All Aboard

“Aaaaaall Aboard!” *chug* *chug*

And so began a “trip” aboard our hotel train in Indianapolis, conducted by our very own Jacob and Oliver.


Because, well, what could be more fun than spending a few days in the world’s only real Pullman sleeping car, on its original service track, inside a hotel?


We were on a family vacation to Indianapolis, staying in what two railfan boys were sure to enjoy: a hotel actually built into part of the historic Indianapolis Union Station complex. This is the original train track and trainshed. They moved in the Pullman cars, then built the hotel around them. Jacob and Oliver played for hours, acting as conductors and engineers, sending their “train” all across the country to pick up and drop off passengers.


Have you ever seen a kid’s face when you introduce them to something totally new, and they think it is really exciting, but a little scary too?

That was Jacob and Oliver when I introduced them to saganaki (flaming cheese) at a Greek restaurant. The conversation went a little like this:

“Our waitress will bring out some cheese. And she will set it ON FIRE — right by our table!”

“Will it burn the ceiling?”

“No, she’ll be careful.”

“Will it be a HUGE fire?”

“About a medium-sized fire.”

“Then what will happen?”

“She’ll yell ‘OPA!’ and we’ll eat the cheese after the fire goes out.”

“Does it taste good?”

“Oh yes. My favorite!”

It turned out several tables had ordered saganaki that evening, so whenever I saw it coming out, I’d direct their attention to it. Jacob decided that everyone should call it “opa” instead of saganaki because that’s what the waitstaff always said. Pretty soon whenever they’d see something appear in the window from the kitchen, there’d be craning necks and excited jabbering of “maybe that’s our opa!”

And when it finally WAS our “opa”, there were laughs of delight and I suspect they thought that was the best cheese ever.

Giggling Elevators


Fun times were had pressing noses against the glass around the elevator. Laura and I sat on a nearby sofa while Jacob and Oliver sat by the elevators, anxiously waiting for someone to need to go up and down. They point and wave at elevators coming down, and when elevator passengers waved back, Oliver would burst out giggling and run over to Laura and me with excitement.

Some history


We got to see the grand hall of Indianapolis Union Station — what a treat to be able to set foot in this magnificent, historic space, the world’s oldest union station. We even got to see the office where Thomas Edison worked, and as a hotel employee explained, was fired for doing too many experiments on the job.

Water and walkways

Indy has a system of elevated walkways spanning quite a section of downtown. It can be rather complex navigating them, and after our first day there, I offered to let Jacob and Oliver be the leaders. Boy did they take pride in that! They stopped to carefully study maps and signs, and proudly announced “this way” or “turn here” – and were usually correct.


And it was the same in the paddleboat we took down the canal. Both boys wanted to be in charge of steering, and we only scared a few other paddleboaters.



Our visit ended with the grand fireworks show downtown, set off from atop a skyscraper. I had been scouting for places to watch from, and figured that a bridge-walkway would be great. A couple other families had that thought too, and we all watched the 20-minute show in the drizzle.

Loving brothers

By far my favorite photo from the week is this one, of Jacob and Oliver asleep, snuggled up next to each other under the covers. They sure are loving and caring brothers, and had a great time playing together.


11 thoughts on “All Aboard

  1. You should come to Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia and stay at the Train Station Inn. In 1974 an 18 year old kid bought an abandoned train station to keep it from being demolished. He has since turned it into a unique place to stay by purchasing train cars (mostly cabooses) and turning them in to rooms. He also has a dining car. I’ve never stayed there, but I’ve eaten in the dining car a few times and it is very good.

    Check it out:

  2. Hi,
    I just wanted to let you know that your travel and family adventures regularly show up on I’m not entirely sure whether this is appropriate, maybe you could check your settings.
    BTW, in my personal opinion, showing that amount of personal pictures of your children is not what I would do.
    Nevertheless, best regards and happy train-ing :-)

  3. I really want to go back to Indy now and check out that hotel. Great story and sounds like you and your family had a lot of fun.

  4. Nice travel post as usual, John. I learned some too, I’ll have to check what a ‘union station’ is. You keep your kids nice and busy with learning activities. We have our seven-year-old granddaughter quite a bit this summer (she only lives a half mile from us) and are wanting to take her to Galveston for a day. Might even spend a night.

    1. Also I meant to mention that I would like to follow your steps there, probably with the youngest GD, next time we visit my sister in Cedar Rapids. I hadn’t realized that Indianapolis had these fun things.

      1. Hi Jim, yep lots of fun in Indy. The Broad Ripple area is also great, and don’t miss the Indiana Transportation Museum in Noblesville and the Speedway Museum at the Speedway.

  5. Thank you for sharing your adventures. I have been living in Indiana for the last six-ish years now and I had no idea there were all these train things in Indianapolis!

  6. All the hotels look amazing. They all have some kind of innovative factor. I would be definitely looking for a hotel in the mid-range if I ever go to this place. It is definitely in my places to visit one day. Such a unique culture that i would love to experience first hand!

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