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City supports Polar Express franchise application

Posted: Wednesday, Jan 2nd, 2013

The San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad is applying for a Polar Express franchise. Courier photo by Ruth Heide

Courier editor

ALAMOSA — Alamosa city councilors are unanimously backing the San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad’s application for a Polar Express franchise.

During its last meeting in December, the council approved a resolution supporting the local railroad’s attempt to obtain a Polar Express franchise, which would draw thousands more visitors to the area for the special rail experience.

The railroad is applying to Rail Events Inc. who holds the rights for the Polar Express franchise. Alamosa City Manager Nathan Cherpeski made the railroad’s request to the city council and said Polar Express would have the potential to bring about 20,000 riders to the railroad over a seven-week period.

He said the local railroad has applied unsuccessfully before but hopes to acquire the franchise this time under the direction of General Manager Matt Abbey.

“They have been working on it for quite some time,” Cherpeski said. “They have asked all of the Valley communities to support them.”

Currently the railroad provides a North Pole Express during the winter, but the Polar Express would be a special production similar to the book and movie, complete with a Christmas town for train riders to visit.

“I think it would be a good thing. December is a slow time, especially for hotels,” Cherpeski said. “It’s at night so people who ride the train typically stay the night.”

If the railroad is successful in obtaining the franchise, the Polar Express would run next winter.

Cherpeski said the city would have no financial obligation in this but could see tremendous economic benefits.

Councilor Marcia Tuggle said she was excited about the vision the railroad has for Alamosa.

“We have people here that believe strongly in Alamosa’s potential,” she said.

She said she has traveled extensively and seen other towns’ holiday decorations, and she loves coming back to Alamosa. She added the city council needs to support the local merchants and encourage initiatives like the Polar Express to bring more visitors to the area.

“I think we need to support the railroad every chance we get,” added Councilman Greg Gillaspie.

Councilor Charles Griego agreed and added he appreciated Matt Abbey’s efforts in improving the railroad and its connections to the community.

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