By Matthew Saari

One of Whitehall’s most cherished holiday traditions may be at an end.

Amtrak announced last week that its train will not be hauling Santa Claus, U.S. Marines and bags full of toys for children this year as a part of the Marines’ annual Toys for Tots program due to new guidelines the passenger rail company recently implemented.

Said an Amtrak press release: “Consistent with Amtrak’s mandate to provide efficient, safe and effective intercity passenger rail transportation, Amtrak has established a new policy for the operation of charter trains. Amtrak’s objective is to operate its core, scheduled train service safely, on time and efficiently and must therefore decline to operate this charter. Amtrak will continue to proudly support the Toys for Tots program through the collection of toys at participating stations.”

American Legion Post 83 adjutant Jim Lafayette noted just how long the rail line and Toys for Tots has been a Whitehall tradition.

“Oh my gosh, since back in the 90’s,” he said. “As long as I’ve been down there.”

Lafayette added that Amtrak only recently took the venture over, about five years ago. Before then the Canadian Pacific Railway headed the charitable endeavor.

Although many locals have been rocked by the news, Lafayette was not among them.

“They’ve done this ever year for the past few years,” Lafayette said. Last year Amtrak attempted to bail out of the venture but last-minute interventions by U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik and Paul Tonko kept the train on track.

“It’s a money thing,” Lafayette added, explaining that every year Amtrak operates a passenger train free of charge for the program.

 

This is only a preview of the story published in the Whitehall Times. To read the full story, pick up a print copy of this week’s paper at the newsstand or read it online here.

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