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Railway CEO: Tahawus line to open, trains are ‘wildly successful’

At a recent event in Saratoga announcing the Dec. 30 startup of ‘Snow Train’ service to North Creek, Mike Bowers of barVino in North Creek (left) talks about how the Saratoga-North Creek Railway has revitalized tourism and commerce in his town. Ed Ellis of the railway (right) said the rail line to Tahawus was likely to open in 2012 as he talked about how rail service to North Creek has far exceeded expectations to date.

At a recent event in Saratoga announcing the Dec. 30 startup of ‘Snow Train’ service to North Creek, Mike Bowers of barVino in North Creek (left) talks about how the Saratoga-North Creek Railway has revitalized tourism and commerce in his town. Ed Ellis of the railway (right) said the rail line to Tahawus was likely to open in 2012 as he talked about how rail service to North Creek has far exceeded expectations to date. Photo by Thom Randall.

— As the Saratoga-North Creek Railway officials announced their Dec. 30 startup of their much-anticipated Snow Train service, they said their rail ridership this summer and fall -- their first five months of operation -- has far exceeded their expectations.

At a media event Dec. 8, the CEO of the railway also said his firm would soon be re-opening a 30-mile stretch of rail line from North Creek to Tahawus, with intentions to transport mine tailings.

Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific Holdings — owner of the Saratoga-North Creek Railway — said that ridership has been far higher than their projections of about 40,000 passenger trips, and may total 60,000 by the end of the month.

“It’s been a great startup,” he said.

Video

North Creek train arrives

Watch the Saratoga-North Creek Railway train arrive in North Creek.

Beginning Dec. 30, the railroad will be operating “snow trains” on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through March from Saratoga to North Creek, he said. The railway may also add additional runs during weekdays as needed to coincide with special events, he added.

While the popularity of passenger service from Saratoga to North Creek this summer was a welcome to surprise to local officials, the railway’s ridership is likely to be well-received this winter, as winter sports enthusiasts take advantage of the railway’s $70 ski package.

This discounted deal includes lift ticket at Gore Mountain, round-trip transportation, shuttle service to Gore, and two drinks on the train, as well as free relaxation and stunning scenery during the excursion — all for less than an $80 Gore lift ticket alone, Ellis said.

The snow trains— named as such because there’s also tubing, skating, shopping and entertainment available in North Creek — will leave the Saratoga station at 7 a.m. and return at 6:20 p.m.

“This is not just a ski train — people can get on the train in Saratoga, have a breakfast made to order on the train, enjoy the scenery as they travel to north Creek, then take advantage of the many fun activities all winter long — instead of sitting at home,” Ellis said.

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