Thursday, December 31, 2015

. . and that’s the way things happen on The Polar Express

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Railroads operated by Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC carried nearly 400,000 passengers during the holiday season, and the company is the largest franchisee of the Warner Brothers Polar Express™ brand, both in locations and number of passengers. Iowa Pacific operates holiday trains in 13 locations, including nine with the Polar Express™ franchise and four with Train to Christmas Town.

Iowa Pacific began operating the Grenada Railway for the North Central Mississippi Regional Railroad Authority in August 2015, and established Batesville as the location of its newest Polar Express™ operation.

“Question: Which Mississippi station boarded the most rail passengers in 2015?” said Iowa Pacific President Ed Ellis. “Answer: Batesville, with more than 56,000 passengers. Batesville? But Batesville lost its last passenger train service in 1995 when Amtrak’s City of New Orleans was rerouted to a different line between Memphis and Jackson. While that’s true, the 2015 launch of Grenada Railway’s Polar Express™ brought thousands of people to Batesville to ride the train.”

“We poured our heart and soul into developing Batesville as a destination, and the town has responded,” said Iowa Pacific Director of Special Events Debra Goodman. “The Polar Express™ train leaves from the Public Square in Batesville, which is bisected by the former Illinois Central main line, the route of such storied trains as the Panama Limited and City of New Orleans. Batesville rebuilt the public square, added to the train platform, and helped with parking, which is very important on days when five trains run, carrying as many as 900 people each.”

“It all began with a meeting with Mayor Jerry Autrey and Alderman Stan Harrison, who is a lifelong Illinois Central fan” said Ellis. “We asked if they wanted to host Polar Express™ and they enthusiastically agreed.”

Iowa Pacific is in discussions with Batesville about additional tourism-related train service for 2016, in addition to working toward a return of the Polar Express™ each year.

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