An annual Box Elder County event celebrating Northern Utah’s railroad history has been canceled, a casualty of the ongoing federal government shutdown.
The Winter Steam Festival at Golden Spike National Historic Site had been scheduled for Friday and Saturday, but a post on the Golden Spike website said it had been cancelled. The steam festival features old-time train engines, steam billowing from their smokestacks, traveling down the tracks at Golden Spike.
Cold, wintry weather makes the steam of the trains stand out more, said Mitch Zundel, public information officer for Box Elder County. “That’s the biggest part of it, getting the engines out in the winter months,” he said.
The museum, located west of Brigham City, focuses on the history of the completion of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Summit on May 10, 1869.
Also impacted by the shutdown, according to various news reports, are workers for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which has a large presence in the Ogden area. According to a report in Forbes, IRS contingency plans call for retention of just 12.5 percent of the agency’s workers, or 9,946 of them, in the event of a shutdown during the non-filing season.
Local IRS employee John Miles, of North Ogden, said he’s on furlough and suspects the vast majority of Northern Utah IRS workers have been furloughed as well. “At least 95 percent are furloughed. ... Most employees aren’t essential,” he said.
He suspects it could be up to two weeks before the shutdown is resolved, time for lawmakers to come up with a preliminary plan and then reach middle ground. “I’m ready for at least a couple weeks of no work,” he said.
Meantime, he’s not sure if he and other IRS employees, due paychecks by week’s end, will get them given the uncertain situation. If not, he’ll use savings to make his home mortgage payment and won’t be left with much more.
“After that, I don’t really know what I’m going to do,” he said. “It’s a scary thing.”
The U.S. Department of Defense is not impacted by the shutdown, which affects only about a quarter of the federal government, and civilian employees at Hill Air Force Base were on the job on Wednesday.
“It’s business as usual,” said Troy Tingey, president of Local 1592 of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents around 8,000 civilian employees at Hill. None have been furloughed, as far as he knows, and none were working without pay.
The shutdown, which started Friday, stems from differences between congressional Democrats and President Donald Trump over possible inclusion of funds in legislation to resolve the issue for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as sought by Trump.