Ski Train to Laurel Highlands?
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Edgar3
April 8, 2008
Member since 05/29/2007 🔗
149 posts
I happened to catch this article from a few years ago regarding the idea of Amtrak stopping in Rockwood PA, 10 mi from Seven Springs and Hidden Valley:
http://www.post-gazette.com/regionstate/20011028railreg4p4.asp

Does anyone know what ever became of this: I havn't seen anything more on it re how/why it died? With gas approaching $4/gallon, it would seem like it would make sense to take a lesson from the europeans as to how they have delt with getting to the mountains for years of high fuel prices. Situation is very different than when the article was written in 01. Apparently the passenger train comes through Rockwood, but it just does not stop there because there would be so few passengers.

If any of the new management at HV and 7S are reading: Please consider this something for the suggestion box. This could be a great benefit for both of you, and a differentiating factor with other mid-atlantic resorts. Perhaps if you would cooperate together and solicit support from local politicians, offer to promote the service and offer seasonal shuttle bus services to the stop, or do other things to build a case for ridership things could happen?

If this goes nowhere, I still think there is a great opportunity to work together and provide some type of organized/subsidized seasonal bus service from the DC area and Pittsburgh, similar to the Atlantic City Casinos. There is alot to be said for working together to expand the market rather than just competing with each other for the existing market.
hockeydave
April 8, 2008
Member since 06/30/2004 🔗
772 posts
 Quote:

"It's got a ton of potential," said Robert Duppstadt, spokesman for nearby Seven Springs Mountain Resort, one potential beneficiary

"I think it might start slow," Duppstadt said, "but it'll build."

These quotes from the linked PPG article sound awfully familliar to what Mr Duppstapt said when Seven Springs ran Laurel Mountain Ski Resort for a short 3 months... need I say more.

What you have suggested is a great idea on paper. Chances of it happening are slim; this venture requires money from both private and public sources, along with vision, something sorely lacking in Pennsylvania, both in the private and public sector.
JimK - DCSki Columnist
April 8, 2008
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,698 posts
Back around that same timeframe a Snowshoe official told me they were considering promoting train service from Wash/Balt to the area. Don't believe anything ever came of that idea. I thought it was not so likely when the official said the nearest likely train station connection was over an hour from Snowshoe and would require a vehicular shuttle service to the resort.

When I was up at Le Massif, Quebec recently they told me there that they were hoping for a train connection to link the 50 miles to Quebec City for either overnight guests or day visitors. An existing freight train line runs close, but it doesn't currently carry passenger cars.

They have a weekend train service from Denver to Winter Park ski area in Colorado, believe it's about a 75 minute ride that is moderately successful.

You can use Amtrak to get to places like Winter Park, SLC, Tahoe, Burlington VT, Whitefish MT, Mt Hood OR, but it takes more time and patience than most of have if you're traveling from a far distance.

A noble attempt at the ski-bus thing failed here in DC a couple years ago.

I agree with hockeydave that it is a very tough prospect to make a regional ski-train happen in North America, maybe if gas goes to $10 a gallon.

One thing the higher gas prices are likely to foster is more action on DCSki for carpooling on daytrips to local areas.
lbotta - DCSki Supporter
April 8, 2008
Member since 10/18/1999 🔗
1,527 posts
It wouldn't bother me at all to see gas prices rise to the point at which rail travel becomes attractive for leisure travel. The lobbying community would then press for the proper subsidies for rail, instead of roads to nowhere and half-billion dollars for bridges to islands populated by 50 people. I totally agree with Edgar that we need to learn a lot from the Europeans, but it will require a change of mindset.

I remember taking the Montrealer from CT to Essex Junction VT, and back then it used to go all the way to Montreal. The train had a piano onboard, and oodles of College kids and tourists on the way to ski. I've also taken the train to Waterbury VT, and then a 12 minute taxi to Stowe.

It will also require Amtrak to learn from Europe. I travel with my 11-yr old Black Lab. I go everywhere with him. In Europe I can take him on the train and pay the kid's fare. Why not in the US? I saw dogs everywhere in train stations in Bern, Zurich, Frankfurt, Vienna and virtually everywhere in Europe. I would then be able to travel by car only sporadically.
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jb714
April 8, 2008
Member since 03/4/2003 🔗
294 posts
Another advantage/angle to this that I haven't seen mentioned is that this could possibly be viable during the warm weather months because of the proximity to the bike trail. The trail runs through Ohiopyle, Confluence and Rockwood on it's way to Cumberland, MD. The trail has sparked some development in those towns that is very refreshing to see.

