HINTON, W.Va. — An announcement made last week by Amtrak to end special service and charter trains could leave a lasting impact on the Mountain State.
One example is the City of Hinton’s annual “Hinton Railroad Days” held every fall. The 51-year tradition relies heavily on the New River Train, which runs from Huntington to Hinton all four days of the festival. Based on Amtrak’s recent decision, the railroad line would be stopped in its tracks.
“They bring in anywhere from 400-500 people a day. People get to see the beautiful sights between Huntington and Hinton, the leaves and the rivers,” said Hinton City Manager Cris Meadows. “They drop them off here and then they pick them up and take them back. But in the meantime, they’re wandering through the streets and going through the different vendors.”
In addition to area businesses that rely on the festival and train line as part of their yearly income, groups like FFA, school bands and clubs will also feel the impact.
“Tremendous blow to our community. Dozens of civic organizations that put up vendor booths. Without the numerous amount of people that come off of that train, I don’t see how it will be possible for a lot of those programs to continue.”
Meadows said in the days following the announcement, organizers have met with several area delegates and state politicians, including U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Evan Jenkins.
“After speaking to several of them, we feel that Amtrak’s kind of dug their heels in. They say they’re losing money and I just don’t see how they’re loosing money, those trains are full.”
Rep. Evan Jenkins submitted a letter to Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson on March 29. It reads, in part:
“I am deeply concerned by a recent announcement that Amtrak will no longer be offering charter and special service trains. These services are used by thousands of West Virginians and attract tourists and train enthusiasts every year to the Mountain State. I urge you to look carefully at the impact this cancellation will have on communities in my state and across the nation and restore this important service.”
According to the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, the New River Train brings in an estimated revenue of $5 million to West Virginia annually. The service brings $2 million to the City of Huntington alone.
Meadows said at this point, organizers and leaders are pulling together to get the New River Train and Hinton Railroad Days back on the right path.
“They’re all formulating plans to try and push this forward, but we’re all kind of taken for a loop on this. A lot of those visitors are spending a night in hotels, and you know those things provide a lot of tax base.”