Efforts Underway to Save new River Train

Updated 13 weeks ago Edited from a Press Release

Following meetings with Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s staff, Huntington area State Legislators and the state tourism Commissioner, there is some hope that the New River Train might run again.

The Collis P. Huntington Rail Road Historical Society Inc. (CPHRRHS), the nonprofit organization running the annual excursion train, is being forced into bankruptcy due to the  actions and increased costs from Amtrak last year.

As the result of a meeting of Huntington area Senators and Delegates, organized by Senator Mark Maynard, a number of options are being examined to secure funding for the 2019 train. Senator Capito’s staff is looking into ways to get relief from Amtrak’s increased pricing.

For 52 years, the New River Train has run for two weekends in October between Huntington and Hinton. About 4,800 passengers ride each year pumping more than $2 million into the economy of Huntington and $5 million into the state’s economy.

In March of 2018, Amtrak imposed new restrictions which eliminated special trains like the New River train and removed Huntington as a station where private cars could access regularly scheduled Amtrak passenger trains.

As the result of intervention by West Virginia’s Senators, Amtrak agreed to allow the 2018 special train to run but increased the price by $120,000  and imposed additional costly restrictions. Despite selling all the seats for the two October weekends at an increased price, the train operated at a $180,000 loss. In addition, other regularly scheduled trips to Washington and New York had to be cancelled since the CPHRRHS cars could no longer originate from Huntington.

The financial loss meant the two employees were laid off and the chapter’s offices closed. Amtrak has agreed to allow the 2019 train to run but their quoted price makes and the debt from last year’s trip makes the 2019 excursion economically impossible without financial assistance.

Senator Maynard remembers riding the New River Train in 1982 and hopes there is a way for the state to assist. “It is a great way to see the beautiful state of West Virginia”, he explained. “ I enjoy helping this great cause and hope that we can find a solution to their funding problem so future generations can continue to enjoy this type of unique transportation.”

Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby is also on board. “Folks have been coming to southern West Virginia to ride this train for years, and we know how important it is to the local tourism economy.  We are working with Governor Justice to try to find a solution that will allow them to continue providing this incredible experience to visitors this fall.” 

New River Train Executive Director Chris Lockwood continues to work as a volunteer hoping to make a 2019 run possible but he is concerned.  “Not only have the prices from Amtrak for our trip increased again but because of increased cost and restrictions for  private cars many have gone out of business across the country and we may not be able to lease enough cars to run the train.” he explained.

He adds that time is running out for a solution as debts must be paid before ticket sales can begin and marketing is already a month behind schedule    
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