Millers' Coaches

- 289 Como Avenue -

On the site of what is now a storage business was one of Saint Paul’s most memorable taverns. In 1936, two 1887 Pullman coaches that once graced Northern Pacific's Chicago-to-Seattle line were transformed into a tavern. Wheels and other gear were removed, so the cars would stay put. Railroad and steelworkers flocked to Millers’ Coaches for a drink after work. Prohibition had ended and Millers Coaches was a popular neighborhood destination for decades.

In 1981 Millers Coaches was sold to new owners. What had been a working-class spot was transformed into the swanky Night Train. About $250,000 was spent on new art deco décor. South African mahogany woodwork was refinished and brass luggage racks were polished. Neon tubing and ferns were also part of the decor. The 75-foot-long mahogany bar in one of the coaches was restored. The other car was transformed from a humble dining car to comfortable booths. Those owners were only around for a couple of years, selling to Cathedral Hill restaurateur Leo Gadbois. He added a sunroom and jazz music.

But a 1985 fire, along with smoke and water damage, was the beginning of the end for Night Train. The insurance settlement wasn’t enough to pay for restoration.

The Gadbois version of Night Train featured jazz, and he tacked a modern sunroom on the side of the coaches and installed an outside deck. Then, in 1985, a fire destroyed mechanical equipment and the attic of the 15-foot-wide room that joined the two coaches. The fire didn't spread to the coaches themselves, but they were damaged by water and smoke. Gadbois said his insurance company went bankrupt, and he didn't recover enough to fix the coaches.

The cars sat boarded up for years. Gadbois and city officials battled over their fate. In the late 1990s the cars were purchased and taken out of Saint Paul by a private owner.