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 Post subject: Lehigh Gorge Railroad Ceasing Operations Nov. 25th Over Tax
PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2019 11:53 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 9438
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
I'm avoiding comment on the news, just posting relevant links:

The press release by the RR:

https://www.rbmnrr.com/happenings/2019/ ... er-25-2019

At issue: a retroactively-assessed(?) "amusement tax" assessed to the tune of almost $100,000 covering 2016-2018.

News media items over the dispute between the railroad and borough:

https://wnep.com/2019/10/11/tax-fight-t ... im-thorpe/

https://www.pahomepage.com/news/end-of-the-line/

https://fox56.com/news/local/tax-could- ... attraction


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Railroad Ceasing Operations Nov. 25th Over
PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2019 12:02 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 8:10 am
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If I was the mayor of Lehighton, Tamaqua or White Haven, I would be stepping up to the plate right about now.

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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Railroad Ceasing Operations Nov. 25th Over
PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2019 12:24 pm 

Joined: Fri Jan 25, 2019 6:36 pm
Posts: 23
Location: Bucks County and West Chester, PA
Muller's assertion that Jim Thorpe "did nothing for the railroad" seems to be at odds with this article:

Quote:
During Jim Thorpe’s recent upgrades to its sewer plant and the construction of a Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor pedestrian bridge downtown, the borough paid Reading and Northern a collective $603,170 for a flagger to be present at the rail crossing to comply with federal regulations. On many of those days, borough officials said, the track sat empty. Norfolk Southern, the other rail company in Jim Thorpe, waived the flagger fees.

“Nobody here and nobody at the D & L argued with that,” Jim Thorpe Mayor Mike Sofranko said. “We just paid it, and it was essentially a tax, because it was for the betterment of the borough. That grant money could have been spent anywhere else but it was given to a railroad to cross cars as tankers just sat there. The other railroad charged this borough nothing. At $20,000 a year of amusement tax, the money he just got would pay that tax for a long time. I like Andy, but it’s time to man up.”


https://www.tnonline.com/jim-thorpe-reading-northern-odds-over-amusement-fee

I can understand the frustrations at R&N over having these new back taxes sprung on them and the question of whether the line actually should fall under "amusement tax". If the courts were to determine it should and Jim Thorpe wants to collect, I can respect that, while conversely it's certainly within R&N's rights to take business elsewhere. Mostly it's just an unfortunate situation for the LGSR's customers, and the local economy that benefits from those visitors.


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Railroad Ceasing Operations Nov. 25th Over
PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2019 12:44 pm 

Joined: Thu Feb 27, 2014 10:08 am
Posts: 496
Jim Thorpe retroactively assessed an "amusement" tax on Lehigh Gorge Scenic and its parent, RBMNRR. The railroad sued, contesting the categorization of its business as an "amusement". From the article, it appears that the town prevailed in Court and the RR is appealing. It makes sense to cease operations within the taxing jurisdiction of Jim Thorpe until the issue is settled on appeal to avoid the potential liability of incurring further "amusement" tax assessment. It also is a great way to put economic and political pressure on the town. The infrastructure remains so it can again be used in the future if this issue is settled in a manner that is consistent with RBMNRR's business goals either in the courts, in the ballot box, or by town ordinance.

Hopefully, the rest of it (public comments) is just posturing and will not prevent the resolution of this issue in a manner which allows Lehigh Gorge Scenic to return to Jim Thorpe.


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Railroad Ceasing Operations Nov. 25th Over
PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2019 1:37 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 20, 2010 10:49 am
Posts: 262
Location: Cambridgeshire UK
Hi Guys, If the RBM&N and other "Preserved / Tourist " lines ran these trains as regular scheduled service instead of sight-seeing train, would the tax apply? Sure, the railroad may use steam or preserved diesels & rolling stock, but if's a train between someplace and someplace, even if it only ran twice a day on weekends and holidays on a time table, open to any of the general public who buy a ticket, wouldn't it just be a passenger train, not an attraction? Sure, it a question of semantics, and careful worded marketing, but legally correct. If Amtrak, NJT or SEPTA ran a regular train to Jim Thorpe and just happened to run thru the "Scenic Gorge" would they be subject to the amusement tax? Have fun guys - David Notarius, in far away UK , missing Nathans Hodogs and a decent soft pretzel!


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Railroad Ceasing Operations Nov. 25th Over
PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2019 4:00 pm 

Joined: Sat Nov 28, 2015 7:28 pm
Posts: 433
Location: Northern WV
Amusement tax? Sounds like Andy isn't very amused. It could be argued that even if it is an "amusement", most of it takes place outside of Jim Thorpe. People ride the LGSR train to see the Lehigh Gorge. It just happens to use the town as the base of operations. He could if he wanted build a station somewhere outside of the town limits. Andy was rebuilding the ex-RDG 2102 with, I believe, the idea of using it on the Lehigh Gorge trains. I wonder if this will affect that restoration. He has lots of other destinations that I am sure would welcome passenger trains (see map below).


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Railroad Ceasing Operations Nov. 25th Over
PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2019 6:16 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:01 pm
Posts: 1517
Location: SouthEast Pennsylvania
I remember on New Hope & Ivyland RR (New Hope Steam RR) in Pennsylvania about 1977, John Bortz, Jr. complaining about 1 way passengers between Buckingham Valley and New Hope. He feared that if we were ever caught allowing that, or sold one way tickets, the passenger trains would come under Interstate Commerce Commission and Public Utility Commission jurisdiction, instead of being an "excursion".
About 1961, the Strasburg Rail Road made sure to publish their timetables in the Official Guide of the Railways and file passenger tariffs with the Public Utilities Commission, partly to avoid the possibility of local taxes. However, they did not actually follow such postings, as I found out when my family tried to board a train at Cherry Hill, Pa. (population 19, more or less).
After Staggers Act deregulation in 1980, I'm not sure if any of this is still applicable to the Lehigh Gorge problem.


