‘All Aboard’

Written by Casey Rees. Posted in Entertainment

Published on April 13, 2011 with No Comments

When Riley’s Railhouse opens its doors on May 7, guests of the bed and breakfast will be treated to a luxurious stay in a historical building that has played a pivotal role in the growth and development of Chesterton. Keeping with the theme of the building, owners Richard and Ann Riley have spent the last two and a half years painstakingly restoring the Chesterton freight depot to make it a comfortable and nostalgic retreat to a time when trains were the primary means of transportation and commerce in the United States.

Those who appreciate the account of the railroad and its importance as a catalyst in shaping our country will be drawn to Riley’s Railhouse.

“If you are a railroad buff, then you will be attracted to the history of this building,” Richard Riley said. “With the advent of highways and trucks, we forget what a central role that freight stations played. They were the center economic driver in every small town in America. Everything that moved, moved out of a freight station.”

The assorted, train themed relics decorating the bed and breakfast have been accumulated over the past 20 years by the Riley’s and many are fully functional. A time clock recovered from the Pullman factory in Chicago hangs on the wall next to the fireplace. The Pullman factory was a manufacturer of railroad cars from the mid-19th century through the early 20th century, and at one point Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, was company president. It can still keep track of the comings and goings of the trains with a distinctive ring of its bell.

The original freight scale from the depot is also operational and can still accurately weigh anything up to 6,000 pounds. These historical remnants are not the only thing that would appeal to a train enthusiast. Train spotters will find that it is an ideal location to sit and watch the locomotives roll by.

“Our location is on the Norfolk Southern main lines, and these are some of the busiest railroad lines in the entire continental United States. Anything that travels from the northeast to the northwest has to dip under the great lakes. And these are the tracks they do it on,” Richard Riley said. “If you like trains, you can sit on the porch all day long, sip Cokes and count the cars that go by.”

But train enthusiasts are not the only ones that will enjoy a stay at Riley’s Railhouse. When the Riley’s planned out their business, they were looking to create a unique destination for a couple or a family with young children. A model railroad runs the entire perimeter of the 30-foot by 60-foot main room, and a model train can be called into service with a flick from a remote control.

“We want to be able to entertain kids. We want kids to be comfortable in this environment,” Richard Riley said. “We wanted this to be a different experience for people.”

The Railhouse is also a first-rate spot to celebrate a special occasion or perhaps meet with business clients.

“In addition to the bed and breakfast, we have identified a real need for small meeting rooms. Or a spot for small parties, wedding showers, 25 to 30 person events. We like to cater to that need, in addition to people who want to stay here,” Richard Riley said.

During the lengthy process of turning the freight depot into a cozy bed a breakfast, the Riley’s have received a tremendous amount of support from the town of Chesterton and both sides are happy about the project.

“The town is excited about having us here and they have been very helpful,” Richard Riley said. “Very good to work with. They have worked with us from day one. It’s been a good relationship. We want to be part of this town, and we want to be a positive contribution.”

When it is all said and done and the freight station’s long road to restoration is complete, Riley’s Railhouse will have seven guest rooms in all. Two inside with plans to put two boxcars and a caboose on railroad tracks constructed along the south side of the building to house the rest. An overnight stay with a signature, train themed breakfast will run anywhere from $95 to $120.

Riley’s Railhouse bed and breakfast is located at 123 N. 4th St. in Chesterton. For more information, call 219-395-9999, or visit www.rileysrailhouse.com.

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