HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Tickets are back on sale for the annual New River Train excursion from Huntington to Hinton, Collis P. Huntington Railroad Society Executive Director Chris Lockwood told MetroNews Wednesday.
“We’ve reached a fairly tentative agreement (with Amtrak) to operate the train,” Lockwood said. “We still have a lot of logistics and stuff to work out but that’s always the case every year.”
Amtrak announced earlier this year that it was no longer going to support charter trains. The company said there would be a possibility for exceptions.
Members of the state’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Senator Joe Manchin and Third District Congressman Evan Jenkins, spoke with Amtrak officials several times. There was also a meeting two weeks ago between Amtrak, the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Society and representatives of Hinton’s Railroad Days festival. Manchin attended the meeting.
Manchin issued a statement on the tentative agreement Wednesday:
“I understand that they will need to continue further discussions to work out some of the logistics, but I am pleased with the progress they have made so far. Amtrak understands the negative impact its decision could have on our economy and local non-profits, while Collis P. Huntington has been a tremendous partner to Amtrak and has a stellar record with no operational issues or citations,” Manchin said.
Jenkins also released a statement Wednesday:
“I brought Amtrak officials, Hinton and Summers County leaders, and the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society together to discuss and work out an agreement for the 52nd running of the New River Train. This tradition and its impact on our state’s economy and culture are too important to let fade away,” Jenkins said.
Lockwood said they are thankful for the help.
“We applaud all the West Virginia representation that stepped forward to help us with this. We were pleased with everybody who pitched in to help,” he said.
The New River Train, which has been offering excursion trips since 1966, uses three engines from Amtrak along with an engineer and a conductor. The historical society makes various agreements with private owners of railcars to get those to Huntington in time for the late October trips. Lockwood said it’s not too late to finalize those agreements.
“We’re a couple weeks behind but we’ll be okay,” Lockwood predicted.
The New River Train and Railroad Days in Hinton generate about $5 million to the economy. Lockwood said he’s glad at least this year’s excursion weekends are on.
“It’s a fairly good relief. We’re going to continue to work like we’ve always done with Amtrak to keep an open line of communication,” Lockwood said.
This year’s excursions are scheduled for Oct. 20-21 and Oct. 27.28.