To The Daily Sun,
I'm responding to Jennifer Bailey's Aug. 3 letter about making better use of the railroad corridor between The Weirs and Laconia/Lakeport.
I'll start by saying I have a small dog in the fight. I'm a part-time conductor on the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad.
Jennifer's comment about the corridor having "admittedly seasonal and very rare railroad usage" is far from true.
The train starts to run in the middle of May each year. Then, after the fabled Laconia Bike Week, when we shuttle many, many people from Lakeport to The Weirs along the line Ms. Bailey wants to rip up, we operate a daily schedule from the middle of June to just after Labor Day. Often there are special charter dinner trains that operate after 4:30 p.m. during the summer season.
Three times a day small children and people of all ages wave to us on the train as we travel the nine miles from Meredith to Lakeport/Laconia. The train brings great delight to tens of thousands of people in the area.
The season extends into late October when tens of thousands of people ride the train to enjoy the fall color along the corridor.
I'd say this is not rare railroad usage by any stretch of the imagination.
I can tell you firsthand the train is a major tourist attraction, pumping untold dollars into the Laconia and surrounding communities. Each day before I load passengers I ask them where they're from. People come from all over the USA to ride the train. Just yesterday I had a family on the train from England and another one from Spain. Last week Italians and Puerto Ricans were on my train.
The train also has a fantastic collaboration with the MS Mount Washington cruise ship. We have people ride the train for 90 minutes, they get off to ride the grand lady of the lake and then we have the passengers ride the rails back to Meredith to end their day.
Ms. Bailey also forgets one very important thing. The rail line is a spur line to Lincoln. If you tear up the tracks between Lakeport and the Weirs, how is it the railroad gets rolling stock and new locomotives up to Meredith? Do you just wave a magic wand and a 140-ton locomotive levitates down to the tracks from the sky?
The railroad tracks are used by thousands during the winter as an active snowmobile route.
In closing, I suggest that Ms. Bailey attend the next homeowner's association meeting of South Down Shores and share the details of her proposal. I believe that will make for an interesting evening.
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