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Old 09-19-2010, 04:37 AM
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Default Special train trip to Mojave Preserve

Group looks for Kelso train operators, funders

Special train trip to Mojave Preserve take place in October

September 17, 2010

BARSTOW • After five years of working to connect Barstow to Kelso via rail, members of a local committee will see a train leave the Harvey House for the historic depot next month.

Part of the Western American Railroad Museum’s annual craft and rail festival, the train will be a special trip into the Mojave National Preserve. Committee members, after conducting environmental impact studies and last year hosting bus trips to Kelso Depot, say they need to find a company willing to operate regular passenger train service to the preserve.

“We’re looking for prospective people that would be interested in starting the venture,” said Marcia Bond, general manager for Hampton Inn and Suites, who’s also on the committee. “We’ve provided the concept, we need to have somebody that wants to fund the idea and get it rolling.”

The committee is hoping to get regular train service from Barstow to Kelso on a monthly basis, said Humane Society Director Jeanette Hayhurst, who is also on the committee. Its long-term goal is to have daily trips to the preserve.

The train would also increase tourism for Barstow, Hayhurst said.The committee got the idea from the Grand Canyon Railroad in Williams, Ariz. Tourism in that community increased once the train started, Hayhurst noted.

The Barstow-to-Kelso train would leave the Harvey House, travel across Daggett, wind through Afton Canyon and the Devil’s Playground — a system of sand dunes — before depositing passengers at Kelso Depot. In October, the special train will be doing the same.

To figure out if train service to Kelso would be well-received by Barstow citizens and tourists, the committee hosted a series of bus trips into the preserve in 2009.

“Every single one of them was full,” Bond said. “We stopped the buses because it got so hot, but the demand was incredible.”

David Lamfrom, California desert program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, and employees with the National Park System are also on the Barstow-to-Kelso committee. Lamfrom said the committee has also discussed the possibility of having interpretive presentations conducted by park rangers should the regular train service become a reality.

October’s Barstow-to-Kelso train trip is part of a special Amtrak train that leaves from Los Angeles Oct. 16 and arrives in Barstow for the rail fest the same day. The Barstow-to-Kelso train departs Barstow at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 17 and arrives in Kelso two hours later. Fare for that portion of the trip is $115.

For more information, call committee member Norm Orfall at 760-953-9620 or Gary Herod of Archer Travel Service at 1-800-272-4377.
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