COVID-19 prevents Prairie Dog Central train from leaving the station this summer

A file image of the Prairie Dog Central train. (Source: Catherine Duffin)

For the second consecutive summer, the Prairie Dog Central train will not be able to get on the tracks due to COVID-19.

Catherine Duffin, the marketing manager for Prairie Dog Central, said due to the train’s age, it doesn't allow for the proper social distancing between customers and staff.

"As we see it right now social distancing on the train would be virtually impossible," said Duffin. "Even if we could run at 50 per cent capacity, we would still have to social distance that would reduce our capacity considerably."

The train is over 100 years old, and Duffin said the aisles on the train are very narrow and each train car would require staff to be on board.

Despite the tough news for those who enjoy the train, Duffin said the entire season isn't lost and they are holding out hope that people will be able to board in September and October.

"We wanted to have the opportunity to run if we can. We are just doing month by month, so the decision regarding running in September will be made probably at the beginning of August."

She added they don't want to jump the gun yet, but the crew is hopeful they can get going by then.

Duffin said having a second summer in a row of no train activity has been tough on those who enjoy taking a ride.

"There has been an awful lot of disappointment that we haven't been able to run," she said. "We're just compiling a contact list right now, so as soon as we know that we can run we will be in touch with everybody."

In a normal year, Duffin said they attend over 40 events and approximately 12,000 people board the train.

She said the hope is when life is normal again, they will see a spike in people wanting to ride.

"We're hoping that, at capacity, the number of passengers that we are carrying will be strong next year."

She noted that the train has been able to get out without passengers, as it was used in a new TV miniseries.