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Read the below link and let the speculation begin!
There is no mention of "steam", or "NWP", anywhere in the comments. Where did you draw that conclusion from?
I drew no conclusions. The title was a question: "Is steam excursion service in the NWP's future?" "Did you read my post: "Read the below link and let the speculation begin."
In reply to James, it is well known and established that the Golden Gate Railroad Museum is in the process of relocating its equipment from the Pacific Locomotive Association's Niles Canyon Railroad, where they have been housed since being forced out of their former home at Hunters Point, to a new storage site on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in Schellville. New storage tracks have been built, and the equipment is now waiting for UP to move it north. Centerpiece of the collection is former SP 4-6-2 #2472. So yes, there are no references to Steam or NWP in the post to which Bob links, he's assuming readers of this board already know of the pending move. And the addition of these three cars would appear to give the GGRM the possibility of operating excursions with the #2472 over the NWP, though they are likely to need a lot of work before they can be used. GGRM already has a collection of other passenger equipment including three ex-SP "subs" (72-foot commuter cars), and ex-SP chair car, an ex-SP business car, and ex-SP lounge car, an ex-SP baggage-postal car, and an ex-UP rail post office. They also have three ex-SP diesels, a GP-9 and a pair of F-7s, plus a Fairbanks-Morse switcher painted in SP colors.
Thanks, Jeff. I'm well aware of the GGRM move to Schellville, although I have my doubts about whether or not SMART will allow steam excursions on their tracks (the tracks in Schellville are owned and dispatched by SMART). I would love to see steam excursions on the NWP, and that could happen with GGRM's equipment, but only if SMART allows it. As far as I know, SMART has not made any announcements about allowing steam trains to operate on their tracks, and the article makes no mention of it either.
My point in the original post was that the article is about some former SP commute cars, not about steam excursions on the NWP. The title of the thread is a little deceiving. There is also no mention of whether or not the three cars will be moved to Schellville as part of GGRM's collection.
NWP Co.'s contract provides them with an exclusive freight and passenger excursion service over SMART's ROW.
I don't know much about how contracts work, so this is just a question. If SMART buys out the NWP contract when the NCRA is dissolved, are they still bound by the terms of that contract? The agreement between SMART and NWP states that NWP has the exclusive passenger excursion service over the ROW. If NWP is no longer a party in the contract, due to SMART buying them out for $4 Million, does SMART then obtain the right to determine if passenger excursions can occur on their line? Remember...the state is offering SMART $4 Million to buy out the NWP contract, so that could have a significant impact on excursion service. If SMART opts out of the buyout, then NWP retains it's rights under the prior agreement and would retain the right to operate passenger excursions--right? Thanks.
James- The heart of the underlying issues are the legal agreements at play.
Back in 1996 with the public bought the south end, the original owner was the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Authority, owned by Golden Gate Bridge District, Marin County and NCRA. Several years later, when NWPRA sold its holdings to SMART, NCRA retained a permanent freight easement over the SMART tracks, and that is the legal basis under which NWP operates its business today. And unless I'm missing something, the operating contract specifying passenger excursions is between SMART and NCRA, though it does make clear NWP is handling operations on NCRA's behalf.
If NCRA does end up being dissolved, then the question becomes what happens to its freight easement over SMART. The STB has been clear in other cases that only it alone has the jurisdiction over common carrier issues, and in the end they are the only party that can officially approve an operator change. I suspect the $4 million in funding is intended to get a voluntary buyout from NWP that eases them out of the picture, that would remove all obstacles to SMART replacing NWP as provider of common carrier service on the line and would also make it easier to resolve what happens to that freight easement upon NCRA's demise. In that case, all operational agreements between NCRA, NWP, and SMART would become null and void and SMART would be free to operate any type or kind of service they see fit and are legally allowed to offer. If there is no agreement and NWP remains in business, then it becomes pretty messy pretty quick in terms of who gets that freight easement, I imagine it probably ends with SMART inheriting it one way or another, which would then lead to a new agreement with NWP. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.
About all that can be said for sure is that "further developments are pending." If SMART swallows NCRA as far north as Willits, SMART will simply step into NCRA's shoes. (Caltrans gets NCRA north of Willits, as I understand it.) That means that SMART will have to deal with NWP Co.'s contract with NCRA as if SMART were NCRA. Essentially, nothing changes. NCRA's obligations don't just go away, they become SMART's obligations.
