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(erielack) Knox & Kane Excursions may be ending

Kinzua bad news posted to the railfan.net forum ;(


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Knox & Kane Excursions may be ending
Post by thebigham 04/18/05 at 13:56:35 in "Tourist Railroads and Museums"
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Bradford Era: 
Saturday, April 9, 2005  
Kinzua train rides may not be offered again  
After 17 years of offering train rides to Kinzua Bridge State Park -- 15 of which offered rides across the historic Kinzua Viaduct -- the Knox & Kane Railroad is likely ending its travels to the park.  
"There are no definite decisions made yet," Sloan Cornell, owner of the railroad, said on Friday. "We're hoping to do something with that bridge."  
However, the manager of the state park said the service will not be offered this summer.  
"The train will not be running this year," explained Barrett Clark, Bendigo State Park Complex manager for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.  
He explained the park's secretary had called about making a reservation for the trip and was told the train would not be running this year. He added that was all the information he had.  
Cornell made no comment about the plans for this year, saying only that no final decision has been reached.  
"If we decide not to run, it will be permanent," he said.  
"We've been getting a lot of calls," he added, saying people express interest in the trip.  
But business has certainly declined since the bridge first closed to train traffic in 2002 and since a tornado felled 11 towers on the viaduct in July of 2003.  
"If they can't ride across the bridge, they don't want to come," Cornell said of the people who had made the trip in the past. Due to the decline in business and some family problems, the excursion "doesn't look like" it will continue, he added.  
"There was very low train attendance last year, with an average of 14 people per trip," Clark said. "The years preceding showed an average of 34 per trip."  
Linda Devlin, executive director of the Allegheny National Forest Vacation Bureau, explained that she was also notified that the train would not be running this year.  
"The loss of the train excursion will directly impact the visitation into our region," Devlin said. "The Knox & Kane train excursion has been our largest motorcoach/group tour attraction.  
"We hope that this is only a temporary situation and that our area does not lose this vital tourism business permanently," she added.  
Mary Ann Burggraf, executive director of the Kinzua Bridge Foundation, also expressed her dismay at the loss of the train.  
She referred to it as "another setback to the Kinzua Bridge State Park along with a negative impact to tourism in the area."  
The train made its maiden voyage across the viaduct Aug. 7, 1987. It was stopped in August of 2002 because an inspection revealed conditional problems with the viaduct. It was permitted to travel to the park, off load passengers to walk across the viaduct and travel back to the Kane station.  
After further inspections in late summer of 2002, the DCNR closed the bridge to pedestrians as well.  
Contractors W.M. Brode & Co. from Ohio were hired to restore the bridge and began work in early 2003. The contractors were working on July 21, 2003, and had stopped when weather conditions began to worsen.  
Several of them were still present at the park when the tornado came through, blowing down 11 towers on the bridge.  
The contractors stayed on after the bridge's collapse, stabilizing some of the more dangerous parts of the bridge's debris.  
Meanwhile, no major improvements have begun with the debris of the viaduct or the surroundings. Several of the improvements made have been aesthetic or with safety in mind.  
On Friday, Burggraf and Clark both commented on the need for the state to release capital budget funds to work on improvements at the park.  
The DCNR is awaiting the release of $700,000 from last year's state capital budget for the design phase of park improvements. There is another $6.3 million allocated for specific improvements at the park.  
The agency plans a visitor/interpretive center at the park, rehabilitation of the remaining nine towers the addition of a hiking path through the gorge around the debris field and plans for infrastructure improvements at the park.  
Clark said on Friday that currently, crews are working to replace the plumbing inside the restroom at the park, adding more split-rail fencing, installing a new bulletin board at the kiosk, planting some additional trees, fixing the paved walkway and parking area and are "sprucing up" the park in general. 

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