Dedicated to Sharing the Heritage of Redwood Empire Railroading
Yeah. The Humboldt & Eastern Railroad which I’ll simply refer to as the H & E, it really is a mystery. I have reached out to nearly a half dozen people in the Eureka area that will not answer my e-mails. One guy did. He said “Yes, he could help me with my questions” but then once I asked some questions – nothing. It really does appear just a bit shady but here’s what I do know: The intent is for a group of businessmen (who exactly they all are I don’t know) to raise $10 million dollars locally that they supposedly will try to use to leverage another $10 BILLION to build a “super railroad” from Eureka to the Red Bluff area where it would connect with the UP. The reference of a “super railroad” is my term – not theirs but if you read up on their website it sounds kinda pie-in-the-sky to me.
What is their intention, really? Since no one will return my queries, I have to speculate. Here are my four possible scenarios.
First off, I do not believe their super railroad can even be built for $10 billon. So, let’s double that. I think they know that too. So, here we go.
Suppose they get the $10 billion arranged. Once they realize that’s just not going to do it, they’ll sheepishly go back to their local investors (that they got the $10 million from) and say something like, “Gee, guys, we are SO sorry but unforeseen developments have occurred that were completely unknown. We just can’t do this but we are nevertheless completely resolved to bring back rail to Eureka along with a new sea port”.
Then they will enter discussions and negotiations aimed at the rebuilding of the Eel River Canyon Line to Willits. Think about it. It only makes sense. It is my best guess that the Eel River line can be rebuilt and some of the worst chronic spots addressed for One billion. Then let’s increase bridge & tunnel clearances, add and extend sidings, add an automatic block signal system and PTC and that will bring the price tag up to $2 billion still one-tenth of what I would guess it will take to build the H & E!
Then, let’s put three container trains a day on the line that would carry 200 containers each. I’m guessing that due to severe line curvature, double stacks would have to be limited to 100 platforms. Then add a couple of unit trains a day of grain, coal or crude oil and that would generate sufficient revenue to cover the above average annual maintenance costs. You see, the “MC” on the North Coast Daylight was probably right when he said “…THAT would save the line”.
Scenario 2 is similar. But this time the STB and other authorities give them a green board to build the H&E but the environmentalists are up in arms and scream bloody murder to Sacramento. Then after lengthy negotiations, the State arrives at somewhat of a “compromise” and agrees to rebuild the Eel River Line in lieu of an H & E that they they’d rather not have – the lesser of two evils you might say.
Scenario three is simply that the whole thing is a scam intended to rip off the local investors of the $10 million and simply “Take the money and run”. That is a very tempting conclusion to arrive at. But the people responsible would face lawsuits and even possible jail time so I don’t believe that is too likely either.
That brings me to my final conclusion that the whole furor over the H&E is merely an attempt to get attention. In this scenario they want to impress business leaders on a national scale and send them the message, “HEY! Look what we’re gonna do here” and that would simply be an attempt at luring more industry to the area. Amazon is now having second thoughts about the Long Island, NY location so maybe they’ll move to Arcata ! That might work O.K. since if it only involves office jobs they won’t be shipping anything by rail anyways. :)
Fred M. Cain
P.S. Just in the remote chance that there's something to scenario #1, let's keep it under our hats. After all, I'd hate to spoil if for 'em. There are few people in the world who would love to see trains once again lumbering through the Eel River Canyon as much as I would ! :)
Here is a little bit more trivia on this fuzzy proposal. Last fall, The Eureka town council had evidently sent a letter to the state attorney general requesting an investigation into the "project" - if that's what you could call it. The article in the Eureka Times Standard discussed this here:
Then later, one Mr. Michael Marsden with the Pacific Charter Financial Services had a rebuttal to that letter claiming that the letter was allegedly full of falsehoods. His views were reported in the Lost Coast Outpost here: https://lostcoastoutpost.com/2018/oct/18/citing-anticipated-litigat...
Toward the end of that article PCFS was criticized for not even having a website. But that's not true, either. They do, they really do.
So, guess what? I sent THEM an e-mail and took them to task for not being organized. I told them that I have sent numerous e-mails that have never been returned. I said that the "liberal" groups like Marsden railed about are organized - THEY aren't and therein lies their problem.
Thank you for the info/legwork Fred. Pffew? Jeeziz what a charlie foxtrot though...
Well, group, now I have to eat crow and take back a lot of what I'd stated on here. Mr. Bertrain finally, finally, finally got back to me. He sent me some materials that I'm going to have to review and take a few days to digest. My dear old Dad who rode with me on the North Coast Daylight bequeathed me some $ so, who knows? I might just bite on this. Not so much looking for a big reward but with the knowledge that I tried to help someone somewhere and not only that, I think it might be good for the Country as a whole. That's why I might consider it 'cause, after all, I don't live in the Eureka area.
Fred M. Cain
Well Fred, I went from "what the heck?" to total confusion in less than a day, lol.
Best of luck with your shortline railroad then? I guess? :-)
Wellllll, I need to study my materials some more. By just glancing over them so far, I am beginning to reassess my view that the whole project is nothing more than an absurd, pie-in-the-sky pipe dream. The whole project is beginning to seem more and more logical. If the stars align themselves just right, who knows? They might just pull this thing off. Time will tell. I am starting to be more open minded about this than I was. Looks to me like there are some smart people on board so we'll just have to wait and see.
Don't get me wrong. It remains a high risk plan. High risk, perhaps, but not impossible by any means.
Fred M. Cain
I'm in the same boat with Jennifer. What is "this plan"?
Richard & Group,
Well, basically a group of influential business people are pushing hard to attract new industry to the Humboldt Bay area. The lumber industry is for all intents and purposes dead. They are focusing on the development of a major, state of the art container port at Humboldt Bay. That is their main focal point; the railroad is simply regarded as a necessary tool to accomplish this. You simply cannot handle the kind of traffic they are looking to attract with over the road trucks, not for that distance at any rate.
I have run into some negativity and skepticism that a new west coast port is completely unnecessary – especial on the TRAINS Magazine online forum in the Northwestern Pacific thread. However the H&E people believe they can do that and they appear to know what they’re talking about. They have attracted some outside investors as well. Who they all are I do not know, or, well, more accurately, I kinda know but they are outfits that I am not familiar with yet.
As for the railroad, it has been touted as an “east-west” line but looking at their map it appears to run more northwest-southeast. The projected line would run actually parallel the NWP a few miles to the east to what looks like near Island Mountain then turn due east to join the UP near Gerber.
It is a very exciting plan to say the least. It almost harbors back to the 19th railroad building mentality. I would be excited if I could get involved with this even though I know it’s high risk. Sometimes I like to invest in things because I’m interested in them and not necessarily just looking for a financial reward. I have shares in a gold mine near Allegheny, CA which I recognize are also very high risk but I don’t care. I have been glad to have had the opportunity to be a part of that company and so it might also go with the H&E.
I still have strong reasons to suspect that the Northwestern Pacific Railroad could be rebuilt into a solid property for a lot less money but my best guess is that they have already thought of that. There are probably good reasons as to why they don’t want to do that – like I said they appear to know what they’re talking about. I don’t know how well it would go over with the suburbanites below Cloverdale to have a lot of heavy freight traffic rolling right smack dab through their neighborhoods. (Probably like a lead balloon). Plus, isn’t there a tunnel that was rebuilt to handle SMART trains and bicycles? Surely that could not handle double stacks. Or is that tunnel actually below the junction with the Schellville line?
Fred M. Cain