Northwestern Pacific Railroad Network

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I've be watching a lot of train videos since recuperating from foot surgery and I came across an estimate by Union Pacific Railroad in one of the videos that mentioned that they spend a million dollars a mile to add first class trackage to their system. One day last month at BART's Richmond Yard I watched their track crew in action replacing cross ties and reballasting their mainline. Everything was automated.

Anyway, I've heard estimates to repair the NWP at 500 million dollars which seems way out of line with the UP's estimate. Who 's behind this misinformation campaign? The Eel River section is only 90 miles long. Maybe their estimate includes daylighting or heightening tunnel bores, earthquake retrofitting trestles, and using concrete ties in ecological sensitive areas. Still seems like a lot.

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Comment by Lawrence LaBranche on May 29, 2010 at 10:28am
My ideas for the Scotia bluffs, was going through Rio Dell, or stabilize the roadbed where it is now, and build concrete snow/avalanche sheds to allow the slides to pass over them.
Comment by Paul Gardner on May 29, 2010 at 12:54am
The Welsh Highland Railway Line's website is: www.whrsoc.org.uk/WHRProject/index.htm
Have a great Weekend.
Paul
Comment by Paul Gardner on May 29, 2010 at 12:36am
I'd like to compare the Eel River section of the NWP with the Silverton section of the Denver and Rio Grande just after abandonment. A businessman, Mr. Bradshaw, saw the potential of this struggling little corner of the Rio Grande System and began by making improvements such as replicating cars and restoring motive power, replacing forty pound rail with eighty pound rail. He had trestles replaced that needed it. And he promoted the railroads scenic route to the travel industry.
Today this railway, now known as the Durango and Siverton, operates four ten car trains a day loaded with passengers who booked their reservations months in advance.
This line snakes through a steep river gorge that floods, has rockslides and is closed by heavy winter snows at the end of each operating season. The town of Durango and Silverton have benefitted from the business dollars that flow from the wallets of the hundreds of tourist that visit the area each day.
The Eel River section of the NWP , in my opinion , is a route of special scenic grandeur, every bit as wonderful as the Durango and Silverton Route. It needs the same attention to maintenance that any railroad needs, and it does have a few unique engineering problems. However, instead of focusing on the negative aspects of the line, let us realize the positive. Most of the line is still intact and with a bit of care can be quickly restored to service. Steps to restore the line have begun, and motive power and cars are on their way to returning to service.
The next step, is to promote to the community, its leadership, and the members of the tourist industry, the potential for increased tourist revenue and employment opportunities of the restored NWP Route.
Many new engineering techniques have been developed since the line was built and many of the Eel River Route's engineering problems can be solved by current tecnnology. For instance, in Switzerland, their railways use laser light to warn of slide activity near the tracks. Our own railroad industry has developed a rail vehicle that can weld a rail joint using an induction method that completes the weld in five minutes, where the old Thermit Welding method took and hour to complete. Current tunnel engineering uses injected clays and slurries that harden underground to restore weakened tunnels and culverts. BART uses a similar method to seal its transbay tunnel from the inside out using pressure injected epoxy resins.
In the Welsh countryside between the towns of Caernarfon and Porthmadog, the Welsh Highland Railway is about to open the entire restored thirty miles of railway which was abandoned in 1935. Their website is one of the most complete chronicles of a railway restoration project that I have ever seen. If you have any doubt that the Northwestern Pacific Eel River Route could ever be completed, just look at the engineering that went into the restoration of the Welsh Highland Line and BELIEVE!
Comment by Richard Todd on May 15, 2010 at 5:57am
The problem is always one of money!!!!! Both of these are very expensive. In addition, the Rio Dell solution requires the aquisition of expensive right of way. Another thing is that the view from the Bluffs is spectacular! It would be a tremendous draw. Any crossing of the Eel is no easy task. Just look at pictures of the 1964 flood. Another question about tunnelling through the soft soil of the ridge is the fact that this is a quake zone!
I'm afraid we are stuck with what the NWP left us, and thank God for it. I would love to be able to go to Humbolt County to ride a train from Samoa to Scotia, to have lunch in the Scotia Inn. As long as we are dreaming, how about being pulled by a restored #29?

Richard Todd
Comment by Paul Gardner on May 14, 2010 at 1:04pm
If the NWP line reopens for tourist service, there's still the Scotia Bluffs to contend with. I like to let my imagination run wild occasionally and I let it ponder the Scotia Buff problem and it came up with a couple of solutions, so here they are.

The first is to vere to the right just north of Rio Dell before entering the Buffs. There is a small river to be bridged with a trestle and then a tunnel would punch through the soft soil of the Bluffs using the tunneling system developed by the English to build the Tube. It consists of a ram that pushes through several feet of soil then returns to its starting position. A series of steel tunnel sets are bolted in place and then ram is returned and digs out several more feet. After emerging on the other side, the Van Duzen River would be bridged and the line would then reconnect with the former Carlotta line about two miles in total. Then on to Alton and the mainline.

.The second idea is to bridge the Eel River over to Rio Dell. Once there, the rail line would descend into a trench following the route of Highway 101 until it reaches the same elevation of the mainline. Then across another short trestle and on to Scotia.

I like the Rio Dell solution best. I allows another community to be connected to the system. I've heard that the Humbolt Area would like to have some sort of light rail service in the future, so this would augment that service. However, the first solution would be more flood damage resistant.
Comment by Richard Todd on April 11, 2010 at 5:12am
Paul,
The difference is that UP is talking about taking an operating line and upgrading it to 1st class standards. They have done this to several second and 3d class routes to improve speed and capacity.

The northern end of the NWP has traditionally been one of the most expensive lines in the US to maintain. If you can get copies of Fred Stindt's books on the NWP, you can read about sections of the line that kept line crews on site to put the rails back in position every day! It was not unusual for some sections to move 6-12 inches a week! The NWP hasn't been maintained for YEARS! In many ways, any attempt to rebuild will be starting over. In many places, the only thing still in place is knowing where the right of way is.

I recommend that you look at the photos of the right of way that are on the sight taken since the RR was abandoned. Wash outs, tunnel collapases, fills gone, bridges collapased rock slides over the rails, you name it, it has happrened.

Another factor is the increased environmental considerations that must be met in reconstructing the line.

Please don't get me wrong. I model the NWP in 1953. I spent my summers along the line growing up, when logging trains and long freights were the norm. I would love to see the line opened. But there has to be a viable economic reason for it! That means many carloads of freight! When SP made money on the line, (lots of money!) 100 car trains were the norm, with many locals working.

That potential source of revenue must be identified and secured before the line can be re-opened.

RT

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