GREENVILLE (AP) – A Texas businessman has pulled the plug on his luxury railroad tour across northern Maine that had been touted as one of the best marketing tools in years for the Moosehead Lake region.

Randy Parten launched a train excursion last year that ran between Montreal and St. John, New Brunswick, with a stop in Greenville for two days and two nights.

Parten now says the train won’t run again unless a business partner or new owner can be found. He said he has also put the Iron Horse Restaurant in Greenville up for sale.

Parten said the depressed economy, combined with the SARS virus and mad cow disease in Canada, have devastated his business. He is also closing his Copper Canyon rail tour in Mexico.

He said his central ticket reservation office for the two businesses would close June 15, and that money has already been refunded to people who paid in advance for the tours.

“Last year was a bad year, but this year really takes the cake; the business has dried up,” Parten said.

Parten invested heavily in the Moosehead Lake region by buying the restaurant, opening a ticket office and funding improvements to Squaw Mountain Resort. He hopes to recoup some of his investment at the resort by teaming up with some land tours that could use overnight lodging.

As for the excursion train, Parten said he has made a few inquiries and heard of some interest among potential buyers in refurbishing the Victorian train cars and moving them elsewhere. Some interest also has been shown for keeping the train in Maine, he said.

“Greenville is such a wonderful destination,” Parten said, adding that he started the train in what he thought was and still is the “greatest place in North America.”

The train includes rebuilt streamline cars from the 1940s and 1950s, including parlor cars, observation cars and dining cars, all finished with wood and brass interiors.

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