All aboard: New excursion train aims to help economic development in South Ga.
VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - South Georgia’s newest excursion train will travel along the historic Georgia and Florida Railroad.
The Azalea Sprinter is taking its first official run this weekend and seats are already sold out.
“We put this online and we filled up three trains in less than two days, so people love this type of thing,” said Jamie Cater, Co-CEO of CaterParrott Railnet.
Cater and Chris Parrott, also Co-CEO, said in addition to pulling freight, they wanted to do something that can help communities.
They also want to offer people a tourist attraction and method of transportation.
“We feel like the smaller towns will get a lot of benefits. We’ll have people that we’re carrying that will get off and shop,” said Parrott.
Currently, the train departs from Nashville and travels either to Willacoochee, Moody Air Force Base or Valdosta.
“The whole dream for me is revitalization, and I was looking at an area like Savannah Avenue and trying to think, ‘how do I walk a block from our beautiful downtown into an area that is not so beautiful, how do I walk that block and what would spur mass growth, mass renovation and mass revitalization’ and I thought ‘well, as I stood on the ground I was contemplating, I noticed that it was where the train used to come into downtown,” Scott James Matheson, Valdosta mayor, said.
Right now, you have to drive from Downtown Valdosta to the stop.
They plan to bring a stop to Downtown.
Matheson said a train depot will be built in the area of East Hill Avenue.
The city also worked with an economist to map out how much of an economic impact the train stop can bring, showing millions.
“It’s another draw to bring people in, not to mention in blinded areas or areas that need private investment. If you got an influx of 300 people a weekend into a location, you bet people are going to be opening up a restaurant, or buying a downtown property that is blinded right now and saying ‘what can we do with it.’ So this is going to increase property values, it’s going to bring in people, increase jobs,” said Parrot.
Cater and Parrott said they’re working to get more stops.
Azalea Sprinter has a max capacity of 130, and because of the pandemic, it’s at half capacity.
If you want to go for a ride, click here for ticket information.
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