Tax Dispute to Shutter Pa. Tourist Railroad

A dispute over taxes has led to the announced closing of a Pennsylvania tourist railroad.

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway said it will cease operations on Nov 25 rather than agree to a request by the borough of Jim Thorpe to begin paying an amusement tax and a lawsuit seeking back taxes.

Owner Andy Muller Jr. said in a statement that the passenger operations will be moved elsewhere.

The Lehigh Gore and a sister railroad, the Reading Blue Mountain & Northern, have operated from Jim Thorpe for 15 years, offering a 16-mile round trip through Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Excursion trains will continue to operate in October and November until the planned shutdown.

However, the planned Santa trains will not operate and those who have purchased tickets will be given refunds.

In his statement, Muller said his railroads make their money in the freight business.

“I have offered passenger excursion rides to local communities as a way of thanking them for support over the years and to educate young and old in the glorious role railroads in this region played in our country’s industrial revolution,” Muller said.

The tourist railroad was sued in September by the borough and local school district for failure to pay $95,971.39 in back taxes for failure to pay the amusement tax in 2016 through 2018.

The borough collects a 5 percent amusement tax and the Jim Thorpe Area School District collects a 2.5 percent.

Typically, those fees are added to the ticket or admission price.

Muller contend that his tourist railroad is “is not an amusement and will not pay any so-called amusement tax.”

The closing of the Lehigh Gorge will not affect Reading Blue Mountain & Northern passenger operations from other locations to Jim Thorpe.

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