The railroad, which has run a variety of excursions out of Horseshoe Bend since 2001, is out of business, at least for now, because ridership hasn’t risen enough to meet operating costs, according to a Wednesday news release from the Texas-based company.
Thunder Mountain Line had announced on Facebook Monday that it was closing, but didn't give a reason why. On Wednesday, Vice President Chris Bertel said the company will likely decide later this year whether to permanently shut down Thunder Mountain.
“If someone came in from the outside who wanted to invest in the business or assume the operations, we would be open to discussions,” Bertel said. “We’d like nothing better than to see the Thunder Mountain Line back on track again."
He said most tourist railroads in the United States are operated by nonprofit entities that can draw on public subsidies or volunteer support to help defray operating costs, but Thunder Mountain relied on ticket sales alone.
The railroad struggled to attract new riders in the years since the economic downturn of 2007-2008, he said.
“Our corporate bookings in particular fell off after the recession,” he said. “Hoping to draw in more customers, we continued to invest in the business all along, by improving the rail cars, the train station and the overall infrastructure.
“I think we ran one of the finest tourist train operations in the country, but we just couldn’t win back the business we lost during the recession.”