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Oooohhhhhh busted...From Railway Age Magazine...

Thurs. June 24th 2014

By Douglas John Bowen

The general counsel for Northwestern Pacific Railroad Co. (NWP) has moved to defuse complaints from NWP's Vice President Jacob Park related to implementing passenger rail service in Sonoma and Marin counties in northern California.

In a letter dated July 4, 2014, Park cited "past and proposed actions taken by the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) that are hurting local businesses, obstructing NWP's rightful use of the railroad, and are in direct conflict with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's (MTC) goal of promoting efficient and shared use of rail lines for commuter and freight services." MTC is the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for the Bay Area.

But in a July 15 letter to MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger, NWP General Counsel Douglas H. Bosco downplayed any friction between NWP and SMART, stating, "These issues, though important, are ones that could be expected between the building of a state-of-the-art passenger system that will share the same track with freight services. Procedures for the resolution of all issues between SMART and [North Coast Railroad Authority and NWP] are carefully laid out in the Operating Agreement, entered into between the parties in June 2011."

Bosco notes, "Since agreed-upon procedures are in place, I have informed Mr. Park that raising these issues with the MTC was not appropriate or authorized."

A second letter, dated July 16, was sent by North Coast Railroad Authority Executive Director Mitch Stogner to SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian, also reassuring SMART and its allies that the authority, like the short line, did not expect such a letter objecting to SMART's activities.

Stogner said the letter by Park "was sent without my knowledge or consent, or the knowledge or consent of the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) Board of Directors." He added, " I think the letter to [MTC's] Mr. Heminger was ill-advised and I intend to notify Mr. Heminger personally to let him know that NCRA disapproves of the letter and, instead, will continue to work with SMART in a spirit of cooperation."

NCRA, formed in 1989, notes on its website, “The Mission of the North Coast Railroad Authority is to provide a unified & revitalized rail infrastructure meeting the freight and passenger needs of the region.”'

A source close to Petaluma, Calif.-based SMART, noting earlier Railway Age coverage of the story, said Wednesday, July 23, that the letter had “led to a misperception that SMART is damaging local business,” with local media putting the initial story “on the front page.” No such coverage of the two letters affirming support for SMART has yet received local coverage, the source said. 

SMART seeks to construct a 70-mile line serving Sonoma and Marin counties, north of San Francisco, linking Cloverdale and Larkspur, Calif., with ferry connections planned to link Larkspur with San Francisco. The project also includes a bicycle and pedestrian path.

The $203 million initial operating segment between Sonoma County Airport and San Raphael is scheduled to open in late 2016, served by 18 diesel multiple-units (DMUs) produced by Sumitomo Corp. and Nippon Sharyo, equipped with Cummins, Inc.'s Tier 4 Final-compliant QSK19-R diesel engines.

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I'd say it's pretty dead south of Ignacio, unless there were to be a spur into Hamilton running down to the hangar area, if there is ever any light industrial down there again.  San Rafael has/had a Shamrock cement and stone yard with rail access and a couple of small lumberyards, but I don't see that there's enough building in Southern Marin anymore to support cement and lumber rail freight.  I don't believe NWP has rights to run freight south of Ignacio at present.  Passenger service, though, I'm not so sure.  They have passenger service access north of Ignacio, though... excursion and interurban service.  What may be interesting is to see what Amtrak might do.  They run feeder bus service from Santa Rosa to Vallejo or Martinez, I believe.  It would be interesting if they connected Santa Rosa with the central CA high speed rail system some day, though.  A "Wine Country" tourist excursion service from Larkspur Landing up to Sonoma would likely be commercially viable.  SF is a huge tourist draw, and it pulls in a lot of international tourists, especially Japanese, who don't drive and are rail transit oriented.  They take bus tours and limos now.  And, of course, there's always the market for a "Gambler's Special" service running from Larkspur to Rohnert Park (which would lighten up weekend traffic on 101, thank you very much!)


  I may be in error, but I don't believe that the tunnel at San Rafael is large enough to support any freight or Amrtrak service, just the cars designed for SMART....

Does NCRA even have a freight easement on this section?

I think the majority of excursion service would have to come from the NWP historical society..for some reason I can't see NWP/NCRA either doing it or it being very viable for them. 

  I may be wrong, but I don't think the tunnel in San Rafael was designed for freight movements,.....just SMART vehicles......

Puerto Suelo tunnel?  It certainly used to handle freight.  I would think the tunnel would be the same size one way or another, except, of course for some of the newer "high rise" freight cars.

  Right Bob....I assume it could handle freight from the pictures listed:  google: Workshop 2010-ll-06 final version.pdf

page 6

When the NWP shut down just previous to its latest reincarnation, I heard tell they had to refund something like $100,000 worth of prepaid excursion tickets.  NWP has passenger excursion operating rights on the SMART ROW, I believe.  The Napa Wine Train operation, which is basically a restaurant on rails, seems to have been doing very well for quite a few years now, despite all the doomsayers when it first started up and it really isn't much of a ride.  I imagine that that a monthly, if not weekly Sonoma Wine Country steam excursion run from a GG Ferry and SMART connection at Novato or Petaluma and then up to Willits (at least... imagine if it ran through the Eel River Canyon!) and a connection with the California Northern Skunk could easily be kept full during tourist season.  Few seem to recognize that the City if full of international tourists who don't drive. At present, they can only get to the Wine Country on a tour bus, if that.  Such folks are usually very used to taking trains.  The connection would be a natural for them.

Yep true true,  now you're think'n.

Let's just get the trains running to Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Ukiah, Calpella and Redwood Valley asap, then we can get Willits going soon after that. They should note that this is NOT just a Bay Area short line, Mendocino County is not part of the Bay Area.

For those who are not on the SMART email dist list, go here for the latest update on the system.  No mention at all of NWP as a partner/supporter of getting trucks off of 101.

Yea, a rather amateurish fluff piece: "We fought this thing tooth and nail before it passed and when it did, gee wiz... they put us on its Board of Directors.  So, now, "We're giving the voters what they asked for!"  Aren't we great?"


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