Because of operating difficulties caused by restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, American Heritage Railways has temporarily ceased operations of another one of its historical railroads, the Mt. Rainier Railroad, for the foreseeable future.
John Harper, general manager of American Heritage Railways, said it is unclear when the Mt. Rainier Railroad would resume operation. American Heritage Railways also owns the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which is expected to begin making limited runs to Cascade Canyon in June.
Mt. Rainier Railroad had been expected to resume its 14-mile round trip from Elbe, Washington, to Mineral, Washington, on June 13.
Harper said a false news release had been issued claiming to be from American Heritage Railways that incorrectly claimed the Mt. Rainier Railroad would be permanently closed. That is not accurate, Harper said. The Mt. Rainier Railroad will resume when operationally feasible, he said.
“We’re closing for the foreseeable future, because we don’t know when we will be able to operate. We don’t know when we can bring back employees,” Harper said.
Mt. Rainier has 16 full-time employees, but during seasonal peaks in August and September and during Polar Express runs at Christmas, employee numbers could reach as high as 90 people, Harper said.
American Heritage Railways purchased the Mt. Rainier Railroad in 2016.
Mt. Rainier’s route from Elbe to Mineral features views of the thick forest and the foothills south of Mount Rainier.
The highlight of the excursion is crossing the Upper Nisqually River. The river is fed from a glacier at Mount Rainier National Park. It is here at the river crossing that passengers can see Mount Rainier from the train.