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Is the Northern End still in consideration for reopening service to Eureka?

I was wondering if service would ever return to the northern end of the railroad, as they have returned to the southern portion of the line. I know it would take a lot of cash and a lot of repair work, but could it be done? I think it could be done. I would like to see trains running north again, even if it is in the distant future. 

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Comment by steven richard bell on March 8, 2017 at 6:19pm

It does not seem likely. Perhaps if it was built as either narrow gage or as monorail to lessen the costs of rebuilding the line. The rails are still in place so if  weight limits were placed on freight cars and loads perhaps one could rebuild it. Weight restrictions would take us back to the era of the American Standard  locomotive with 20,000 max load per car.  The absolute cost rebuilding it to contemporary standards would be in the billions of dollars. 

That money should better be spent on weapons to defeat both the Russians and the Chinese with whom we may be on collision course.  

Anyone remember when  Head-On Collision was a tankcar leasing cod.?  NO JOKE--real name. look it up in older freight car resister books. 

Comment by Dave S. on March 8, 2017 at 4:14pm
Comment by Dave S. on March 8, 2017 at 3:31pm

A more realistic goal would be to get to Willits, but here are my thoughts on your question.

Could it be done?  Yes!, anything can be done.  But in addition to the tremendous amount of difficult rebuilding required there is extremely strong environmental opposition to any reopening of the line, especially in the Eel River Canyon.  This is a non-technical barrier that didn't exist when the line was originally constructed.

The real question "Is a line to Eureka needed?".  If memory servers, at its zenith the NWP was moving two 50-car trains of forest products south daily.  That means two 50-car trains of empties northward every day too.  Plus there were locals and a bit of passenger traffic.  But the timber industry drove the majority of NWP traffic and revenue.  However, in the last twenty something years that industry was decimated by environmental claims and litigation, some of which we now know are bogus.

This is a big topic.  We can get into more detail about the technical challenges of the Blue Goo, or the environmentalism culture that oppose everything (except apparently hwy. 101).  The Eel R. Canyon is one of the most geologically unstable regions anywhere and to route a railroad through there was a geotechnical mistake IMHO.

The cost to rebuild the line north of Willits (~200 miles) was previously pegged at $500M to $800M to fully stabilize the route, but I believe it would cost far more, especially when one considers that rebuilding the very short (~70 miles) SMART route is costing around $700M.

There is a proposal to rebuild the north end without fully stabilizing the earth and then intensively maintain the line each year to prevent/repair washouts, sinks, landslides, etc.  Initial repair costs to get the line open in this plan will be less, but ongoing maintenance headaches and costs similar to what SP and EUKA suffered through.  My concern would be about safety in this scenario, providing major opportunities for tort lawyers to seek jackpot justice whenever there was an accident. 

Let's say it would cost $1B to open the line from Willits to Eureka.  Who would use it?  How much traffic?  How much revenue would this traffic produce?  Will this revenue stream be sustained and grow?  What is the 30-year outlook for revenue and expenses?  What are the chances that new regulatory burdens (on shippers, the railroad, or to both) will arrive to completely upset the whole plan?  What are the annual costs to keep the line open?  (Don't forget property taxes.)  What are the operating costs?  Can that $1B be paid off in 30 years while absorbing these other costs?

It's a big challenge.

It would be my dream to see that line in full operation again (but in my world with CTC and ATC!), but not unless it is profitable.  A real railroad requires real customers, commodities, cars, crews, and ... cash.

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