Operators Of Thunder Mountain Train Line Blame Decision To Close On Recession

Jan 20, 2016

A picture of the Thunder Mountain Line sign in Horseshoe Bend, as posted by the company on Facebook. A caption that read "Always wished we had a new sign, but the sentiments are heart felt" accompanied the photo.
Credit Thunder Mountain Line/Facebook

An inability to replace business lost in the Great Recession is what operators say is behind this week’s decision to close a scenic train line in southwest Idaho.

The Thunder Mountain Line has operated train rides out of Horseshoe Bend since 1998. The company says ridership in 2015 failed to meet goals. That prompted the decision Monday to cease operations. 

In a prepared statement, Thunder Mountain Vice President Chris Bertel says the company began seeing a downturn in 2007. It has been a struggle to replace those passengers, he says, even as the Idaho economy has improved.

“We never regained our momentum after the recession,” Bertel says. “Our corporate bookings in particular fell off after the recession. Companies continue to be reluctant to spend money on corporate outings to off-site locations such as ours.”

Thunder Mountain says nearly 500,000 people rode the train since it began operating along the Payette River. 

Bertel suggests the decision to close may not be a permanent one. He says a final decision will be made later in the year, but also welcomed investors.

“If someone came in from the outside who wanted to invest in the business or assume the operations, we would be open to discussions,” says Bertel.

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