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Putnam Communities See Possibilities Of Train Tourism Returning

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Putnam Communities See Possibilities Of Train Tourism Returning

News that future improvements to Putnam County railways are possible, could revitalize train tourism.

TDOT agreed on Friday to pay off an $8.5 million dollar loan taken out on the railroad. Friends of The Baxter Depot’s Jeanie Lee said funding being available to increase speeds and safety could be huge to future tourism.

“It was such a good thing when they okay’d for us to have the train to come into Baxter for our festival,” Lee said. “It was sold out, 550 people and that’s great for tourism. Not only for us, but when you think about 550 people and they’re coming from all over the state of Tennessee, other states and you have that window of time to talk to them, tell them about our uniqueness as Putnam County, then they’re visiting us again.”

Monterey Cultural Administrator Rafferty Cleary said the news of the loan repayment and improvement possibilities was a relief. Cleary said that getting train speeds increased are the key part to how big passenger trains in Monterey can be.

“It was taking an extremely long time for those passenger trains to get from Lebanon to Monterey and by the time they got up here, people were worn out and ready to go home. So from a tourism standpoint, it wasn’t really benefiting the town of Monterey.”

Cleary said if improvements occur, it will be big for local economics. However, he said Monterey must continue its work to enhance opportunities for visitors.

“Monterey has got to be working extremely hard to get ready for that,” Cleary said. “We’ve invested a lot in tourism this fiscal year. So we’ve got our master plan at Meadow Creek Park, We’ve spruced up Bee Rock with the new restroom facility but we really need to be thinking about what those folks can do and how we can accommodate those folks if and when that passenger train returns to Monterey.”

Lee said she experienced the slow down on the train first hand, making it difficult to enjoy the ride and for Baxter to base events around the train. Lee said the trains return could return Baxter to its roots.

“The whole idea of getting the train into a community that is built around the train,” Lee said. “I know for our company, many times we had lumber and logs brought in. To be able to continue to have this kind of atmosphere in our community, that’s a great thing. It’s great for tourism so we’re excited to hear this.”

Putnam, Smith and Wilson Counties took out the loan several years ago to keep the tracks operational and in place. However, a lawsuit caused diesel tax revenues to stop and payments were unable to be made on the loan.


The post Putnam Communities See Possibilities Of Train Tourism Returning appeared first on News Talk 94.1/AM 1600.