Posts Tagged ‘West Virginia’

Funding Plan Proposed to Save W.Va. MARC Service

October 20, 2019

A funding plan may have been reached to preserve the existing level of MARC service to West Virginia.

Communities in the state served by MARC have tentatively agreed to pay an additional $300,000 to preserve the service.

The pledges were made after a representative of the Gov Jim Justice said the state is willing to increase its funding to continue the six-trains-per-day operations, if the communities involved make a serious financial commitment to the service.

MARC had earlier said it would cut service to West Virginia from Washington to just one roundtrip per day without additional funding.

Berkeley and Jefferson counties along with the cities of Martinsburg, Charles Town, Ranson, Harpers Ferry, Bolivar and Shepherdstown have proposed a funding formula based on population.

Contributions would range from $170,000 for Berkeley County to $410 for Harpers Ferry, whose town council has already pledged $2,500 to maintain MARC service.

2019 New River Train Now Set to Go

August 2, 2019

The long awaited announcement of the return of the New River Train will be made Friday by Rail Excursion Management Company.

The train will operate under the name Autumn Colors Express on the weekend of Oct. 25-27 between Huntington and Hinton, West Virginia.

Ticket sales will begin Aug. 5.

Amtrak agreed earlier this week to a contract with Rail Excursion for the 2019 trains after some prodding by West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin.

Manchin had said on Twitter in May that the New River Train would return, but various operational issues had to be ironed out before it was official.

The former operator of the train, the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, had in February canceled the train, citing financial issues.

Rail Excursion said it believes it can reduce the cost of the excursion by keeping its operations to one weekend, therefore avoiding car storage costs.

It also plans to replace a commissary car with additional seating and serving food to all passengers in their seats.

In previous years the New River Train operated over two weekends.

As in past years, private rail cars will be used as part of the excursions.

Providing support for the excursion will be the Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation and the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society.

The latter has operated excursions behind its 2-8-4 Nickel Plate Road No. 765.

Sponsor Says Excursion Train Still a Go

July 9, 2019

The operator of a proposed fall excursion train that will replace the discontinued New River Train in West Virginia expects to announce shortly details about the excursion.

Lou Capwell of Rail Excursion Management told a Huntington, West Virginia, newspaper the process of organizing the train has been complicated and all he can say at this point is that the excursion will happen.

It is expected to be named the Autumn Colors Express and operate roundtrips on Oct. 25, 26 and 27.

Capwell’s statements came nearly seven weeks after West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin announced that the October Huntington to Hinton excursion trains would run this year after all.

For years the New River Train was sponsored by the Colis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society but that group has been dormant since earlier this year.

News reports said that group had operating losses of $180,000 on last year’s New River Train.

Last February, the Society said it would not operate the New River Train in 2019 due to higher costs and more restrictive policies for operation of private cars and excursion trains imposed by Amtrak.

By focusing operations over one weekend Railexco expects to save the cost of storing rail passenger cars in Huntington due the week. The New River Train had operated over multiple weekends.

Capwell said Railexco is working with state and local government entities, Amtrak, the CSX railroad, and liability insurers to make the excursion train possible.

Amtrak is expected to provide locomotives and operating crew members.

A spokesperson for Manchin said it was the senator’s understanding that an operating agreement for the fall excursion train is close to being finished.

New River Train May Run This Year Afterall

May 25, 2019

A U.S. senator from West Virginia said this week that the New River Train will operate this October after all.

Senator Joe Manchin tweeted this week that he has been working to Amtrak to keep the famed excursion train operating and said he’ll have more details soon.

The train, which operates between Huntington and Hinton, West Virginia, is sponsored by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society.

The group said last February it was ending the excursion’s 52-year run due to high costs and financial losses that it attributed in part to increased fees imposed by Amtrak.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that Manchin’s office would not elaborate on the tweet other than to say more information would be released next week.

New River Train Sponsor Facing Hard Times

April 21, 2019

The organization that has long sponsored the annual New River Train in West Virginia was already having financial difficulties before Amtrak hiked the fees it charges to handle the train, Trains magazine reported last week.

The magazine reported on its website that the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society has posted deficits during many years over the past decade.

The Society had earlier this year announced it would not operate the New River Train this year and pointed to increased costs imposed by Amtrak.

Citing the opinion of a Kentucky-based certified public accounting, the report indicated that posting deficits is not necessarily a problem for a non-profit organization provided that it earns enough revenue to achieve its mission.

The accountant noted that a non-profit organization is not in business to make money, but like any business it must have enough cash in the bank to be able to cover its expenses.

Trains quoted a Society volunteer as saying that the organization despite the deficits was doing fine until Amtrak increased its fees.

He said that rising costs, which included expenses unrelated to Amtrak fees, was squeezing the New River Train.

That created a situation in which the society decided it could no longer increase ticket prices to cover the increased costs for fear that ridership would fall and the train would lose even more revenue.

The volunteer and a member of the group’s board of directors said the Society has been able in past year to raise money through various other activities, including private car trips to Washington and New York on Amtrak’s Cardinal.

However, the New River Train was the Society’s primary fundraising event.

The Trains report reviewed forms that the Society filed with the federal government and which can be viewed online.

The Society volunteer said the organization has been chipping away at a $130,000 deficit, some of which was reduced by having members pay small bills and expenses out of their own pockets.
Efforts to gain money from the state have met with mixed success.

