How Much Is A Train Worth, Part Deux

“I rode the train today.”   

Speeder train at Samoa

        Now there’s a startling statement from a Humboldt resident.  Okay, it was only one of the speeders that the Timber Heritage Society is planning to run this summer, and only a 20 minute ride from Samoa Cooklouse to the point where the tracks get sketchy, but it was a train, by God. For train nuts like me, a quick fix is better than nothing.

      For all the talk in the news about trains lately, we seem to be moving further and further away from the reality of regular service.  The recent Prosperity exercise involved 19 “Citizen Action Teams”, two of which recommended at least exploring the feasibility of an east-west route from here to Gerber or thereabouts. Some of our most prominent citizens are advocating the study, which would  cost as little as $100K, but no one wants to pony up the money and, as we know, the County is strapped. Personally, I think if the matter could be laid to rest one way or another- What’s the cost? What’s the cargo? Will the Feds grant easements or sell off land?- I think the $100K would be well-spent.

(As a matter of disclosure, I served on the “Harbor Revitalization” team, although my role was mostly to provide publicity for the town meeting we had at the Labor Temple. Good turnout, lots of interest, lots of concerns.)

          The latest development is the pressure on the County supervisors to engage in “railbanking” the tracks around the Bay. I wouldn’t be so skeptical of railbanking if someone could give me just one example of tracks that were railbanked and successfully brought back to life as a railroad. They keep telling me they exist, but no one seems to have any specifics. Once you cover something with asphalt, it’s pretty much out of play.

          Yes, it’s hard out here for a train nut.  I’ll get my fix in October, when we’ll be riding the Empire Builder from Portland to Chicago (THE best Amtrak route).  But in Humboldt County unless the THS manages to get its round-the-bay tourist run going, no one is going to be saying, “I took the train today.”

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