Sumter County is hoping a historic attraction will help restore the tourism industry after taking a hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lee Kinnamon with the Historic Sam Shortline Railroad says the train has been a popular attraction in Sumter and Crisp counties for several years.
“Well, part of our mission as part of our state agency under the railroad authority is to promote economic development and tourism development in the two county corridor. We achieve that by bringing in thousands of passengers annually, roughly 25,000 every year into the local jurisdictions,” Kinnamon said.
That’s not the case this year due to COVID-19. The train stopped accepting passengers during the peak of the pandemic.
One of the stops on the train is in downtown Plains, Georgia home of our 39th president Jimmy Carter. Kim Fuller with Friends of Jimmy Carter says much of their business depends on who gets off at their stop. She says the downtown area was definitely hit by the lack of tourists.
“My group, Friends of Jimmy Carter National Historic Site and among other things is in charge of the buffalo cafe, the antique mall, the Inn, the Billy Carter museum, and several entities in town, so the train has a direct impact on what we do,” Fuller said.
After updating their safety measures, SAM Shortline is back rolling again. The train is operating at half capacity so passengers can social distance. The train and restrooms are also being cleaned more frequently.
Businesses in both Plains and Americus are reporting an increase in customers and revenue. Local leaders say that’s not enough. The SAM Shortline Railroad is a self-supporting business and they’re still looking for ways to stay on track.
To attract more customers the SAM Shortline added two historic railcars. They’re also planning on taking advantage of the new holiday season by offering special trips.