- Report Published -
|Pocahontas Tourist Train Feasibility Study|
|Department of Rail and Public Transportation|
|Appropriation Act - Item 535 B. (Regular Session, 1998)|
|The 1998 Virginia Acts of Assembly, Chapter 464, Section 1 - 121, Item 535(B) states:|
The Department of Rail and Public Transportation shall perform a feasibility study of establishing a tourist train between Pocahontas, Virginia and Bramwell, West Virginia. The Department shall report its $findings to the 1999 General Assembly.
The corridor identified in the above legislation includes approximately five miles of active and retired in place track on an alignment between Pocahontas in Tazewell County, Virginia, and Bramwell in Mercer County, West Virginia. The Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) has worked closely with the West Virginia State Rail Authority (SRA) to perform a feasibility study of tourist train operations in this corridor.
The study corridor is two separate segments of retired in place single track railroad which total approximately five miles in length and includes nine bridges and two tunnels. The two segments are connected by a short section of active mainline track used by Norfolk Southern. To operate passenger service on this line portion, all rail facilities retired in place would require full restoration. The sub-grade, ballast, ties and rail surfaces will require complete rehabilitation. The bridge structures and tunnels will need to be reconditioned before rail service can be reestablished. This study recommends that a new connector bridge be constructed to eliminate the need for the tourist trains to operate on the active Norfolk Southern main line track section.
The Town of Pocahontas is especially fascinating for its role in America's industrial revolution and its prominence in the coal mining industry which made it possible. Pocahontas has the world's oldest Exhibition Coal Mine, now a Registered National Landmark, open daily for guided walking tours from May to November. Adjacent is the Pocahontas Coal Heritage Museum. Atop a hill overlooking town, St. Elizabeth's Roman Catholic Church is noted for its beautifully painted and restored frescoes. When built in the late 1800's the Town included not only numerous taverns but also an Opera House and other public amenities which are of special interest to visitors. Bramwell, West Virginia has numerous elegant homes which were built by coal barons and are now restored for walking tours.
The study assumes an operating season for the tourist railroad of six months. It is estimated that approximately 25,000 people would ride the tourist train during its first year of operation. Visitation is expected to grow steadily each year so that by the sixth year of operation there will be a total of 67,000 passengers. Based on these visitation estimates and a projected revenue per passenger of $9.00, the annual passenger operational revenue is estimated to be $225,000 for the first year with growth to $603,000 for the sixth year.
The annual cost of operations for a six-month season has been estimated at $38 1,000 for the first year creating a revenue shortfall of $156,000. The service is expected to break even after the third year and should generate a profit in the sixth year of operation.
Rolling stock and support facilities necessary to operate this service include three diesel locomotives, eight passenger coaches, two passenger station platforms, and one locomotive and car maintenance facility. The total capital cost including the necessary rehabilitation of the existing track and new bridge construction is estimated to be $3,200,000. If steam locomotives are utilized as suggested by others the capital cost could increase to $6,200,000.
To implement this project a range of $3.68 to $6.68 million will be needed over the first three years. This does not include funding for advertising and the general cost to rehabilitate the attractions. Full implementation will require a mechanism to be in place between Virginia and West Virginia to identify interstate interest, ownership, and operation.