Reading & Northern, borough of Jim Thorpe again at odds (updated)

Community says agreement with railroad to resume passenger service has fallen apart; railroad disputes borough's release
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The bumpy relationship between the Reading & Northern and the borough of Jim Thorpe, Pa., has hit another roadblock, apparently meaning the railroad will not resume tourist rail operations in the community.

The Lehighton (Pa) Times News reports that the railroad is balking at an ordinance that would have exempted its operations from a local amusement tax — the sticking point that led to its departure in the first place. The Times News reports the borough, in a press release, said the railroad would not return without a written agreement that it does not, has never, and will never owe the amusement tax, and that “the borough can’t legally agree to these terms.”

The railroad subsequently, in its own release, disputed that characterization, saying it had made no new demands and releasing an earlier letter to the borough. The railroad says "all it has asked for is what the Council had agreed to in the winter" — an  ordinance that protects the railroad and an agreement that there will be no lawsuit over the back taxes.

The Reading & Northern shut down its Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway tourist operation, based in Jim Thorpe, in November 2019 in a dispute over the tax [see “Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway to cease operations,” Trains News Wire, Oct. 16, 2019]. The borough and its school district had filed suit against the railroad, seeking almost $100,000 in back taxes, while the railroad contended it was not an amusement “and will not pay any so-called amusement tax.”

But in February, the railroad said it had resolved the tax dispute and would resume passenger service to and from Jim Thorpe [see “Reading & Northern to resume passenger service in Jim Thorpe, Pa.,” Trains News Wire, Feb. 12, 2020]. At that time, Reading & Northern owner and CEO Andy Muller Jr. said in a press release, “We are pleased to resume service to and from Jim Thorpe and put the amusement tax issue behind us.”

— Updated May 5 to include railroad response.




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