RUSK, TX (KTRE) - The demise of the Texas State Railroad appears to have been exaggerated as the trains are expected to be back on the track for the March 4 start of the season.
During a board meeting, it was announced that employees previously let go from the Texas State Railroad were getting their jobs back, according to General manager Greg Udolph.
Udolph told the board that people were hired back on Monday.
"Right now we got 14 people back," Udolph said. "We want to be back to 25. That is enough to operate now, but we will need more by the summer when we start running two trains."
Mechanic and train conductor Chaz Robitaille has been back at work since Monday. He spent the last month hoping he would get his job back.
"This railroad is extremely unique and to be able to run both passenger and freight and sometimes steam," Robitaille said. "There is almost nowhere like it."
After an hour-long executive session, the board did not make a decision to the future of the relationship with Iowa Pacific Holdings or a future operator. In a previous KTRE report, board member Steve Presley said the Iowa Pacific Holdings still owes the railroad $115,000 to both Rusk and Palestine for two separate $500,000 loans.
Board President Bob Goldsberry and the board have met three times in February. He is trying to stay on top of the situation.
"We want to stay on top of this situation and make sure the board isn't surprised at what's happening and make sure these people have their jobs," Goldsberry said.
The board is looking at plans on how to get back the money owed and also at other options in case the agreement with Iowa Pacific cannot continue. Goldsberry would not confirm how many companies were being looked at. Goldsberry stated that they are early in the plans and are concerned right now with Iowa Pacific.
"My opinion hasn't changed," Goldsberry said. "We are still working with them in good faith."
Udolph told the board that the season will start as planned and will continue to run for now. Anyone who has bought a ticket will get a ride.
The public concern over the issue started in late December when former Texas State Railroad Marketing & Special Events manager Janet Gregg said the railroad that runs between Rusk and Palestine is shutting down effective immediately.
"Whatever it takes to run trains in March, we will have the adequate staff available," said Ed Ellis, the president of Iowa Pacific.
Ellis said some staff would be working on train cars in the off-season.
"One of the issues the Texas State Railroad deals with is sometimes people hear the bad news, but they don't get the good news about it,"Udolph said. "Iowa Pacific has been determined to let people know the railroad is going to be open."
Robitaille is letting the board negotiate, his concern is getting the trains on the track.
"We need to keep doing what we are doing," Robitaille said. "Our last year was our most profitable and most successful yet."
The next board meeting has been planned for March 1.