HINTON, W.Va. — A tentative plan to preserve the New River Train from Huntington to Hinton has officials hopeful.
The Collis P. Huntington Railroad Society told MetroNews Wednesday the provisional agreement was reached with Amtrak officials to operate the train. Amtrak announced earlier this year they would stop supporting charter and special service trains.
Summers County Commissioner Jack Woodrum said the train is an important part of Hinton’s annual Railroad Days Festival. The train brings thousands of people into Hinton during the four-day event.
“I’m very pleased to have this agreement to keep the train going this year. We also have bus tours that come in to take advantage of the festival. Then we have a number of locals that come back, class reunions, things that are held around the festival.”
Sen. Joe Manchin said in a release shortly after Amtrak announced they were suspending service that losing the New River Train would take an estimated $5 million out of West Virginia’s economy. Woodrum agreed if the service was stopped, the impact could have been felt statewide.
“There’s really a lot of people that come back and a lot of money that comes back into the community over those four days. That’s financial impact to Hinton. To Huntington, where it’s based, it goes into the economy there. Between hotel rooms, overnights, those things.”
Hinton City Manager Cris Meadows described the loss of the train service in a previous interview with MetroNews affiliate WJLS as a “tremendous blow” to the community. Now that ticket sales have resumed for 2018’s festival, they hope to make it “a big one this year”.
“We were all worried that this was really going to crush the festival and there’s so many people that depend on this festival. We have all of those service groups that sell goods and they use those for their scholarships and there’s so many kids that work those things. Without the train bringing people in, that would have been the slow death of the festival.”
This year’s New River Train trips have been slated for October 21-22 and October 27-28. More information on the 51st annual Hinton Railroad Days can be found here.
“We’re so happy that the people from Huntington were able to put it together and Amtrak was willing to negotiate. Our federal delegation was also awesome. The day that we heard about this, we called and started getting them on the ball and they set up a meeting for us. We traveled all the way to D.C. to meet with Amtrak.”