Berkshire Scenic Railway Holds Holiday Rides
ADAMS, Mass. — Santa finally arrived for the Berkshire Scenic Railway.
The museum's Hoosac Valley Service has been sidetracked for months as the state Department of Transportation completed its purchase of the line between North Adams and Adams.
On Saturday, the railroad boarded passengers for weekend runs for only the second tim in nearly three years.
Jay Green, the museum's railway director, said the rides were nothing short of a Christmas miracle.
"It was timing and a little bit of the Christmas spirit I guess you could say," Green said. "Everything that we have been working on with the project, all the legal matters and all of the procedural stuff all came together at the same time in December... I guess you could say it's a Christmas gift for the community."
The 1955 Budd Rail Diesel Passenger Car was strung with Christmas lights and Christmas music played during the hourlong ride from Adams to North Adams and back.
Upon reaching the North Adams terminus Santa boarded the train and handed out gifts to children on the ride back to Adams.
The railway had hoped to run Fall Foliage excursions and fit in more than one weekend of Christmas runs but delays in getting all the pieces together had the nonprofit venture idling. The state's acquisition of the six-mile freight spur was bundled into negotiations over rail lines in the eastern part of the state with then Pan Am and CSX.
The federal Surface Transportation Board approved the scenic rail's use of the line two weeks ago, a critical component in completing the deal.
Berkshire Scenic had operated out of Stockbridge and Lenox until forced off the tracks in 2013. The talks had begun between about six entities — MassDOT, Adams, North Adams, Berkshire Scenic, state Department of Conservation and Recreation and Pan Am — for the North County project a couple years earlier.
Last year, the Budd car and several other cars were brought through the Hoosac Tunnel and refurbished.
The Budd car holds 86 passengers and the train was booked for its first two trips on Saturday. Rides continue Sunday; some tickets are still available for the 7 p.m. run, and limited for 1,3 and 5. Tickets are $12; $8 for ages 4 to 12. It departs from 6 Renfrew St., with parking across Route 8 at Renfrew Field.
Green said that will be it for North County rides this year, but there are plans to run the railway during Thunderfest and Ramblefest – as well as Easter and Mother's Day.
A murder mystery, wine tasting, and autumn-themed rides are on the horizon.
The museum also plans to build a stronger volunteer base and create a subcommittee to help create programming during the downtime.
Green said the railway has continued to work hard with MassDOT and staemdelegates to secure funds to install the final mile of track from Renfrew Street to Hoosac Street. He said all of the material has been purchased and but funding has to be secured to lay the track down. That last mile is part of a $3.4 million extension of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail from Hoosac Street to Lime Street.
Once the track is completely installed, money gathered from rides will go toward operating costs to make the train will be sustainable. The nonprofit's resources have been severely stretched with no ride revenue coming in over the past few years.
"That's why we need the state involved because the track costs are so expensive and there is no way a nonprofit can pay for it," Green said. "So we need their help with the infrastructure."
Green said both North Adams and Adams have been fantastic to work with and thanked Burke Construction for allowing the train to use its land and utilities.
The rides are only possible though this kind of collaboration between the communities and the volunteer team, he said.
"I'm not paid. No one is paid," Green said. "Once you railroad ... once it gets in your blood, it doesn't go away."
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