Sadly though, I have to agree with HockeyDave that this probably won't happen - the PA government just does not know the meaning of the word 'progressive'.
Edgar3
April 8, 2008
Member since 05/29/2007 🔗
149 posts

An advantage in this situation is that the train line runs just 10 min away and already has passenger service.

I am aware of failed bus initiatives, but do not believe any were really being integrated with the Resort Promotions and Marketing. It would be really hard for a 3rd party to try to pull this off in terms of gaining awareness. At the end of the day it is the resorts who benefit the most from increased visitors and could perhaps subsidize or include in a package lodging price.

Would agree with HockeyDave that PA is not known for their visionaries, but at least we now have both resorts with new owners looking forward, and Buncher's Master Plan certainly reflects the most vision seen in the area in a long time.
lbotta - DCSki Supporter
April 8, 2008
Member since 10/18/1999 🔗
1,527 posts
 Originally Posted By: jb714
Sadly though, I have to agree with HockeyDave that this probably won't happen - the PA government just does not know the meaning of the word 'progressive'.


Remember Pennsylvania is made up of two states. One is made up by Phila Metro and Pittsburgh. In the middle, there's medieval Europe. I just finished a four-year stint in PA, couldn't agree with you more.
lbotta - DCSki Supporter
April 8, 2008
Member since 10/18/1999 🔗
1,527 posts
 Originally Posted By: Edgar3

An advantage in this situation is that the train line runs just 10 min away and already has passenger service.

I am aware of failed bus initiatives, but do not believe any were really being integrated with the Resort Promotions and Marketing. It would be really hard for a 3rd party to try to pull this off in terms of gaining awareness. At the end of the day it is the resorts who benefit the most from increased visitors and could perhaps subsidize or include in a package lodging price.

Would agree with HockeyDave that PA is not known for their visionaries, but at least we now have both resorts with new owners looking forward, and Buncher's Master Plan certainly reflects the most vision seen in the area in a long time.



I'm much more hopeful nowadays when it comes to mass transportation. We have a change in paradigms in the general population, we have rapidly and permanently increasing gas prices, and we're coming to a change in national government that may result in a new awareness of intermodal transportation. Good change may indeed occur....
scootertig
April 8, 2008
Member since 02/19/2006 🔗
365 posts
I'm far more likely to utilize train service for something that's within a 3-5 hour drive than for something that is more than a 1 hour flight. Looking at prices to Vermont by train, I see that it would be around $200 per person for a 12-hour train trip. For that price, I can fly, and be there in an hour and a half.

On the other hand, $40 to Hidden Valley, I would do, since it would cost me more than that to drive.

I dream of taking a train to some place like Jackson Hole to ski, but if it's going to cost me 2-3 times what a plane ticket would, I'll just keep on dreaming...


aaron
JimK - DCSki Columnist
April 8, 2008
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,698 posts
Sorry to keep pushing this train out of the Laurel Highlands, but about a year or two ago I plotted out what ski areas you could fairly easily get to via main/active Amtrak lines. Some have already been mentioned like Waterbury/Stowe. There are quite a few nice ones in the West too, such as Winter Park, then Glenwood Springs which puts you within public transport to Aspen, the SLC ski areas, Truckee near north end of Lake Tahoe, Whitefish Mtn MT, Schweitzer Ski Area in northern ID, Mt Hood OR. It's a cool concept, but only a retired train/ski nut with time and money to burn would take trains all the way from the East to visit these.
lbotta - DCSki Supporter
April 8, 2008
Member since 10/18/1999 🔗
1,527 posts
 Originally Posted By: scootertig
I'm far more likely to utilize train service for something that's within a 3-5 hour drive than for something that is more than a 1 hour flight. Looking at prices to Vermont by train, I see that it would be around $200 per person for a 12-hour train trip. For that price, I can fly, and be there in an hour and a half.

On the other hand, $40 to Hidden Valley, I would do, since it would cost me more than that to drive.

I dream of taking a train to some place like Jackson Hole to ski, but if it's going to cost me 2-3 times what a plane ticket would, I'll just keep on dreaming...
aaron


What you're missing is the really romantic allure of the train. I've got over 4,000 hours as a pilot on military and civilian aircraft, but I absolutely love trains and I consider them part of the vacation.

