STAUNTON – The Gypsy Express made its first and last ride this past weekend after not running for an entire year due to COVID-19.
According to Bob Roger, who is on the board of directors of Gypsy Express, nearly 900 people drove in the 7.5 hours that the train was in operation last Saturday and Sunday.
Unless this will be his last run for the time being.
According to Roger, in view of rising COVID cases, the train’s board of directors has decided to play it safe and close for the time being.
“We did our test runs on Saturday and Sunday and it was very successful with a lot of happy and surprised children,” he said. “Due to the uncertainties regarding the COVID-19 variant in our area, however, we have decided that we will not open for the time being and will continue to monitor the virus situation.”
Earlier This year it was announced that the train would be operational after being suspended in 2020.
The board continues to work on some HR issues. Before COVID, they were looking for more Volunteers. In March 2020, before COVID hit the area, county and the world, the train’s board tried to increase the number of volunteers.
At the time, the nonprofit had around 60 volunteers, but needed between 80 and 100. The more volunteers they have, the more flexible the volunteer hours become. According to Roger, there are “too many variables to talk about staffing right now” and “under evaluation”.
The board of Gypsy Express, along with its volunteers, also had to support the route and train due to flood damage last summer after suffering severe damage in a flash flood in Staunton in August 2020.
The train relies on ticket sales to fund maintenance of the train.
The train counted 10,300 passengers in 2019 and 7,800 in 2018. The year 2018 was significantly lower due to heavy rainfall and flooding in the park.
The Gypsy Express dates back to 1958 when George and Linda Bartley ran the station. In 1991 the train was sold to the City of Staunton and in 1998 it was completely out of service.
A non-profit organization called Gypsy Express Inc. came together and decided to restore and maintain the mini-train’s operation. The group carried out extensive repair work on the bridges and tracks of the station as well as the conversion of the locomotive to the 16-track diesel locomotive G-16.
In 2001 the train was put back into service. The non-profit organization brings the proceeds back into the station.
Laura Peters is the trending reporter for The News Leader. Do you have a news tip about local trends or companies? Or a good function? You can reach the reporter Laura Peters (she / she) at [email protected]. follow her @peterslaura. Subscribe to The News Leader at newsleader.com.