Northwestern Pacific Railroad Network

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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 Richard C. Brand on March 8, 2017 at 10:42pm

Dave brings up the key point which is economics.  The demand in our present economic boom for redwood lumber is large if not huge and simplistically should encourage the NWP to pay to move north.   But the trucking industry will always be willing to undercut the costs to haul by rail short term and enjoy the subsidies in California that pay for the upkeep of our highways for everybody including 18 wheelers which IMHO tear up 101.

Without federal government support for rail transport or a major 12 month highway washout like has happened to the Big Sur highway 1, I don't see how we will ever see a return to rebuilding the rails north of Cloverdale.  This is political and I will stay away from that issue.

I do hope I am wrong about this because the Skunk RR needs a connection to the bUS rail network but who will pay for this?

I love this discussion because this goes to the essence of the probability of the rebirth of the line up to Willits and then Eureka.  


Comment by steven richard bell on March 8, 2017 at 9:02pm

typo in original statement;  should read freight car register not  reister.  So sorry

Comment by tom slivka on March 8, 2017 at 7:30pm


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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