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Tourist trains to run by July

Officials and community members from Hamilton and Warren counties filled most of the available seating in the Copperfield's ballroom.

Kate Johnson, tourism director for Warren County, said she wants to get information about the railroad out as quickly as possible while the tourism season is ramping up.

Tanya Brand, Johnson's assistant, said the railway is a great attraction for bus tours that appeal to older adventurers.

"Seniors love rails and sails," Brand said, noting that that train travel is a great attraction for people who don't do much walking but enjoy sightseeing.

Cliff Welz, who was operations manager for the county railway through December, said his company had invested a lot of money into the railroad's operation over 12 years, but its importance to the community can't just be measured in revenue.

"I don't think there's any excursion railroad in the U.S. that makes money," Welz said. "It's more a labor of love."

Welz, and dozens of other area tourism officials, say the tourist railroad is an attraction that draws in tourists who spend money at area restaurants, stores, and lodging enterprises , important revenue for business owners, residents and local government.

Munley said tourists will be taking trips oriented initially on sightseeing, with ski trains, dining trips and special rail events being introduced later.

Crucial to the expanded services will be connections between the Saratoga-North Creek railway with Amtrak service in Saratoga Springs, Rensselaer, New York City and Vermont.

These four connections have been detailed in Iowa Pacific's proposals for the railway, endorsed enthusiastically this year by county supervisors.

Helen Miner from the Depot Museum said she has a daughter in North Carolina who can't wait to visit by train.

Miner also said she's excited by the prospect of visiting Manhattan on the rail, and hopes that Manhattanites will be just as excited to reach North Creek without having to get behind the wheel of a car.

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