www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, April 13, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 9
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“This isn’t a slam dunk for my side
either,” McNiece said. “It’s still not a
great train. I don’t want you to leave
here with the belief that this thing
is going to run great for the next 20
When one commissioner told
McNiece he was being evasive in his
recommendation, McNiece joked that
he was working on being more political
when it came to his answers.
McNiece also said the train could
be a big draw, like similar trains in
High Point and Burlington have proven
“It’s never going to be a large
revenue item,” he said, adding that it
might generate $10,000 to $15,000 a
He said people often call and ask,
“Is the train going to be running?”
before making plans to come out to
Northeast Park. The train hasn’t been
open to the public in nearly a year
and a half, and even that period of
operation was very brief.
McNiece said he can’t give a good
estimate as to how many people will
ride the train once it’s fixed. He said
one problem with the train is that it has
never run long enough to establish any
type of following.
At the April 6 meeting in the
commissioners second-floor meeting
room in the Old Guilford County
Court House, Commissioner Carolyn
Coleman said the kiddie train would
be a good draw if it were operational
and marketed properly.
Commissioner Justin Conrad
offered a friendly amendment to the
motion to fix the train: Guilford County,
he said, should make an attempt to
find a nonprofit or private sector group
willing to own and operate the train.
That amendment passed along with
the decision to repair the train, but
at this point it seems highly unlikely
someone would want to take over
the cursed money pit that’s cost the
county roughly $500,000 so far. Also,
the terms of that agreement would no
doubt be difficult to hash out. Some
commissioners, especially Coleman,
were concerned Guilford County
would still carry liability for the train
even if it were owned and operated by
In this most recent attempt to fix
the train, county staff has learned a
lot more about the train’s problems.
One seems to be that Guilford County
bought the track and the train from
different vendors, and there’s some
evidence that the train doesn’t “fit the
track” well, which is why it often runs
off the tracks when it goes around a
“We’ve been able to keep the train
running – the problem with the train is
keeping it on the track,” McNiece told
the board at one point.
Commissioner Kay Cashion asked,
“So is there a mismatch between the
tracks and the train?”
“That’s a good question,” McNiece
Commissioner Alan Branson
represents the Northeast Park area
and he said he’s sick and tired of
hearing about problems with the train.
“This makes me think of the Ford
Edsel and the Pinto,” Branson said.
Commissioner Alan Perdue asked if
this was the best use of $63,000 when
it comes to county parks’ projects.
“It’s part of a whole system,”
McNiece said of the train.
He said the miniature golf course,
the carousel and other attractions at
Northeast Park get more use when
people come to ride the train. He also
said that, given the park’s location,
people don’t “just stumble” upon it, but
instead they go there with a purpose.
Several commissioners who voted to
repair the train made it clear that they
would be highly unlikely to approve
any more money for the train should
something else go wrong. Henning’s
comment was typical.
“What is our breaking point?” he
said. “When do we say, ‘Enough is
enough’? For me, this is it. If it’s even
$10,000 brought to us next year – then
I’m probably done.”
McNiece said he didn’t see that
happening because the next time
something went wrong with it he
would be so reluctant to bring it to the
board that, instead, “You’ll see me
underneath the train trying to fix it.”
Conrad offered an unusual reason
to make the repairs.
“If we don’t fix the train, Scott Yost
is going to be personally devastated,”
Conrad said, joking about the Rhino
Times extensive coverage of the train.
The Rhino Times has taken no
official position on the fate of the train.
However, the newspaper does believe
that attempting to fix it will continue
to lead to many interesting stories in
Chairman of the Board of
Commissioners Jeff Phillips has made
it a theme for the current board that
this group shouldn’t repeat or continue
the mistakes of past Guilford County
Boards of Commissioners, and he
clearly thought this was one of those
cases. He voted against the move
and spoke against it.
“I’m not going to support this,”
He said he considered it “a
certainty” that more major problems
would surface with the train and he
added that the money would be better
“There are needs at other parks that
may be underserved,” Phillips said,
“and this I view as a little more of a
Even those who voted to fix the train
seemed to have a sense that Phillips’
prediction would turn out to be correct.
“It does leave a little queasiness
in my stomach,” Branson said right
before he voted to repair the train
that’s become known as “The Little
Train that Couldn’t.”
One comment from the facilities
director summed up the feelings of a
lot people in the room that night.
“I’ve learned more about trains than
I ever wanted to know,” McNiece said.
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Coloring and Community Tables
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3401 US Highway 29, Danville, VA 24540
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HOURS 10 am to 4 pm