Plans are now underway for the train to be running through the gorge next Christmas, according Doe River Gorge’s leader, Terry Maughon. And it’d won’t be a small start-up operation, it would be very popular Oklahoma train that used to sell 60,000 tickets in a matter of hours before the Christmas season.
This is not a sudden inspiration. Maughon and his staff have been observing the Christmas Train at Dry Gulch for since 2012, but said they never dreamed they might one day operate it themselves. Like Doe River Gorge, Dry Gulch operates a Christian youth summer camp. Unlike Doe River Gorge, which is an independent organization, Dry Gulch is owned by a 10,000-member mega church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, led by Willie George.
Maughon said the story of George’s ministry is incredible. He said he started as “Gospel Bill.” He started a Western-themed television show in which he starred as sheriff and religious adviser of the town of Dry Gulch. A Christian camp soon became part of the he operation. As his ministry grew, George founded “The Church on the Move.”
Maughon said he was impressed with George’s accomplishments and his well-run Christmas Train. Maughon said he came back to the Christmas Train for four consecutive years, until George told him he was preparing to slow down and planned to sell the train. Maughon said George told him “You have been coming here for four years thinking about buying it and I have been thinking of selling it for five years.”
Maughon said the train was always popular during Christmas, selling 60,000 tickets. It is similar to the Tweetsie, the commercial train that once ran through Doe River Gorge. Both trains are the same size narrow gauge railroad. Maughon said he has been doing a lot of praying about it and planning on a lot of fundraising because this represents the biggest investment in the Christian camp’s history.
The camp has also acquired the former McCloud Lumber Company, which occupied a large part of the entrance to the gorge from US. Highway 19E. The train and the property acquisition opens up new options for the camp, such as having parking for the camp near the highway and having everyone take the train the rest of the way into the camp.