Flying today is a hassle. TSA, frankly, is more involved in the cosmetics of public perception than in anything else. Your shoes and shampoo are the targets, not the cargo in the belly of the plane. Even on first class, the comforts of travel are not there. I'd much rather take the Acela to visit family in New England. Even the normal trains are much better than the best airplane today. At least, seats are twice as wide with three times the legroom, and they allow you to stand all you want. You can get real food nowadays on Amtrak. Walk around the place... Even the time factor nowadays favors trains. When you consider the two to three hours battling crowds, TSA harrassment, interminable taxi and takeoff, landing without a gate and waiting forever, driving to your destination, I can make it from DC to Boston roughly on the same amount of time. And I get there downtown to downtown.

The old Montrealer was a great experience. If you wanted total quiet, you could buy a roomette or a bedroom in the sleeper car (I did that coming back from Montreal after a 500-mile bike trip in Nova Scotia followed by a Via Rail, wonderful trip from Halifax to Montreal, then Montreal to Stamford CT). If you wanted a coffee house atmosphere, the restaurant car had a piano man with lots of tourists and Europeans, and the bar car was full of college kids with acoustic guitars. You could also do coach and have seats that were (and are) twice the size of an airline seat.

If they took dogs in the train that would be my major source of travel.

As far as long distance, I took the Zephyr twice, once from Denver to Las Vegas, and the other time Denver to Salt Lake City. Both times I rented a full bedroom in the sleeper car. Bedrooms are outstanding, private shower, beds, and turndown service. Still a long way from Europe, but a part of the vacation. The trip over the Continental Divide is a lifelong experience, with the majestic peaks and glaciers literally next to the train. The buried town of Thistle UT is seen clearly as you ride by. It is indeed a part of the vacation.

I want to ride also the ViaRail from Edmonton to Vancouver, the other fascinating trip accross the Rockies. I hear the Canadian rail is even better than Amtrak.

As I said before, we're moving to support rail travel much better than before. A change of paradigms will be required but it may become a necessity. Once private means become costly, the market forces will respond.

Who knows, before I retire to Stowe I may see a train to Snowshoe...
scootertig
April 8, 2008
Member since 02/19/2006 🔗
365 posts
 Originally Posted By: lbotta
What you're missing is the really romantic allure of the train. I've got over 4,000 hours as a pilot on military and civilian aircraft, but I absolutely love trains and I consider them part of the vacation.


No, I wouldn't say I'm missing that... I get it, but it's also impractical for me except when it's just as fast as a plane. At least, if I'm headed somewhere to do something.

I agree that a train to New York is every bit as practical as a plane, and sometimes more so. Boston is just about at the break-even point between the two, and most of the time (barring a bad flight) tips the scale to the flying option. In fact, I remember getting stuck on one train trip in the middle of the summer for 2.5 hours with no power. That was at least as bad as the longest wait I've ever had on tarmac. No a/c, no moving air at all. Awful. Not that I hold it against Amtrak - I'm just saying that the "romance" of trains only goes so far.

If I were retired or semi-retired, or had a job where I could afford to take 3-4 weeks of vacation at a time, then I could see taking a train cross country. As it is, I'm lucky to find a week at a time that my responsibilities at work can let me get away, and I'm not about to spend half of that in transit.

Now, if the point of the trip is to take a trip (and not to go do something, like skiing), then that's a different matter...

But then, that's not really what I was talking about.


aaron
lbotta - DCSki Supporter
April 9, 2008
Member since 10/18/1999 🔗
1,527 posts
You have a point. All trains in the Eastern corridor (WashBos)have to be run on electricity because of air quality. If you have a power interruption on the transmission lines that, apropos, date from the turn of the 20th century, you're stuck. On longer trips outside the corridor, diesel trains are the rule.

It just reveals the type of priority we've been assigning to rail in this country in favor of what's now becoming a pricey luxury (private auto) and building highways to nowhere.

