AMERICUS, Ga. (WALB) -Sumter County leaders are hoping a scenic train ride and more will help boost their economy that was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday, leaders with the Historic SAM Shortline Railroad hosted a media day to highlight some of their newest features, including the Depo in Americus and two luxury cars.
COVID-19 impacted Sumter and Crisp County’s historic passenger train for months.
It was only in August that the train started taking passengers again, but now, with new regulations.
Lee Kinnamon is the chairman of the Southwest Georgia Railroad Excursion Authority.
They operate the train.
Kinnamon said they now have “reduced loads on our passenger trains.”
"We’re operating at only 50 percent passenger complicity, masks, extra sanitation and staggering seating, reducing the number of people per car and staggering them out,” he said.
It is optional for guests to wear masks on the train.
Volunteers and staff will be wearing masks.
Leaders in Americus and Plains said the train has a big impact on their tourist dollars and economy because the train carries thousands of riders annually.
Nicole Kirksey is the director of tourism in the City of Americus and Sumter County.
“With it closing, we felt quite a sting,” Kirksey said. "Many times, about 20 percent of everyone that stays in a hotel here actually got the opportunity to get a peek at our community by riding the train. So, SAM Shortline is a huge draw for tourism for us.”
The train’s closure hit Plains hard.
Kim Fuller is the director of the Friends of the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.
"Pretty badly, pretty badly with the train coming in at least two days a week on most weeks, we felt that,” Fuller said.
Sumter County leaders hope these new first-class accommodations, along with scenic views, will bring back much needed and missed tourist dollars.