ELBE, Wash. — Five months after announcing it would not be operating in 2020, the owners of the Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum are continuing to search for a new operator.
In May, American Heritage Railways — a tourist railroad operator that owns Colorado’s Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad — announced that it was closing the Washington railroad and putting it up for sale because of the “COVID-19 pandemic and other complications.” The Mt. Rainier was among the first tourist railroads to call it quits because of the pandemic and its impact on tourism. Earlier this month, American Heritage Railways General Manager John Harper told Railfan & Railroad that the company was still sorting out what it would do with the railroad.
“The Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum remains an AHR property at this time while the company works through details surrounding its nonprofit status,” Harper said. “We have multiple parties interested in the operation once these details are finalized. Our goal is NOT to liquidate or sell off equipment from the railroad, but rather to find an operator/buyer to preserve the logging railroad in its entirety for generations to come.”
The sale of the railroad is complicated by the fact that the Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum is a for profit entity but much of the equipment and the railroad itself is owned by a non-profit, the Western Forest Industries Museum.
American Heritage Railways purchased the Washington operation, previously known as the Mt. Rainier Scenic, in 2016. According to the company, the railroad was in “disrepair” when American Heritage Railways took over and, despite significant financial investments into the property it continued to struggle. In the past, the Washington operation was reliant on support from the Durango & Silverton. In 2018, when the D&SNG was forced to shut down for more than a month due to a wildfire, the Washington operation also had to close.