E-Edition

JOB OPENING FOR OFFICE MANAGER

The Sanpete Messenger

Railroad resort building steam

Now booked to capacity on weekends

ROBERT STEVENS / MESSENGER PHOTO
The exterior of the Track 89 resort is lined by landscaping made possible by $10,000 in funding by the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area, who partnered with the resort’s developers to make it a reality.

MT. PLEASANT—Not even two full months have passed since the Track 89 North railroad car resort in Mt. Pleasant has opened in earnest and business is already going well.

“We started taking our first serious booking about six weeks ago,” says David Grow, co-owner of Track 89 North and its sister resort at Big Rock Candy Mountain, Caboose Village. “Now we are booked to capacity every weekend and during the weekdays we are usually at least half full.”

The resort, which is located along the west side of the city park, is part of a historic railroad-themed experience developed by Grow and his partner, former railroad executive, George Jones.

The resort features seven railroad freight cars converted to what are essentially tiny homes on a track, and therein lies the appeal says Monte Bona, director of the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area (MPNHA), which partnered with Track 89 North’s developers to get the project underway.

“I think a lot of people like that they’re much closer to tiny homes than a hotel room,” Bona says. “The Track 89 resort is really a great example of a good public-private partnership. Through it we have been able to help preserve an important part of this area’s history, and helped the local economy.”

Bookings for Track 89 North come in via the official http://www.track89.com website, as well as through AirBNB, a model which has worked extremely well, Grow says.

Bona says the partnership to make Track 89 North possible was a natural fit for the MPNHA, since the railroad played such a pivotal role in the development of the counties within the heritage area. For years, the rail line carried passengers, delivered vital supplies and exported important area resources, such as sheep, or even soldiers in time of war.

Annette Hansen of Fountain Green had family experience in the export of both of those things; her great-uncle left for and returned from World War I on the rail; and her father, who owned a flock of 3,000-4,000 sheep before losing them during the Great Depression, transported his livestock on the railroad.

“I remember how important the railroad was back when it was still really going,” Hansen says.

That family experience and a legacy of burying her deceased family in the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery has led Hansen to consider the resort for an annual family gathering.

ROBERT STEVENS / MESSENGER PHOTO
Visitors staying in one of the freight cars at Track 89 North, a railroad-themed resort in Mt. Pleasant City, talk over brunch.

The rail line in Sanpete dropped its passenger service in 1949 after the automobile industry siphoned off too much business. Later, in 1983, the mudslides in Thistle cut the track off entirely, ending the railroad era in Sanpete for good. So now what remains of the railroad era in Sanpete is helping to drive the tourism business, which grows more important to the local economy each year.

To the West of the freight car lodgings stands the historic Mt. Pleasant Denver & Rio Grande rail depot that was saved from demolition in 1977 by a group of local citizens who wanted to preserve it, and moved it to its current location, where it now serves as a coffee shop, information center and check-in location for the train car lodgings.

The Federal Highway Administration gave a $94,000 grant for the purpose of restoration of the old depot and adding a new roof. Subsequently, the Hogle family donated a caboose once used in the construction of the Hoover Dam. Mt. Pleasant City’s Community Development and Renewal Agency also donated $25,000 towards restoration efforts for the depot and Caboose.

To the East, Track 89’s developers have converted Mt. Pleasant’s old tennis courts into pickleball courts, and with the help of funding facilitated by the MPNHA, a track has been built around the park where people walk and small children ride their bikes. A donation of $25,000 was also made by Track 89 North’s developers for a new soccer field at the city park, and last year, the MPNHA donated $10,000 towards new landscaping for the project.

Grow says they are considering the addition of signage for the resort based on the concept of an old railroad water tower, and they are also working on the addition of two more freight cars.

The success of the resort and the aesthetic and functional upgrades made by the developers to the  surrounding park and depot areas serve well to counter early arguments some residents had against the plans for the train cars, says Bona. Concerns had been raised by a select few citizens at Mt. Pleasant City Council that the freight cars, which were initially in a state of disrepair, would remain an eyesore, and might even attract a bad element. Those concerns have now been dispelled if you look around at the immaculately restored box cars, the attractive landscaping and the steady flow of bookings from tourists and travelers who enjoy the history, amenities and novelty on hand at the resort.

Bona says he sees Track 89 North and the Caboose Village at Big Rock Candy Mountain as a parallel between the rail line that once connected Mt. Pleasant and Marysvale, and a reminder of the important role the railroad once played in the past. Although the role the rail plays locally now is much different, the importance of the economic boost to the area from tourism, and through it the preservation of history that might otherwise have been demolished, is exactly why the MPNHA got involved in the partnership.