A celebration of all things cold kicks off this weekend in Jim Thorpe, a picturesque mountain town on the Lehigh River in Carbon County.
Now, the 28th annual Winterfest will have its own polar express as the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway returns on Saturday after a two-month limbo. The popular passenger train operated out of downtown Jim Thorpe for 15 years, but when a dispute erupted over an “amusement tax,” its operator, Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad, decided it would no longer run there as of Nov. 25.
The borough had claimed that the rail operator owed nearly $100,000 in amusement taxes. RBMN owner Andy Muller Jr. said his train was not an amusement, that he was “offering passenger excursion rides to local communities as a way of thanking them for their support over the years and to educate young and old in the glorious role railroads in this region played in our country’s industrial revolution.”
On Tuesday, Muller announced that the vintage train would resume its narrated trips — from downtown Jim Thorpe to Lehigh Gorge State Park a few miles away and back — after “discussions” with borough officials over the last several months. The borough, according to the Allentown Morning Call, dropped the lawsuit.
“We have consistently stated that we are not now, and never have been, an amusement,” Muller said in a news release.
The train had been seeing steadily increasing ridership, to about 100,000 in 2017, according to the publication Railway Age.