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.”

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, which operated in Jim Thorpe for 15 years, closed down in November after a tax fight with the Carbon County borough. With the dispute resolved, the train will be running again as of Saturday, Feb. 15.
Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad
The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, which operated in Jim Thorpe for 15 years, closed down in November after a tax fight with the Carbon County borough. With the dispute resolved, the train will be running again as of Saturday, Feb. 15.

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.

Jim Thorpe, home to historic churches, an opera house, and a haunted prison, thrives on tourism. The borough changed its name in 1954, dropping Mauch Chunk and taking up the name of Olympic legend Jim Thorpe, a Native American from Oklahoma whose remains are entombed in a mausoleum in the town.

Last year, Glen Onoko Falls, one of the state’s most popular hiking trails, was closed in Jim Thorpe after a long history of injuries and fatal falls there.