The bigger question is whether NWP Co.'s management/shareholders are going to sell their railroad (including its freight and passenger excursion easement) to SMART or not. That's going to depend upon the price point. I have no idea what the market price of NWP Co. might be right now. Those freight and passenger excursion easements are likely worth a lot of money, not right now, but quite possibly down the road. The freight isn't heavy right now, but if the line can be extended north of Santa Rosa, it might be getting into territory where freight customers will increase significantly. It will take a handful of customers who need long-haul heavy bulk freight hauling, like lumber, quarry materials, garbage, and the like. (The landfills have exceeded, or are about to exceed their useful lives and at that point it will all need to be hauled out via the national rail system. We're presently dependent upon aggregate brought in from British Columbia by ship to the Richmond rock terminal for all of our aggregate needs. Dutra in Petaluma is supplied by barges from there.)
IMHO, SMART would be unwise to attempt to get into the freight business. It simply doesn't have the experience to hit the ground running in that industry. In any event, I'd expect SMART to seek to subcontract the freight, and possibly the passenger excursion business, to a private operator, as NCRA did with NWP Co. Given NCRA's difficulty in obtaining an operator (it wasn't like a lot of qualified bidders were breaking down their doors last time around,) it would make sense for SMART to simply continue on with NWP Co. as it's freight operator.
I have no idea what NWP Co.'s balance sheet looks like. If NWP Co. is barely keeping it's head above water with prospects for the future looking grim, they might be happy to grab $4,000,000 from SMART and run. If, on the other hand, NWP Co.'s future looks profitable, it may be that the only way SMART could get out of the NCRA contract with NWP Co. would be for SMART to find another private operator willing to pay enough to convince NWP Co. to sell out.
Bob Cleek and James Bradley:
This is a great thread. Shows the value of this w-site with real information. Now that I am paying into the SMART coffer with my taxes here in Santa Rosa, I will keep a full court press on what they do.
To Bob your comment about the NWP's contract, thanks and I love your posting that. But passenger excursion service while exciting is not a profitable operation as it requires a LOT of human staffing and as I am unfortunately learning, talented human labor is in short supply up here given the need for restoration/construction after the 2017 fire damage. Also the passenger traffic section of SMART's RoW is required by FRA to have PTC compliant power and I doubt that 2472 can be retrofitted with PTC. So excursions would be limited to Novato to Sonoma to Schellville or even American Canyon unless 2472 is headed by 2009. CalTrain had to do this with their diesels when they last pulled 2472 down their RoW for the Christmas holdiay train.
In my latest email this week from John Williams, CEO of the NWP he told me that the NWP needs more freight revenue on the line. His email this week indicates no consideration of selling his business but pushing as he says to get more freight customers .
My read on that is that he needs consistent freight hauling revenue. So that goes directly to Richard Soleto's post re: Shamrock materials, that comes back to the SMART decision to not provide for freight service south of Novato "Y". And what happened to hauling for Dutra?
I plan to attend the future SMART board meetings and I will report here from those meetings. Because I have to now drive hiway 101 and see so many huge trucks hauling loads that should be via rail.
If the Napa Valley Railroad's ("Wine Train") is any indication, I'd beg to differ with your assertion that "passenger excursion service is not a profitable operation." The NVRR was bought three years ago from its founder's heirs by a very large and profitable hotel and resort corporation which has more than doubled its capacity and scheduled runs and has been and is acquiring additional rolling stock to handle the increase in business. Furthermore, talks are in the works about adding freight service on the NVRR and DMU commuter service from Calistoga to American Canyon, similar to SMART, which would tie into an expanding state rail transit system. (SMART service to connect to the "Capitol Corridor" run is also being contemplated.)
I don't think there is anybody who thinks the NVRR "Wine Train" excursion service isn't profitable. Check out their website, count the number of runs times the number of available seats times the fares charged, and consider that seats are booked solid months in advance, and, as the saying goes, "You do the math."
I'm not any expert on ATC, but I do know that there are significant exemptions from the usual passenger regulations for excursion passenger service. I'd expect that steam operations could be accommodated within SMART's train control system. Speeds would be slower and trains less frequent, for one thing. As a practical matter, steam would probably not be the motive power of choice for a "Wine Train" type of operation, in any event. Running steam power would likely be reserved to occasional rail fan excursion trips only. Steam ain't cheap, ya know!
I followed your link but it requires a f'book p'word which is for me is a contagious disease. No mention of steam in the page that came up for me.
Please provide the details in the post that you have provided.
I feel your pain! FB is a PIA.