Railway tourism could be in the future for the city of Conway

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - City of Conway leaders are looking at new ways to bring visitors to the area through attractions like railway tourism. City officials recently took a trip to see the economic impact from surrounding towns who benefit from railway tourism. They think it could have some great potential in Conway.

Leaders say Conway would act as the hub, which would bring in many visitors to the area. The city recently completed a study to see if it would be able to absorb and sustain an attraction like railway tourism, especially being so close to a beachfront destination that already draws millions of tourists a year.

The study states it could be attainable and visitors of the beach would be able to take advantage of a variety of railway excursions, including the option of taking passengers to Tabor City, NC. The city of Conway could also possibly get a license to host Thomas the Train and Polar Express – two popular train attractions that would bring in children and their families.

Although this idea is very much in its earliest stage, City Administrator Adam Emrick says the city is always looking for ways to improve tourism aspects without losing Conway's authenticity.

"Conway, downtown Conway has a lot to offer. There's a lot of nice shops and restaurants. Horry County museum is just 9 blocks up the road and it's very interesting. Along with other things here in Conway that they could look at, the Riverwalk, a great draw. People love to go down here and kayak where they can pontoon boat for the day. It's just so much more inviting for that type of stuff than Myrtle Beach is," Hugh Archer, owner of The Cypress Inn, says.

A recent study showed that Conway already has everything it needs to accommodate railway tourism. It noted that once the railroad crosses the Waccamaw River, it would enter the most historic part of Conway.

Emrick said Conway would be able to accommodate the train with very little infrastructure needed and doesn't anticipate much out-of-pocket expenses for this project.

However, the study also states the owner of the Carolina Southern Railroad, R.J. Corman, would need at least two years for repairs to the railway before it would be ready to transport passengers.

The CEO of Missions for the Nation Ministry Bishop Kamal Fraser operates a thrift store in town. He has noticed the train tracks since he's lived here and now that the idea is in the air, he says he's all on-board.

"I think it would be a great addition for Conway, knowing that it would be easier access for people to even be able walk to our businesses… stopping at a train station, walking over and going back and getting a train and continuing their journey, including touring South Carolina. Not to mention being able to see areas that honestly, they never get a chance to see while they're here. So, if that's the mission, it would only bring an addition to our businesses," said Fraser.

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