For decades Mount Dora has seen passenger train operations start and stop for a variety of reasons. Inevitably, a new vintage passenger train always rolled in to fill the void. Train lovers are hoping that happens again after the train ceases its excursion rides to Mount Dora on April 22.
Government regulations require tracks that carry passenger trains be maintained to a higher standard than their freight counterparts. Officials at Central Florida Railroad (CFR) have determined it’s cost-prohibitive to maintain 100-year-old tracks to that high level, according to Pete Petree of Pinsly Railroad Company, the holding company of CFR.
The train operator, Royal Palm Railway, remains committed to the Tavares/Eustis excursion train. Last year the operator experienced strong growth in ridership as visitors rode the nostalgic train into Mount Dora from Tavares and used it as a shuttle into Mount Dora’s large festivals. Additionally, the operator’s Polar Express train and other themed rides have been very successful, according to Neil Bagaus, spokesperson for Royal Palm Railway. He estimates ridership during a 12-month period to be between 100,000 and 125,000.
After April 22, riders will still be able to catch the train at the downtown Tavares station and ride it into Eustis on Thursdays through Sundays starting at 10 a.m.
CFR will return the use of the Mount Dora/Tavares tracks to its main business of freight and storage. Meanwhile, government officials in Tavares and Mount Dora will study the feasibility of resurrecting a passenger train on that section of track or converting it to a trail.
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