Reopening a typical tourist railroad

By John Penfield and Charles Bogart, Bluegrass Railroad Museum

Editor’s note: Most of this material recently appeared in the Bluegrass Railroad Museum’s Connecting Rod newsletter. It’s reproduced here as an example of how a museum with a tourist railroad is working around Covid-19 to reopen.

Our 2020 season resumed on Fathers Day, June 21st. Initially we ran on Saturday and Sunday, but cut back to Saturday only. Sunday ridership was low and we had trouble getting crews. Restrictions imposed by Kentucky’s governor and and national health experts has caused us to modify the way we do business. We originally planned to sell half of our seats, but have backed off to 30 percent. We run with an open air car, two open window cars and an air conditioned car. We fill the passenger cars from the seats farthest from the door back to the door. We no longer offer cab rides.

The open air car with seats blocked for social distancing.

We have purchased and are using a disinfectant fogger to spray the train after every run. Restrooms are disinfected at the end of the day. We sell masks to anyone who needs one, and our train crews are all wearing masks which we supply.

A plexiglass shield has been installed at the cash register.

Crew and passengers are supposed to be masked.

People have been good on social distance, but not so good on masks — hot weather is the main reason people take them off.

Here’s an example of mixed mask compliance by passengers.

So far, the demand for tickets has been better than might have been expected with First Class and Open Air tickets selling out for most runs. However, since we are limiting seating, we will be taking in less money from operations. The Board of Directors is working to limit expenses this year to account for the loss of revenue. This means we will be spending less on maintenance activities.

Off the train we have closed the display car but kept the museum open, with visitors walking through it counter clockwise.

We have received several grants and loans to assist us in dealing with the virus. We received a $2500 grant from the Kentucky Humanities Council and have spent that money on personal protection gear including the disinfecting fogging machine. We have received a $5000 grant from the city of Versailles as part of the Governor’s CARES Act funding that we will use for regular expenses.

We also applied for and received an economic injury disaster loan (EIDL) from the Small Business Administration at 2.75% for 30 years. We plan to use this loan to begin the process of constructing a locomotive barn after any necessary expenses for the virus.




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