Reading & Northern announces new Santa Train plans

Company to operate trains at five sites following shutdown of Lehigh Gorge operation; state legislator wants sides to meet to resolve tax dispute
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A Reading & Northern locomotive awaits action at the Reading (Pa.) Outer Station in October 2018. The railroad's new Santa Train schedule includes 10 days of operations from the station, as well as trains at four other sites.
Scott A. Hartley

PORT CLINTON, Pa. — Reading & Northern has announced new plans for Santa Train operations at locations across the rail line, just two days after announcing it would shut down its Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway operation as a result of a dispute with the borough of Jim Thorpe, Pa.

 

A a number of communities asked to be considered to host trains, the railroad said in a press release, but it elected to focus on communities with existing facilities, but indicated it will consider additional communities in 2020.

 

“We are grateful for the outpouring of support we have received this week and it has made us realize that there are communities and people who love the railroad as much as we do,” Reading & Northern owner and CEO Andy Muller Jr. said in the press release. “Our Santa Train schedule for 2019 is an effort to bring joy to as many families as possible this year while making sure our loyal employees also have a great holiday season.”

 

The Reading & Northern said on Wednesday that it would shut down its operation in Jim Thorpe, where a collection agency had filed suit on behalf of the borough and local school district, saying the railroad owed almost $100,000 in back taxes for an unpaid amusement tax. [See “Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway to cease operations,” Trains News Wire, Oct. 16, 2019.] The railroad says it is not an amusement and not subject to the tax.

 

Jim Thorpe’s mayor, Michael Sofranko, said the borough was “blindsided” by the move to close the railroad and told the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call that the train rides were subject to the tax because they were round-trip scenic excursions, not station-to-station transportation. “You go out and you come back,” he said. “It’s an amusement.” He also said the borough had been trying to meet with Muller for weeks to work out an agreement.

 

State Rep. Doyle Heffley, whose district includes the borough, told the paper in a statement that he was concerned “how losing the railway impacts our regional economy” and that his office would work “to try to bring all parties together to find a solution to the issues involved so we can keep the trains running in Jim Thorpe for  many more years to come.”

 

In the meantime, Reading & Northern — which previously announced cancellation of its Santa Trains at Jim Thorpe — plans to operate Santa Trains from five locations this year:

 

Reading Outer Station: Nov. 30; Dec. 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 23, and 24.

 

Minersville Station: Nov. 30, Dec. 1.

 

Schuylkill Haven Station: Dec. 7-8.

 

Tunkhannock: Dec. 14-15.

 

Pottsville Union Station: Dec. 21-22.

 

Trains will depart at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. at each location and offer a round trip of 70 to 80 minutes. Ticket are $15 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-12; children 2 and under are free. Rides will feature holiday music, free candy, and a visit from Santa Claus.

 

Advance tickets and more information are available by calling the Reading & Northern passenger office: (610) 562-2102. Tickets will also be sold on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of each trip.

 

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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