Amtrak nixes New York's Toys for Tots Train

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ALBANY, N.Y. — Amtrak will not operate the annual Toys for Tots Train in upstate New York this year, area media outlets have reported.

The passenger railroad cited its policy toward chartered trains, announced in March. [See “Amtrak to stop operating special trains, charter moves,” Trains News Wire, March 28, 2018].

The train, supporting U.S. Marine Corps charity efforts, has operated for 19 years, carrying everything from toys to warm blankets and clothing for those in need. It has served more than 150,000 children, according to its organizers.

“Consistent with Amtrak’s mandate to provide efficient, safe and effective intercity passenger rail transportation, Amtrak has established a new policy for the operation of charter trains,” the company said in a statement issued Friday. “Amtrak’s objective is to operate its core, scheduled train service safely, on time and efficiently, and must therefore decline to operate this charter. Amtrak will continue to proudly support the Toys for Tots program through the collection of toys at participating stations.”

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Albert Roman, Jr., the Toys for Tots coordinator for the Capital Region, told the Albany Times-Union on Friday that he was “shocked” to receive an email from Amtrak with the bad news. His organization has already collected tractor-trailers full of donations and is not sure how it will deliver them now. Donations in the past have come from Marines, police, firefighters, FBI agents, Amtrak employees and others.

“It’s going to hurt us in many ways — logistically, financially. That train was where we tell our story. It’s about the kids, the delivery, the community coming together … [Amtrak] just left us on the sidelines,” Roman, Jr. said. While he said the decision has to potential to “cripple” the Toys for Tots effort, he said the organization will find a solution: “We’re not going to let our community down.”

The national passenger carrier announced its intention not to operate last year’s iteration of the holiday special, but it was saved by last minute intervention from U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.). In recent years, the train has operated between Albany, Oneonta and Binghamton over the former Delaware & Hudson Railroad, now part of Canadian Pacific, as well as from Albany north to Plattsburgh and Rouses Point over the ex-D&H route used by Amtrak’s daily New York-Montreal Adirondack.

Albany’s WNYT-TV first reported that Amtrak would not run the train this year.

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