How two organizations will boost West Virginia's Autumn Colors Express

RELATED TOPICS: STEAM PRESERVATION | EAST
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — As news propagated social media Thursday announcing that West Virginia’s New River excursions would continue under new management, social media inquisitively questioned the involvement of two prominent steam-focused out-of-state nonprofits.

Rail Excursion Management Co., revealed Thursday it had reached an agreement with Amtrak to continue the New River excursions this fall under the new Autumn Colors Express brand. [see: West Virginia’s New River excursion to return under new management] Its CEO is former Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611 excursion director Adam Auxier.

Rail Excursion Management Co. shared it would partner with Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp., which is currently restoring Chesapeake & Ohio 2-8-4 No. 2716, and the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, operator of Nickel Plate Road Berkshire No. 765, as the New River excursions returned to Hinton Oct. 25-27, 2019.

Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society Vice President Kelly Lynch says the Indiana-based organization is providing car hosts for first class passengers, as well as administrative and marketing support.

“We strongly believe in delivering a unique, quality customer experience and so do the Railexco planners,” Lynch says.

Lynch is applying the same principles to the Autumn Colors Express as Fort Wayne’s own Joliet Rocket excursions, which operated public trips between Joliet, Ill., and Chicago’s LaSalle Street Station in 2017.

“The Joliet Rocket was a big example of wanting to create something more than a train ride and even though the [Autumn Colors Express/New River Train] route is storied and gorgeous, we can add value to the passenger experience because we want to attract and retain the kinds of people who wouldn’t typically be attracted to riding a train,” Lynch says.

Similarly, Chris Campbell, president of Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp., the nonprofit group who just successfully relocated No. 2716 from New Haven, Ky., to Ravenna, Ky., says their organization has become entrenched in the Appalachian community and their mission of rail preservation as a means of economic development has blossomed recently.

“When we were approached by rail excursion management we knew that our involvement made sense,” Campbell says.

“We hope that the renewed energy into the Autumn Colors Express can forward the charge of showcasing Appalachia and all the good that it’s people have to display,” he says.

The Kentucky steam group will provide car hosts and other staffing support for the excursions.

Rail Excursion Management Co. is taking the New River excursion helm after the financially strapped Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society announced it would not operate the excursions in 2019, citing Amtrak and its own operating costs. The nonprofit organization has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars operating the train over the past few years according to its publicly disclosed financial records.

Auxier and others at Rail Excursion Management Co. believe they can curb costs and operate the popular excursion in a more cost effective manner. Rail Excursion Management Co. has previous experience in operating private cars and public mainline excursions across Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest.





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