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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 Fred M. Cain on February 14, 2019 at 9:50am

Well, I can say here that there was a guy on the North Coast Daylight when I rode it in the summer of '88 who appeared to me as if he knew what he was talking about.  He was very friendly and I struck up a conversation with him.

At the time I was already concerned about the future prospects for the line even back then, so I asked him, "What is the future for this railroad".

Shaking his head, he responded saying something like, "Well, the future looks pretty bleak, really".  Not a word-for-word quote but that was more or less what he said.

So, I asked him, "is there anything that can save it?"

His response was something like, "Well, yes.  There might be one thing.  They are talking about the possibility of building a seaport at Eureka for export coal. THAT would save it."

Sadly, that just never happened and here we are now some 30 years later and now they are finally getting very serious up there about building a seaport.  Or at least that's the way it seems to me.

Here's what I think the real deal is.  Someone up there has to be willing to dish out a lot of money and even suffer some losses on it with the aspiration that they can better their community up there.  In a nut shell, that's what it will take.  The seaport could completely and totally revive the local Humboldt Bay economy - and they know that - but, unfortunately, the ones who will profit the most will not be the same ones who invested in the railway.

That is consistent, to a point, with American history.  Some of the promoters for the transcontinental railways lost money but the overall American economy grew and benefitted.

So, someone up there has to make some difficult decisions.  From where I sit, I'd be the first to say, "Just do it".  But it's not my money that I stand to lose.  So, if this whole thing amounts to a social benefit for the residents of Humboldt Bay then maybe that should really be the State's responsibility and if Congress ever gets of their laurels and approves the huge "infrastructure package" then maybe some federal funds could be made available too.

So much for my thoughts.  Maybe they're only worth two cents.  NO!  Make that 1½ cents.


Fred M. Cain

Comment by steven richard bell on April 28, 2017 at 8:27pm

From where I sit, can not see overnight  passenger service returning within 5 years from San Rafael to Eureka; nor in the opposite direction either. I estimate the cost to bring service back would be in the billions of dollars--only Donald Trump has that kind of money and I don't think he is one to donate monies for that  project. He has more pressing problems---if so then he should find another taylor or laundry/cleaners to resolve those pressing problems.

Comment by steve lang on April 28, 2017 at 4:52pm

looks like i have the rite column 4 w/e so here goes - Del Rio: workplace shooting @ Caltrans facility last week - 1 dead... just saw "NWPRR connection to mainline rr's opening soon for Skunk Train @ Willets" on Wikipedia... key'd in "northwestern" on Yahoo search justnow, got pop up list w/ Northwestern Pacific Railroad @ the top... how many of u kno about all the mailine track that's still in place S of the open drawbridge @ Larkspur? (oh, ~i'm~ the only 1 who didn't?) _ _ _ 

Comment by Andrew Roth on March 24, 2017 at 9:31am

Emilio we've been over this before: I wouldn't expect any service to return to the line north of Cloverdale at all. SMART will eventually get to Cloverdale, but that's about it. Yes, in today's world the route can be fully repaired and brought up to current FRA operating standards, but as you said, it would cost a pretty penny. With today's technology, anything can be done for the right price. It's just a matter of how willing you (the railroad) are to spend massive amounts of money on it (all while running trains and paying employees to run said trains). It would cost A LOT, and the question to be asked is: is it worth it?

Rebuilding a railroad is all about cost vs benefit. The benefit has to be greater than the cost for something to happen, and there is no benefit currently there. The lumber industry has, for the most part, run dry. Establishing a new industry up there to serve would likely come with a lot of legal hurdles to jump. So combined, you have legal hurdles, an expensive price tag, and very little to gain from it all. No railroad would go for that, especially a small one with very shallow pockets! So my advice: don't hold your breath. If it does happen, it will be a very long time before trains run. 

Comment by Bob Cleek on March 9, 2017 at 6:52pm

Not Harbor Freight, but Multipower International:

Latest steam engine built in China was in 1999:

Comment by Dave S. on March 9, 2017 at 6:45pm

It's only a nine month ban.  And knowing those two countries, there will be cheating.

Wonder if Harbor Freight carries those Chinese steam engines?  :)

Comment by Bob Cleek on March 9, 2017 at 6:39pm

The Chinese just imposed sanctions on North Korea:  They aren't buying any coal from North Korea anymore.  That constituted about 30% of North Korea's total exports, over a billion dollars a year.  China is going to have to buy its coal from someplace else now.  Who knows?  Maybe from us.  (And while they are transitioning to diesel power, they still are running steam engines, Chinese copies of our WWII era Pacifics, IIRC.  They have lots of these for sale, some made as recently as the late 1990's and full parts inventories.  Just the ticket for a steam excursion operation on the NWP up to Willits!)

Comment by Dave S. on March 9, 2017 at 6:23pm

Interesting article about coal export from California ports.  Note:  It is impossible to discuss this issue properly without getting into the politics of it:

At recent consumption rates, the US has proven coal reserves of at least 250 years.  However, it is estimated that we have total coal resources which, if recovered, would last several thousand years.  Bring back those steam engines!

Comment by Dave S. on March 9, 2017 at 6:01pm

With the enlarged Panama Canal locks, now operating, the largest container ships can sail directly to Gulf Coast states, bypassing Pacific ports altogether.  That will take the pressure off of West Coast ports and render a Humbolt container port moot, IMHO.

This has all be discussed multiple times here previously.  For example:

Since the Obama EPA shutdown nearly all coal-fired electric generation plants, a fraction of that coal is being exported now.  Perhaps Federal policy will change under Trump.  I believe Richmond has a coal export terminal (in addition to the Aggregate terminal Bob mentions?), but neighbors are complaining about dust.

Comment by Bob Cleek on March 9, 2017 at 5:29pm

Chad, you're correct on a Humbolt intermodal container terminal.  It does take longer to get containers from Humboldt out to the national rail system.  That said, I'm guessing that it is still a lot less expensive to save a day at sea even accounting for a day on the rails.  It isn't just the time, but the "time is money" factor.  With ships, they do all they can to keep them moving with short turnaround times because they're so expensive to operate on a per diem basis.  Also, it doesn't have to be about intermodal containers, either.  There are specialty 'break bulk" cargoes that would be suitable.  These require terminals of their own.  (A new aggregate terminal was built in Richmond.)  Who knows what might be suitable on that score, but the fact is there's got to be traffic to make restoring the line worthwhile.  Container traffic has had its ups and downs and fluctuates with the economy, of course.  Over the long haul, however, I think it is only going to increase and there isn't any more room on the West Coast other than Humboldt for container terminal expansion, as far as I know at the moment.

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