Having said that, taking the train accross the Divide in ski season from Denver to a number of resorts, is the rage. And the Ethan Allen to Waterbury and then to Stowe, Sugarbush or Bolton, is a dream, even as spartan as it is nowadays.
GGNagy
April 9, 2008
Member since 01/5/2006 🔗
445 posts
My first suggestion is that a little background research is in order. There is only one train each way per day, passing though Rockwood, PA. That is the Capitol Limited. It leaves DC at 4:05PM and barring any delays, reaches Cumberland, MD at 7:19PM and Connellsville, PA at 9:42PM. I would estimate Rockwood at being roughly about half way, so would arrive about 8:30PM. Going the other direction, The Capitol Limited East leaves Connellsville at 7:24AM and and Cumberland MD at 9:44AM, putting departures from Rockwood at about 8:30AM. The Limited arrives in DC at 1:30PM. I would not want to directly slander Amtrak's ontime record, but when riding the MARC train in the evening, we would often either a) be held up by the westbound Ltd, or b) see the Eastbound limited still heading towards DC.

For all that service, tickets between DC and Connelsville are 40$ each way, so figure something just a bit less. Also concider that you would need an extra day lodging for each day skiing.

Amtrak allready has multiple stops along the Great Allegheny Passage, including Connellsville, Cumberland, and Harpers Ferry. Meyersdale, Confluence and Rockwood were flag stops, iirc, about a decade ago. I would think the optimum stop for biking would be Meyersdale, as it is downhill, both ways.

Train service to the Laurel Highlands doesn't make much sense. The reason we have the Socialistic mess that is Amtrak is because the same is true for for most non-regional train service. The advantages of rail service cannot offset the cost and convience of personal transportation.
lbotta - DCSki Supporter
April 9, 2008
Member since 10/18/1999 🔗
1,527 posts
 Originally Posted By: GGNagy
Train service to the Laurel Highlands doesn't make much sense. The reason we have the Socialistic mess that is Amtrak is because the same is true for for most non-regional train service. The advantages of rail service cannot offset the cost and convience of personal transportation.


You have a valid point. But the socialistic mess has been going on for years. Let's take away the socialistic, corporate welfare subsidies to the oil companies through depletion allowances, and let's also take the subsidies to states where the population can't support a road system through its own taxes. Nebraska has 10 thousand miles of federal highway roads supported by your dollars with only 1.7 million people. Kansas about the same with a little over 2 million. And the heartland of these states is emptying out.

The entire transportation mess is a federally subsidized system that up to now has favored the construction of highways even where it wasn't economically nor demographically feasible. And we had also decided to promote private transportation as a national goal. In the reality of today, this is no longer affordable nor ecologically responsible. If the people of a state can't afford their highway system, why do we have to fund it? That includes half-billion dollar bridges to islands populated by 50 people and inter state highways to nowhere.

The Intermodal Transportation Act endeavored to straighten out the mess in our national transportation system. But it was literally rendered into a shell by the oil and highway lobbies. Hopefully this will be taken up again in the future. I am the first one to say that Amtrak is a mess. But it is a mess partly of our making.

I may not be able to take a train to Laurel Highlands today. But I certainly see that in the future. Frankly, I'm not at all sorry to see gas prices reach the stratosphere. It is actually a good thing, as it will force our people change wasteful paradigms. And the resulting new paradigms may include a new reconsideration of mass transit for recreation.
hockeydave
April 9, 2008
Member since 06/30/2004 🔗
772 posts
 Quote:
Frankly, I'm not at all sorry to see gas prices reach the stratosphere. It is actually a good thing, as it will force our people change wasteful paradigms.


For those who can "afford" the high price of gas, the sting of the skyrocketing price is not nearly as bad as for those families who are not as financially well off as you or I. There is no doubt that in the future, emphasis should be placed on a mass transit infrastructure by government. But for the present, there is much pain being felt by families struggling to get by month to month. I'm sure they don't see anything good about the current high price of gas and neither do I.
lbotta - DCSki Supporter
April 9, 2008
Member since 10/18/1999 🔗
1,527 posts
I agree with you that it is uncomfortable and hurtful to many people. But nonetheless, it is reality. Helping those who are at the bottom end is a necessity. And it is not socialistic nonsense, but our responsibility to help those who are less fortunate. That is the responsibility of each of us as human beings and as members of a body politic. Heating oil, gas and electricity are three ways one can help. All the power companies have donation addendums that each one of us can do to our bills. That may mean some little old lady has heat or A/C when she needs it.

Reality is that it will take governments and people a while to change. And every change brings discomfort, even if necessary.

Affordable housing is another area too, and going to the topic of this forum, that means ensuring that service employees in the resort communities have safe housing options. I've seen employees drive 70 or 80 miles a day to get to Snowshoe because of the lack of affordable housing. Either that or spending a huge chunk of their paycheck to pay for housing that barely meets subsistence levels.
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