The New River Train typically operated between Huntington and Hinton, West Virginia.

Amtrak Says it Would Have Run New River Train

March 4, 2019

Amtrak contends that it would have continued to operate the annual New River Train had its sponsors wished to do so.

However, the sponsor, the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, said last week it would cancel the train for 2019, citing increasing Amtrak fees.

Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said Amtrak and the Society had discussions about operating the New River Train this year.

“We wanted to retain business with the historical society since we viewed the potential charter as a positive business relationship,” Woods said.

The Society said the New River Train lost more than $100,000 in 2018 due to rising costs, which included unexpected mileage and operating expenses that arose in the months before the trip.

The New River Train has operated for more than 50 years, usually in West Virginia between Huntington and Hinton.

Rising Amtrak Fees Prompt New River Train Cancellation

February 27, 2019

Amtrak’s changing practices pertaining to private rail cars have claimed another victim, the New River Train.

The Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society said this week that it will not operate the train this year due to high fees demanded by Amtrak.

The excursions have operated for 52 years, usually between Huntington and Hinton, West Virginia, during two weekends in October.

Trains magazine reported that the society said Amtrak jacked up its fees to operate the train by 9.6 percent two weeks after it gave the organization a price quote in January operate the service.

Society officials decided that the fees would make it uneconomical to run the excursion this year.

Amtrak said rising labor costs attributed to its increasing its initial price quote.

The 2018 New River Train lost more than $100,000, which society officials attributed to Amtrak’s raising fees after the trip had been announced.

The 2018 trip had been budgeted based on Amtrak’s published Oct. 1, 2017, tariffs.

The New River Train was the last scheduled mainline passenger operation in the United States. Earlier this year the last scheduled steam mainline excursion, the Denver Post train to Cheyenne, Wyoming, over Union Pacific rails, was canceled for this year.

The New River Train typically carried 4,800 passengers in 30-car consists. Many of those cars were privately owned rail cars.

At various times during its five-decade run the New River Train was pulled by steam locomotives, including Nickel Plate Road No. 765, Milwaukee Road No. 261, Chesapeake & Ohio No. 614, and Pere Marquette No. 1225.

The train provides an estimated $8 million annual economic benefit to West Virginia, particularly to Hinton where it lays over during its daylight run.

Society officials said they hope the suspension of the New River Train is only temporary.

W.Va. Officials Optimistic About Saving New River Train

April 25, 2018

West Virginia officials say they had a productive meeting with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson about continuing the annual New River Train and expressed optimism that a deal will be worked out.

In a news release, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said the service has had a stellar record with no operational issues or citations

“I made sure that Amtrak knew the impact this would have on our economy and local non-profit,” Manchin said in the release. “Richard Anderson and I both agree that we need to find a solution and I received a commitment from him that they are committed to continuing their partnership with Collis P. Huntington and finding a solution that both sides are happy with.”

Echoing that was Rep. Even Jenkins who said the meeting has moved the New River Train one step closer to operating.

“There are still some issues that remain to be resolved, but every single person in the room wants to keep the New River Train running,” he said in a news release. “I will continue to work to ensure the New River Train runs for a 52nd year this fall and am encouraged by the results of today’s discussion.”

The New River Train has operated for 51 years, most recently between Huntington and Hinton.

It continued existence has been threatened by a new Amtrak policy that bans most special and charter movements.

Of late, Amtrak has expressed some willingness to allow a limited number of specials that use routes covered by scheduled Amtrak trains.

In the case of the New River Train, it uses CSX tracks also used by Amtrak’s Cardinal.

West Virginia interests have said the New River Train generates $5 million in tourism dollars.

Jenkins said that Anderson understands that the New River Train has a 50-year history and economic impact that distinguishes it from other charter trains.

Amtrak, W.Va. Officials to Talk About New River Train

April 16, 2018

Amtrak executives will meet on Tuesday with public officials from West Virginia to discuss the future of the New River Train, which operates annually in the fall between Huntington and Hinton.

The train, which has operated for the past 51 years, was reportedly in danger of being canceled after Amtrak said last month that it would no longer operate specials and charters.

The passenger carrier has also been restricting the use of its trains by privately-owned rail cars although a formal policy in that regard has yet to be announced.

Last week some West Virginia officials indicated that Amtrak had said it would make an exception to its policy to enable the New River Train to continue operating.

There has been discussion that Amtrak might be amendable to allow select specials on routes over which it runs regularly scheduled trains.

The New River Train uses the route of the tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal.

The train, sponsored by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, has been touted for its economic impact, which has been put at $5 million.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin asked Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson for a meeting to discuss the future of the New River Train.

“I will continue doing everything I can to fix this problem,” Manchin said in a news release.

MARC Service to W.Va. Saved

March 19, 2018

Commuter trains operated by Maryland Rail Commuter will continue to serve West Virginia after that state’s governor signed the fiscal year 2019 budget.

The $4.38 billion budget contains authority to allow the transfer of $1.5 million from the securities division in the state Auditor’s Office to the West Virginia Commuter Rail Access Fund.

MARC had threatened to end the service between Washington and Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg, West Virginia, as early as summer if a new funding arrangement was not worked out. The new funding agreement will last for a year.

MARC trains to West Virginia use the same CSX (former Baltimore & Ohio) route used by Amtrak’s Capitol Limited.