Dedicated to Sharing the Heritage of Redwood Empire Railroading
Had breakfast with a friend this morning and got some new and as yet unpublicized information on SMART and NWP Co. I'll leave my friend nameless, but, as they say, "You can take this to the bank."
SMART received a million bucks from the State to produce a feasibility study on extending the SMART system to provide commuter passenger service eastward on the existing ROW to link with the national rail system at Suisun City. This would provide a connection with the Capitol Corridor and Amtrak service and provide a much needed commute alternative to the overloaded and obsolete Highway 37 corridor which is sinking into the Bay mud. SMART's study found the proposed service entirely feasible, given the availability of State funding to upgrade the existing ROW to SMART standards. (80MPH CWR and PTC, etc., as they did with the old NWP ROW) Our new Governor, a Marin County native, is reportedly very enthusiastic about the prospect of extending SMART to the east. (Perhaps he has plans to commute to Sacramento by rail!) With an infusion of a few hundred million from Sacramento which seems to have political support, the likelihood of SMART service to the east is presently looking like a lot more than just a dream.
On its own dime, SMART is continuing to expand, with the "Larkspur extension" under construction and ROW upgrades to permit the extension of service to Windsor in the works. After Windsor, SMART will extend to Healdsburg, then to Cloverdale, and (drumroll please, Maestro...) then to Willits!
Mike Pecher recently reported in Trainorders on 2-13-19:
"I went to the North Coast Rail Authority in Healdsburg today. Executive Director Mitch Stogner says the NCRA is doing everything it can to follow the mandate of SB 1029, the Maquire Great Redwood Trail Act. The agenda included an "NWP operators report" by Doug Bosco. As he addressed the NCRA Board, the first thing he said is that the railroad is here to stay and is, "Is NOT for Sale!" One of the provisions of the Bill, included $4 million dollars "to buy out" NWP by SMART, however the Bill (1029) has no legal authority for SMART to buy it nor for NWP to be bought by anyone else except an entity agreed to by NWP. Mr. Bosco also said with the death of President and Owner, John Williams, he is now President and Williams wife, Linda is now V.P. and the Operator and Judy Roberts is Secretary-Treasurer. He also stated that now that NWP is out from under the cloud of the frivolous "Friends of the River" suit, the NWP is going ahead with renewed effort to attract more business and to invest in the infrastructure. ... Finally, Bosco stated the NWP was profitable last year and is so this year as carloads are up and the outlook is excellent for prospects for more business. The law suit clouded NWP's future and potential customers and investors stayed on the sidelines not knowing if the railroad was going to survive. ... "
However, my "impeccably reliable source" tells me now that with John Williams' passing, the partners have decided to sell the NWP Co. and SMART plans to buy it. (This was the intent in SB 1029 when it transferred the NCRA ROW from Willits south to SMART.) I'm told SMART is very enthusiastic about integrating and developing freight operations and considers freight a profit maker. Bottom line, odds are good we will see SMART-operated freight service on concrete tied CWR with PTC between the national rail system and Willits within our lifetimes.
In the short term, SMART expects the Novato Downtown station to soon be operational and hopes to be able to serve this station as a regular stop instead of a stop alternating with the San Marin stop north of it. They are working out timetable adjustments to try to accomplish this. SMART continues to greatly exceed all ridership expectations and hopes to expand the frequency of service even more than it has already, given that riders are exceeding the seats available on many runs at present. SMART (once derided as "the train to nowhere") has carried over 1,100,000 passengers since its opening seventeen months ago. A significant ridership demographic is the surprisingly large number of tourists from San Francisco who are using it to access the Sonoma Wine Country. Sonoma cities report tourist business increases of as much as 30 percent attributable to SMART access.
One of the unanticipated challenges SMART's service expansion faces is the demise in bankruptcy of Nippon Sharyo's Illinois subsidiary which manufactured FRA-compliant DMU's for the US market. They failed due to a lack of US orders. Sourcing maintenance and repair replacement parts internationally now that there is no US manufacturer of the much-touted "state of the art" SMART DMU technology is now, and will increasingly become, more difficult as time goes on and, as my friend says, "because people keep running into them.". There will be no more of the DMUs SMART is now operating and an alternate model will have to be found to fill the expected need for more units to cover expanding operations. This isn't an insurmountable problem and is seen as simply another challenge to meet and overcome. We can look forward to some new and different SMART rolling stock in the coming years.
So, there you have it, "straight from the horse's mouth."
Thank you for posting this Bob. Very encouraging information. A few years back I had pleasure of riding an IndyCar special from Suisun City to Sears Point and I was delighted. It was something I wanted to do for as long as I can remember (family moved to Sonoma County in '68). Very rare mileage; I don't believe there ever was scheduled passenger service on that route. And positive developments extending to the ferry, as well as the route north of Santa Rosa. Great news!
Information without a source is just a rumor.
And a post by somebody without a real name is just...?
The information came directly from a "very high-ranking official." He didn't ask that I keep it confidential. I just thought I'd leave it to him to decide how and when to make any official announcements.
You can consider it "just a rumor." Others' mileage may vary.
I choose to keep my identity from people who think they know everything.
If this "high ranking official" didn't ask you to keep the information confidential then it is well within your right to answer to people who ask for a source. This is not by any means an official announcement. Many of SMART's high ranking officials are blowing hot air and don't actually know what they're talking about. You're talking to a bunch of Rail Fans, where gossip is a language. I ask you to disclose something you have no reason NOT to disclose, and you not disclosing it casts even more doubt on your "facts."
Feel free to DM me if that's better for you.