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To you full sized railroaders on this site, what if anything additional, would the NWP have to provide (i.e. FRA licenses, training, disabilites ramps etc) to pull passenger excursion cars on the SMART RoW?
JP, Would you put a patch over one ditch light and find a horn that made an "ARRGGGHHH" sound? But no cursing, these will be FAMILY excursions.
How about some weekend dining car excursions. The Napa train folks could share pros and cons info.
Sheldon Cooper and his friend, Amy could do the TV promotions.
I was expecting to get some serious responses to my serious question. The NWP, once it gets to Healdsburg and surely Cloverdale could see some additional revenue with weekend passenger trips from Marin Cty up to points north. I have a friend with private railcars.
My understanding though is that hauling passengers is a different set of FRA rules than hauling freight cars. If no on the site knows the answer, I'll check with the Niles Canyon group to see what they do.
Track conditions on the entire line currently in service are most definitely suitable for passenger use. The FRA waiver for the NASCAR train was to allow a passenger train across an interlocking with no functioning signals (Brazos).
That being said, the biggest hurdle to jump would be insurance, which to run something like this in this day and age, is expensive. I don't imagine the sketchy history of the line would help matters either, as far as insurance costs go.
NWP conductors would have to be trained in accordance with FRA passenger regs, which are a bit different than that for freight conductors. I believe if a passenger train has over a certain amount of cars a brakeman is required, but I don't remember if that's an FRA mandate or a union thing (I'm a freight guy, so I'm not well versed on this stuff).
As stated more than once, people will pay money to see the line further north. They will not fork over any cash to look at people's back yards in Santa Rosa (of course, that depends on what is going on in said back yards).
Equipment and facilities would need to be ADA compliant as well.
Also if this operation touches any trackage smart owns, I can see them throwing a bunch of wrenches into it. Ask anyone with the NWP/NCRA who was involved with the NASCAR train, such as Mike Pencher, and they'll tell you all of the outrageous demands by smart, such as requiring all hand operated switches to be spiked. Best keep excursion north of Healdsburg.
That's the kind of info I was looking for. Insurance is always a big $$$ issue of course but my AAPRCO friend has experience with that in the past but not on the NWP/SMART RoW.
I have to laugh about everybody's comments re: the beauty of Santa Rosa. Agree it would have to go to at least Healdsburg, hopefully Cloverdale (which needs the tourism and has that wonderful depot) and Willits someday.
What you say about track conditions I can understand but then when I see the condition of the Napa Wine Train RoW or the RoW of the now defunct Santa Fe Southern, I don't see the existing RoW espeicially as it is being upgraded for SMART and in to San Rafael being as bad as those lines. That plus given that cost for NCRA to go into Healdsburg is not as much as I had expected, then the RoW I don't think, is an issue.
As for costs and fares, that is another issue. The Santa Cruz and Monterrey Bay Railway http://www.santacruzrailway.com/ thinks that they can make a go of it and of course Niles Canyon with a lot of volunteer help is functioning.
So there is hope if we can get a train to Healdsburg and then enjoy a pint of Racer 5 (and convince them too to bring in grain via rail.
I've long thought it was a natural. SF is one of the world's great tourist destinations. Lots of people come from all over, especially the Orient, these days. But... they don't drive, or don't want to drive because they are unfamiliar with the traffic conditions. Most stay in SF. Some hearty souls take the ferry to Sausalito. But the Wine Country is a huge tourist draw as well. They have to take bus tours or limos, if they have the bucks. Now, once SMART is up and running, it's a piece of cake. Ferry to Larkspur, SMART to someplace north, maybe Petaluma for it's four star dining, or Healdsburg, connect with a STEAM train for the run north and back, with stops at various wineries (they could shuttle from the ROW, if need be) and quality dining on board as well. I'm told China is chock full of US model steam engines of late manufacture (1980's, etc.) now that they are switching over to diesel. If the Napa Wine Train can make a go of it, certainly there's room for a Sonoma Wine Train that connects directly by ferry and rail to SF.