Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The High Cost of Big Steam Excursions

Thus far, the summer of 2016 has been a great one for excursions pulled by larger steam locomotives. We’ve had several runs of the 611, a doubleheaded run pulled by the 630 and 4501, several excursions with the 1225 at the head, and the promise of the Union Pacific team program sticking a toe back in the water this coming July. The streak of good fortune was partially broken last week, though, with the cancellatio
n of two trains between Chicago and Galesburg, Illinois.

It was a disappointing announcement, particularly since this train would have departed from Chicago Union Station. The 765’s operators implicated low ticket sales and a shorter-than-ideal window to market the trip for the cancellation. Critics fired back with an almost unified response: If ticket prices weren’t so high, over a hundred dollars even for a basic coach seat, then more people would have purchased tickets.

This is a common criticism of any excursion, not just this one, and admittedly, they have a point. Ticket prices for excursion trains are high, and they do price many people out of riding, especially those who would like to take a whole family along. Where the critics are wrong is in implying that ticket prices are inflated across the board. In most cases, the high ticket prices reflect the very real challenges of operating steam in the twenty first century. This blog post will attempt to illuminate some of the general costs associated with running excursions and break down what, exactly, drives ticket prices up so high.