That passenger train you’ve been hearing about going from Tulsa to Oklahoma City—and would also include a stop in Sapulpa—looks like it’s finally run off the rails for good.
Originally planned as a private operation by the Iowa Railroad, the Eastern Flyer were to have included a dome car, coaches and full meal service. This would have been the first regular passenger service to Tulsa since the Santa Fe discontinued service in 1971.
The project picked up steam in late 2014 through the launch of The Polar Express, which was first held Bristow, and then moved to Stillwater, before leaving Oklahoma altogether. (Good news: it’s back! But more on that later.)
The plan derailed when the original rail carrier, Iowa Pacific Holdings, “saw greener pastures” and attempted to take over a train service in Indiana, according to a Tulsa World story from 2018.
But that didn’t work out, and Iowa Pacific was forced to drop out of the project due to some serious financial hardships.
It’s partner, Stillwater Central Railroad, was now on the hook to fulfill the contractual obligations that were put in place when they purchased the nearly 100-mile length of track from the state of Oklahoma in 2014.
Those obligations stipulated that the railroad company had to activate a 6-month daily passenger trial run before August of 2019. The price for not meeting that deadline? A hefty $2.8 million.
The rail line would have not only connected OKC to Tulsa, but also made stops in Chandler, Stroud, Bristow, and Sapulpa.
Although preleminary test runs sold out of all three trips, it wasn’t enough to convince Stillwater Central Railroad to move forward, and they chose to pay the fine rather than provide the service.
While some folks remain involved and optimistic, they admit that the support will have to come at a state level.
It’s not all bad?
There’s at least some good news: the Polar Express, a passenger train that made a great experience tied to the children’s book and movie, is back in Oklahoma for the 2019 holiday season. The biggest downside for those in Creek County? You’ll have to go to Oklahoma City to experience it.
The Oklahoman has a great photo gallery from the 2014 test runs, and you can see video of said runs below.