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Railroad Ceasing Operations Nov. 25th Over
PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2019 12:15 pm 

Joined: Wed Jun 29, 2016 11:58 am
Posts: 67
‘Santa Train’ announces new schedule after leaving Jim Thorpe


https://www.mcall.com/news/local/mc-nws ... story.html

The Santa Train will be leaving from:

* The Reading Outer Station Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 23 and 24.

* The Minersville Station Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

* The Schuylkill Haven Station Dec. 7 and 8.

* Tunkhannock Dec. 14 and 15.

* Pottsville Union Station Dec. 21 and 22.

Trains depart all locations at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. for a 70-to-80-minute round trip. Rides are $15 per adult, $9 per child ages 3 to 12 and free for ages 2 and under.

Brian


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Railroad Ceasing Operations Nov. 25th Over
PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2019 2:47 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 9438
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
As someone said on Facebook: "They blinked."

https://www.brctv13.com/news/local-news ... ns-ongoing

Quote:
We're less than one week from November 25th, when the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway is set to cease operations in Jim Thorpe.

The borough tells News 13 it has agreed to drop its lawsuit against Reading & Northern Railroad, which was seeking over $95,000 in unpaid amusement taxes.

"The decision was made to do that just in an effort to move forward. So the borough made the decision to drop the litigation without prejudice," said borough council president, Greg Strubinger.

The suit was filed earlier this fall by the borough and Jim Thorpe School District.

"The litigation could be restarted should we not be able to come to some kind of agreement," said Strubinger.

That agreement is being worked on by both sides. The borough and railroad have met multiple times since Reading & Northern's October 16th announcement it would be pulling the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway out of Jim Thorpe.

"We're really thrilled everyone did finally sit down and talk, that was really a great step. Secondly, we applaud the borough of Jim Thorpe for its concession to show its good-faith effort to try to resolve the situation," said Michael Rivkin, interim president of the Jim Thorpe Tourism Agency.

The Railway will not return to town this year. Right now, the borough is working to get the popular attraction back on track in 2020.


More at the link. Negotiations resume in 2020.


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Railroad Ceasing Operations Nov. 25th Over
PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2019 3:56 pm 

Joined: Sat Nov 28, 2015 7:28 pm
Posts: 433
Location: Northern WV
As the late senator Everett Dirksen once said "When I feel the heat, I see the light".

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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Railroad Ceasing Operations Nov. 25th Over
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2019 6:01 pm 

Joined: Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:31 am
Posts: 616
Local news is reporting that Andy Muller’s argument is that he is providing an educational experience, not an amusement. Not sure how well that is going to play out for him.


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Railroad Ceasing Operations Nov. 25th Over
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2019 6:14 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 9438
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
6-18003 wrote:
Local news is reporting that Andy Muller’s argument is that he is providing an educational experience, not an amusement. Not sure how well that is going to play out for him.

Hell, if I were deluded enough, I could say the same thing about going to a bar with a jazz or folk music session. Or an Irish pub "cheaper than a trip to Dublin/Belfast." or a restaurant offering a wine tasting flight.


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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Railroad Ceasing Operations Nov. 25th Over
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2019 7:02 pm 

Joined: Sat Nov 28, 2015 7:28 pm
Posts: 433
Location: Northern WV
Regardless of whether it is an "amusement" or an "educational experience" Andy holds the upper hand. The Reading & Northern makes their money off of freight. Andy is a rail buff (why else would he have two steam engines-money pits?) who offers passenger trains as a public service, not because he is required to do so. He doesn't NEED Jim Thorpe. He could just as easily run Lehigh Gorge trains from Nesquehoning or Lehighton. Running from those towns would save riders money on the exorbitant parking fees being charged in Jim Thorpe. Before the cessation of Gorge trains, money was being spent in town that is no longer benefiting local businesses. The town will have to decide whether it is worth it to their economy to pursue this tax.

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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Railroad Ceasing Operations Nov. 25th Over
PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2020 9:19 pm 

Joined: Sat Jan 21, 2017 11:43 am
Posts: 28
robertjohndavis wrote:
If I was the mayor of Lehighton, Tamaqua or White Haven, I would be stepping up to the plate right about now.


Well, perhaps that is exactly what happened! ;>)

Posted January 23, 2020 at the (West Lehighton, PA) TimesNews.com

Quote:
The Reading and Northern Railroad posted on Facebook Thursday morning to thank the Borough of Tamaqua “for beginning a cooperation which will lead to passenger train events for Tamaqua.”

The borough on Tuesday night agreed to join with the Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad to construct a concourse deck, or platform, enabling visitors and tourists to easily disembark train coaches at Tamaqua’s 1874 Philadelphia and Reading Railroad depot.

More here: https://www.tnonline.com/railroad-thank ... g-platform


The article as it reads makes no mention of the "amusement tax" issue, but I assume that someone at least broached that subject in meetings that led to this platform agreement.


Update 1/24/20: There now is a second article posted that does briefly reference the "amusement tax" dispute:

Quote:
The news comes less than two months after a tax dispute ended tourist train excursions by the same railroad in nearby Jim Thorpe.

More here:
https://www.tnonline.com/tamaqua-rr-bui ... way-trains


Last edited by Rader Sidetrack on Fri Jan 24, 2020 10:59 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Lehigh Gorge Railroad Ceasing Operations Nov. 25th Over
PostPosted: Fri Jan 24, 2020 12:23 am 

Joined: Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:31 am
Posts: 616
He switched towns. Andy will bring his trains and thousands of patrons (and their tourism dollars) to Tamaqua instead of Jim Thorpe.


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