The new owners of Stony Creek Ranch Resort weren’t sure what to expect when they partnered with Saratoga & North Creek Railway for a holiday-themed train last fall.
The railway came up with a new concept to replace The Polar Express train trips and based it at the newly renovated ranch. The ranch created a holiday experience and had rooms for passengers who wanted to stay for the night after the train trip.
The last “Train to Christmas Town” ran on Dec. 23, and the proprietors of Stony Creek Ranch are bullish on working with the railway for future collaborations, using the tracks that pass by the ranch and a new platform built there by railway personnel.
“It exceeded all of our expectations,” said Carol McLean-Wright, executive director of the ranch. “We were absolutely delighted.”
McLean-Wright would not release ticket sales numbers, but said the number of riders was “6,000 more” than resort owners expected.
She said many of those who bought tickets for the holiday train also stayed overnight and took advantage of the Christmas events and activities there, which included a massive model train setup, crafts, food, children’s activities and two authentic reindeer.
Railway personnel estimated sales at 6,600. (Comparatively, the railroad reported over 20,000 Polar Express tickets sold annually when it hosted that theme train in recent years.)
McLean-Wright said the ranch operators and railroad leaders are working together for another themed train opportunity.
In the coming months, representatives of both operations are headed to England to try to persuade the creators of the Harry Potter series of books and movies to allow a themed train trip that would be based at the ranch as well.
“We realize their future is with us and ours is with them,” she said of the railroad.
Amanda Metzger, marketing director for the Lake George Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the partnership between the train and ranch was a good boost to the region’s economy during the winter. The Polar Express trains had previously run in Saratoga County.
“We’re thrilled to have the train departing from one of our year-round lodging members now,” she said. “More than 6,600 tickets had been sold as of (the week before Christmas) to passengers from 28 different states.”
The ranch will also be a stop on SNCR’s winter train, which will begun running this weekend and will run each Saturday through March. It will take travelers on a 2-hour, 15-minute trip from Saratoga Springs to North Creek, and after a 45-minute stay in North Creek, return that afternoon. For details, log on to www.sncrr.com.