Lehigh Gorge railway pulling out of Thorpe after amusement tax tiff
Old Mauch Chunk Train Station FILE PHOTO
Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway announced today that it is ceasing operations in Jim Thorpe on Nov. 25.
The decision comes after the company and Jim Thorpe Borough Council could not reach an understanding regarding the amusement tax.
“(Reading Blue Mountain and Northern) is in the freight business. That is where we make our money,” said Andy Muller Jr., president and CEO of the company, in a press release this morning. “I have offered passenger excursion rides to local communities as a way of thanking them for their support over the years and to educate young and old in the glorious role railroads in this region played in our country’s industrial revolution.
“Since it is clear that the mayor and borough council do not care about what we have done to assist Jim Thorpe over the last 15 years, a period in which Jim Thorpe Borough government has done nothing to assist the railroads, I have decided to focus our energies on communities that want to work with the railroads.”
Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway began operating excursion rides out of Jim Thorpe 15 years ago.
It invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in facilities and equipment including its open air cars and bike train to put together a ride that has been a significant draw to rail enthusiasts and families alike.
LGSR along with its sister railroad, Reading Blue Mountain and Northern, brought over a million people to Jim Thorpe over the past decade through excursions both departing from Jim Thorpe and coming into Jim Thorpe from Port Clinton and beyond.
“While I feel terrible for our loyal employees, our repeat customers and Jim Thorpe merchants who have supported our excursion trains, there is no reason for us to stay where we are not welcome,” Muller said.
The issue arose earlier this month when Berkheimer, representing Jim Thorpe Borough, filed a suit against the train for nearly $100,000 in amusement taxes for the past three years.
In the release from Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, “LGSR has made it clear to the borough council that it is not an amusement and it will not pay any so-called amusement tax.”
As a result, Muller said he will take “the passenger operations to towns that welcome the railroad with open arms.”
Refunds will be issued for all people who have already purchased tickets for the Santa trains.
Closure of LGSR does not affect RBMN passenger operations from other locations to Jim Thorpe.
RBMN plans to announce soon a new schedule of rides from other communities.