Excursion trains will again roll through Chehalis as early as Nov. 11, thanks to a multi-year agreement between the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad & Museum (CCRM) and Goose Lake Railway LLC, CCRM announced Wednesday.
Goose Lake is a short-line railroad that runs 55 miles from Lakeview, Oregon, to Alturas, California, and then 50 miles from there to Perez, California.
The first excursion under the new partnership will be the popular Polar Express Train Ride, which is set to run Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 11 to Dec. 23.
CCRM’s board of directors agreed to the contract with Goose Lake on Sept. 27, according to a CCRM news release.
As part of the agreement, Goose Lake will assume responsibility for running tourist excursion trains and for training and hiring crew members, while CCRM will continue to maintain the tracks, signals, rolling stock and engines.
CCRM will also continue managing the events, schedule, tickets, gift shop and activities, according to the CCRM news release.
Goose Lake currently has nine employees and will hire a local managing director, engineers and conductors for the CCRM operation, according to the news release.
CCRM lost its liability insurance coverage in March 2022, halting all passenger service until further notice. The group did acquire premises-liability insurance about a month later, which has allowed for stationary events on trains at the Chehalis depot and for crews to make improvements to the property, including about a dozen miles of train tracks.
CCRM President Mary Kay Nelson previously told The Chronicle CCRM is waiting until a lawsuit stemming from a 2019 collision is resolved to reapply for the liability insurance coverage necessary to run its own excursion trains.
Goose Lake’s managing director, Toby Van Altvorst, was the first to reach out with offers of help after CCRM lost its insurance coverage in 2022, according to CCRM, which said Van Altavorst “is well known in our community as an advisor and supporter for past projects and railroad jobs in our area … His genuine interest and offer to help was deeply appreciated.”
CCRM “began discussing options that might help return our scenic tourist train to full operations, while retaining our identity and autonomy,” with Goose Lake following a long-range planning effort in February, according to the news release. CCRM previously sought a similar agreement with Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad, announcing a tentative partnership in April that fell through over the summer.
“Long-term sustainability and organization priorities were developed along with goals and objectives,” CCRM said of the February planning effort. “Because of the careful planning and visioning, it is my pleasure to announce a long-term plan which will ensure a sustainable tourist attraction.”
In the Wednesday news release, CCRM thanked its volunteers, community members and local train enthusiasts who continued to believe in CCRM while its trains were stuck at the station.
“We are grateful for the dedication and determination of many individuals who were not willing to give up and keep reminding us that anything worth having is worth working for. They have been working non-stop to make this happen. If it weren’t for true grit, sacrifice, and the highest level of resolve, we would not have the success we have today,” CCRM said.
CCRM also expressed interest in partnering with local businesses and organizations and thanked its current partners, including the City of Chehalis, the Port of Chehalis, Experience Chehalis, the Larry Shaw Foundation, Hampton Lumber, Sterling Breen and RB Engineering, for their ongoing support.
“We want to make you proud! All aboard!” CCRM stated.
Tickets for the Polar Express Train Ride are currently on sale at https://steamtrainride.com/the-polar-express-train-2023/.