors have been approaching the steps of the front door, looking through the windows, wondering about his fate; and on Monday, August 1, 2022, The Train Cars opened its doors again for a grand opening.

“For most of my working life, I have worked in the food service industry, with few exceptions,” said Jesse Fox, new owner and operator of The Train Cars. Mountain colossus. “I came to Colorado from Vermont in 2009 and moved to the mountains at the end of 2012.”

Fox, who has been an employee of The Train Cars since 2014, said his acquisition of the business was both sudden and perfect timing.

“I didn’t really see it as a real possibility until it happened. I never thought about it because I didn’t have any ducks in a row and I didn’t have the down payment to invest,” Fox said. “Then Jim, the previous owner, expressed an interest in changing the person responsible for the bill, and at that point I was really ready to make that commitment. Until that moment, everything was just surreal.”

Fox acquired The Train Cars business from Patrick Saenz, who replaced Jim Graves on September 10, 2021. Graves owned and operated The Train Cars for seven years after purchasing the business from the Guercio family.

“Jim was a great boss; I learned almost everything I know about this place from him,” Fox said of one of his mentors in the industry. “He really created this place to do the best he could in this situation. I think we can do a little bit more, but for the most part, when I took over, I just wanted to get him back to what he was doing because it worked.”

With an inside knowledge of what makes The Train Cars not only a Dutch product, but a successful one, Fox runs his business with confidence, especially with a dedicated staff.

“I couldn’t have done it without the employees getting back on board and willing to give it their all. Everyone is fully committed to The Train Cars update. I have six full-time employees and I couldn’t be happier, they are the best.”

The creative coffee house consists of three historical wagons; a 1906 Pullman Coach dining car, an 1872 Union Pacific Railroad mail car, and a 1910 caboose that survived the 1965 South Platte Flood.

A postal machine that later served as an improved advertising machine for the Sells-Floto circus and was later donated to the Netherlands Denver Post, now there is a quaint sitting room to enjoy a quiet morning tea latte. In the past, the space has been used for live poetry readings and events, which Fox plans to bring back in the near future.

The 1906 Pullman Coach dining car was withdrawn from service by the Colorado and Southern Railroad in 1970 and moved to the Netherlands in 1975. The dining car still operates as intended, serving customers made-to-order caffeinated beverages, sandwiches and freshly made donuts with fillings. powdered sugar, chocolate, caramel and whipped cream (with the possibility of additional sprinkles).

“I like to act in different roles whenever possible, but I love being a barista. I love serving my customers and making them happy with a cup of coffee in the morning,” Fox explained. “I got the basic basics of my barista skills from Peter at New Moon; I worked there for about a year before moving to Train Cars. Most of the fine-tuning of these barista skills came from Christy, who was the best barista here at the time.”

Customers can enjoy their meal with a view of the mountains while sitting under the colored sunlight that pours through the stained glass windows that line the cut ceiling, which is itself decorated with an intricate red fabric. The polished wooden walls of the dining car are also decorated with works by local Dutch artists.

“Over time, we will expand the menu. We just need to make sure everything is secure before we tackle the new ones, but I have a few ideas!” Fox stood by The Train Cars while his son played and waited for our interview to come to an end. While Fox explained a bit about his plans for the future of the Wagons, his son made an accidental discovery.

“Stay tuned, we have some big events coming up,” Fox said. “We’ve got live music, some activities… and my son found a four-leaf clover during this interview, so I think things are looking pretty good!”

Come and enjoy live music from Black Dog on The Train Cars patio on Saturday afternoon, August 13, 2022.

The Train Cars is located at 101 Highway119 in the Netherlands and is open Monday to Thursday 7am to 5pm and Friday to Sunday 7am to 6pm. Follow The Train Cars Coffee on Facebook for more information and special event announcements: m. facebook.com/Thetraincars/

Sponsored by a city in the Netherlands with funds from the US Rescue Plan Act.

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