Dedicated to Sharing the Heritage of Redwood Empire Railroading
Today I wanted to talk about the NWP, in its current condition, and what it was like before FRA shut it down on the northern end.
For years, the Northwestern Pacific Railroad has been sitting idle on the northern end, the tracks slowly being retaken by nature. Massive tunnels along the Eel River Canyon have collapsed, blocking entry to some of the tunnels. The tracks are not faring well either, washouts are littered all over over the tracks, with some sections being washed out so bad, there is a massive gap in between the tracks. The last time the northern end was active was in 1997. North Coast Railroad #3190, and another NCR unit were moving freight cars from Eureka to Windsor ( I think), when reports of swinging track in the canyon came in. The crew of these locomotives were ordered to drop the string of freight cars at Island Mountain, and shortly after, they hurried back to Eureka. This would be the last train to set foot on these rails. Shortly after this happened, the railroad was hit by a series of floods that damaged the tracks. NCRA, or North Coast Rail Authority, tried to fix the line with the money that they had left, but fell short. The line was then deemed unsafe by FRA, and the line was closed for good.
The railroad would make a final run in 2001, when former CCT #70 moved the inside track car from Eureka down to Willits, before a massive flood took out the tracks for good. The "zombie trains" have been parked for over 15 years, and have been damaged by vandals. The copper and wiring have been completely ruined, and the trains who once had a North Coast Railroad paint scheme on the side are completely covered in graffiti. 70 was scrapped, and the other locomotives are stuck in Eureka. 2872 looks to be in better shape than the other locomotives, but I'm not sure if the others will be saved. In recent years, trains have started to operate on the southern end, but the northern end is still silent. My question is: Is it too late for the NWP to make a comeback on the northern portion of the line?
The city of Healdsburg has had plan in place for at least two years to upgrade their prime downtown intersection thru the middle of which the NCRA tracks run. There are a lot of influential and affluent people in Healdsburg who are unhappy with SMART stopping south of Windsor and not extending to their rapidly growing town. Same for Cloverdale but can't get to Cloverdale without extending thru Heladsburg.
So the City or someone else wants to eliminate the eyesore that is the RoW and maybe the old depot and surrounding grounds and my guess is that they are moving ahead with beautifying the property surrounding the SMART owned RoW and let the RoW stay an eyesore. A picture of that area after the work published on the front page of the PD could be an embarrassment for SMART. I would not even be surprised if Healdsburg would be working with NCRA to beautify the whole RoW at the point north where NCRA owns the RoW.
That is why I am asking where is the borderline between SMART and NCRA. Lots of animosity in that town about SMART.
"south" of the depot i can't say for sure if there was much going on, and thats a rather short narrow strip anyway. i do recall looking it over as i drove across the track, and that was when i noticed all the heavy landscaping operation going on in the depot area & beyond.
Thanks for that link Chad, I'll check it out!
It's always a matter of money -- or to put it bluntly, capital. And will. There's neither of both, sorry to say. Perhaps an isolated north end shorter version, but I fully don't expect, at 61, to live long enough to see a revived North End all the way through to Willits.
Then there's the issue of getting further south on what stands a more likely chance of revival, but as an extension of SMART to (maybe) Cloverdale. Freight could go over such trackage at night, but then what? Another day in transit to the UP at Fairfield-Susiun, and another "day" to Oakland or Roseville after the hand-off.
This was ever the problem -- slow service -- and that hardly helped win shippers. Much as I dislike seeing trucks get that, it's far more efficient for smaller loads (which is all that would be generated in the foreseeable future around the Willits-Humboldt Bay portion) to go via highway direct to and from shipper/manufacturer/distributor. The same applies to lumber anymore. The "old days" are not going to come back, at least with lumber products. That sounds awful to say and hear, but it's true.
I was wondering if anyone has any new news or information on the developments along the northern end of the line. I know that there is a group of business leaders in Eureka who want rail to return.
Does anybody have any new ideas on this since 2016?
Fred M. Cain
I am not sure. It seems that THA is doing their best to keep the rails around. Perhaps Jeff Moore will be your best bet on this. I am not sure myself.