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 ! :)