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CSR tests climate with Polar Express

Corydon Scenic Railroad is coming out of economic hibernation for a month as The Polar Express rolls back into Corydon, on Friday, to test its ability to weather the harsh economic climate a second year.
CSR announced in the spring that it would not be reopening as usual in May despite just finishing its most successful Christmas ever. Scenic rail traffic had been stagnant for years, but operating costs, especially insurance, were rising, said General Manager Charles Owen in April when the decision was announced.
Santa’s Workshop pays no heed to contemporary economic trends, and young passengers pay no heed to the similarity in appearance between that workshop and Keller Manufacturing Co.’s New Salisbury plant ‘ the destination of The Polar Express.
Based on the previous success of the novel journey, it was determined that a holiday opening of the sister company to the Louisville, New Albany & Corydon Railroad would be financially worthwhile.
Insurance costs had increased by 100 percent as a result of 9/11, said CSR spokesperson Richard Pearson. That insurance was allowed to lapse during CSR’s hiatus, but the anticipated sell-out trips of The Polar Express are expected to more than account for those increases.
‘The insurance is sort of based on how many trips you make. We consider these trips high-profitable trips,’ Pearson said, as opposed to the summer trips with fewer passengers per excursion.
Though recently burdened with high insurance, CSR ‘carried 250,000 people over the last 14 seasons safely,’ Owen said, and the railroad is taking measures to keep its record clean, like better traction for getting on and off the train and lighting at the station.
Few changes have been made, however, to the interactive recipe that more than 2,700 parents and children enjoyed last year.
The ride on The Polar Express again recreates the Chris Van Allsburg tale of the same name. Children follow along while Hayswood Theatre actors read the story of a young boy who awakens one Christmas Eve to discover a train in front of his home waiting to whisk him away to Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole (pajamas optional).
Passengers can expect an appearance by jolly old Saint Nick. In fact, last year every child had an opportunity to speak with the man who embodies the spirit of Christmas.
The railroad is again taking reservations. Nearly 90 percent of those who rode The Polar Express had reserved their seat, and nearly half of those individuals were from Kentucky.
‘We thought this would be sold out as soon as we put the word out because we were so successful last year,’ Pearson said. Closing the tourist train has limited CSR’s exposure, but the response has been strong so far, he said.
Reservations are being taken and recommended. They can be made by calling 738-3171 or 738-8000. Prices will be the same as last year: $15 for adults and $10 for children.
The Polar Express will make its first departure this weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 6 and 8 p.m. The train will pull out of the station at the same times on the weekends of Dec. 5-7, 12-14 and 19-21.