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Future of Oklahoma train line remains uncertain

The Eastern Flyer ran three demonstration trips between Sapulpa and Midwest City last month. Each of those 300-passenger runs sold out. Iowa Pacific President Ed Ellis said he expected that level of interest in rail travel between the two cities to continue if the service is offered permanently.
by Silas Allen Modified: February 27, 2014 at 11:00 am •  Published: February 26, 2014

As he looked out the window of a train somewhere west of Bristow, Chris Guenzler recounted some of the more than a million miles of railroad track he’s traveled.

Guenzler has traveled by train through all 50 states. He’s ridden Mexico’s Copper Canyon Railway and every inter-city rail route in Canada. Last weekend, Guenzler flew halfway across the country from his California home to ride the Eastern Flyer, an excursion train running from Sapulpa to Midwest City.

Guenzler said the trip was a chance to cover a stretch of track he’d never seen. And it’s a chance he may never see again: Sunday’s trip could be the Eastern Flyer’s last run.

The trip was the last of three demonstration runs the train made from Sapulpa to Midwest City. Iowa Pacific Holdings, the train’s operator, used the trips to show Oklahomans the services the company would offer on a permanent basis if it gets the opportunity.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials are negotiating with two railroad companies — BNSF Railway Co. and Watco Cos., owner of Stillwater Central Railroad — over the potential sale of the Sooner Sub, a 97.5-mile segment of state-owned railroad track that runs between Sapulpa and Del City.

Iowa Pacific was one of four firms that entered a bid for the track. But after that bid lost out to BNSF and Watco, Iowa Pacific officials offered to provide passenger rail service along the route by Memorial Day weekend if state officials agreed not to sell the track.

ODOT spokesman Cole Hackett said a committee has until the end of April to review the companies’ proposals.

The Eastern Flyer ran three demonstration trips over the track during February. Each of those 300-passenger runs sold out. Iowa Pacific President Ed Ellis said he expected that level of interest in rail travel between the two cities to continue if the service is offered permanently.

The company would begin by offering service between Sapulpa and Midwest City with shuttle service into Oklahoma City and Bartlesville. Those shuttles would take passengers to and from Oklahoma City Thunder games, museums, university campuses and other points of interest in both cities, Ellis said.

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by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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It will be more than just a train. It will be a transportation system.”

Ed Ellis,
Iowa Pacific president

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