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'Train to Christmas Town' actors say Mount Hood Railroad still owes them money

Actors told KATU that Iowa Pacific Holdings, which owns the Mount Hood Railroad, still owes money to 18 performers who worked on the "Train to Christmas Town" show as independent contractors last year.

Nearly a month and a half after the Mount Hood Railroad's "Train to Christmas Town" closed for the season, actors from the show told KATU the railroad still owes them money.

"We've just been waiting much too long and some people need this money for rent," said Greg Bigoni, one of the performers.

David Michaud, an attorney for the Chicago-based company Iowa Pacific Holdings, which owns the railroad, said Monday that the delay is due to a clerical error and that they're in the process of getting payments out this week. KATU first contacted the company regarding the most recent accusations on Friday.

Michaud would not address reports Iowa Pacific has previously faced similar accusations locally and in other parts of the country.

"I don't think even Santa Claus would be patient at this point," said Bigoni.

He told KATU he was out of work when he took a job as an elf on the "Train to Christmas Town" show last November.

"I started working the day after Thanksgiving and it went on for about a month after that until December 28th," Bigoni said. "The train would go around the gorge. We would be dressed as elves, serving cocoa, cookies, dancing around and making merry and then we would bring in Santa Claus."

Bigoni, who lives in Portland, said he and the other actors waiting for money are all independent contractors. He said he put in long hours on the slow-moving train, which derailed twice in December.

"It's just kind of one added insult after everything that went so wrong," Bigoni explained. "I started early so I got my first two checks and I'm still waiting on my third one. Some people who started later in the run haven't gotten paid at all yet."

Bigoni and other actors said a total of 18 performers, including multiple Santas, are still waiting for their last check.

"We were supposed to receive them in our mail by January 5th," Bigoni said, "and then when that doesn't happen they say, 'Oh, no never mind it'll be there by January 18th or the 29th,' and they just keep repeating that, giving a whole new deadline that's usually weeks later than the last one they gave."

Media reports say Iowa Pacific has had financial problems, losing the rights to the "Train to Christmas Town"'s previous name, "Polar Express," in a legal dispute over unpaid royalties.

There are also multiple reports from New York, California, Texas, Massachusetts and elsewhere that the company's had trouble paying bills and workers.

"I think it's really unfair," said Bigoni. "I think it's really unappreciative to all these people that have worked all over the country and put in those hours."

No injuries were reported in the two derailments in December, which the Federal Railroad Administration said it's still investigating.

Two actors told KATU last year that they and several other contractors were not paid on time. After a KATU reporter contacted Iowa Pacific, the actors said they received their checks.

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