Freight Train Returns to Petaluma

The test train ran through earlier this week.

It was supposed to arrive in downtown Petaluma at 1:30pm Friday. Instead, the freight train filled with two carloads of grain, chugged into the railroad depot at 4:45pm, more than three hours behind schedule.

Around 1pm Friday, a crowd started gathering at the Petaluma Visitor's Center in hopes of catching a glimpse of the train. But only the very patient were rewarded as the train made numerous stops on its way from Schelville.

The goal of the trip was to test bridge stamina, as it crossed Haystack Bridge and several others on the journey to town. It then delivered the grain to before turning around.

"The idea is the bridges have to hold 286,000 pounds...our locomotive is pulling two rail cars with trains so we can test how the bridges perform," said Mitch Stogner, executive director of the North Coast Railroad Authority. He added that there were no problems along the way, but the journey was slow because the train stopped numerous times.

Officials initially said that freight train service would be resumed by mid June, but had to push back the date after an environmental group, Friends of the Eel River, threatened a lawsuit over environmental damage they said the train would cause in the Russian River area.

Novato city council is expected to rule on an agreement at their July 12 meeting, after which the NCRA expects to run the line three-days per week from Petaluma up to Windsor.

Jaimey Walking Bear June 25, 2011 at 06:30 PM
Was hoping for more cars than just 2, but trains FTW!
pj June 25, 2011 at 10:06 PM
Is there ANYTHING the environmentalists don't try to quash? They've caused more harm than good. They shut of the water in the San Joaquin Valley to save the smelt, but killed thousands of trees that have produced FOOD, not to mention all the people who are now starving on food stamps. They've become ridiculously out of hand. But then, all liberals ARE! Their regulations have destroyed CA. Any wonder why businesses are moving OUT of CA taking jobs with them, and no one is moving IN?? It's a no brainer.
Dick Foster June 26, 2011 at 04:13 AM
I have heard the horn almost everyday during the testing period. Great sound and a welcome addition to the move toward better transportation into the upper reaches of Norther California. Some groups would appose a cart and horse or donkey as unsafe and enviromentally a bad idea. Get a life. Things like on locomotive can haul more than ten or more diesel trucks beating up our highways and causing smelly odors everywhere.
Bookworm June 26, 2011 at 04:18 PM
Easy to sound off, but remember, the environmentalists stopped a nuclear power plant from being built at Bodega Head and stopped Point Reyes from being turned into a big hotel complex, and warned that the Factory Outlets would flood... BTW, lots of businesses are moving IN to California. Just saying they're moving out doesn't make it so. I think it is better to check out the merits of each project, rather than condemn everyone who thinks it might not be a good idea.
Jon Johnsen June 26, 2011 at 05:04 PM
When I was in first grade at Phillip Sweed Elementary School (Mrs. Taylor's class), our class road a passenger car from Petaluma to San Rafael (I think), where some of our mothers picked us up and returned us to Phillip Sweed. Quite a few years later, I shipped (railroaded) my college luggage from that same Petaluma station to Pasadena, and then took a train from San Francisco to Pasadena a few days later. Maybe those days will return while I acn still enjoy them?
David Keller June 26, 2011 at 07:07 PM
Friends of the Eel River, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics and others in the North Coast are concerned that NCRA's Final EIR fails to provide critical information to NCRA Board members and the public prior to certifying it. For instance, NCRA failed to clean up toxics in both Eel River and Russian River Division right-of-ways as required by a 1999 Consent Decree. NCRA shows no specific plans or funding to do so, nor how it will protect the soil, water, air, fish and wildlife from potential and likely future toxic releases all too common in rail operations. Contrary to law, the EIR failed to consider and address the 'segmentation', of their freight operations, artificially separating the operations of the southern Russian River Division from the northern Eel River Division, despite business plans that require both for economic viability. This includes opening the huge open-pit Island Mountain mine in the Eel River Canyon. The Eel River is designated as a U.S. "Wild and Scenic River", despite a century of environmental abuse, loss of commercial and recreational fisheries and tourism, and uncompensated diversions of waters to the Russian River. It is a vital economic resource to California's North Coast, and deserves to be treated with legal respect and long-term environmentally sustainable practices and stewardship. The EIR for resumption of freight rail service abjectly fails to do that. As a publicly funded rail operation we expect and deserve better.
Marshall West June 26, 2011 at 10:26 PM
I personally witnessed the trial run through Petaluma as it passed our Depot on Lakeville. People were honking and waving, as I was. Good times are a'coming! Anything to take those monster trucks off our freeways is welcome.
Bookworm June 27, 2011 at 06:43 PM
Thank you, David Keller, for clarifying the issues brought up by Friends of the Eel River, etc. If a 1999 Consent Decree mandated the cleanup of toxics, and NCRA has no plan to do so, how can we believe that NCRA will will act responsibly and protect our local environment? In addition to wanting NCRA to be an ethical partner here, I also agree that the Eel River and Russian River right-of-ways clean-up plans need to be put in place before we allow an extension of operations. I very much want to see the trains back in Petaluma - but like a marriage, it has to be done thoughtfully, ethically, and honestly, without perpetuating harm elsewhere.
Robert J. Cleek June 27, 2011 at 08:04 PM
Please give it, and us, a rest. Inform yourself instead of chugging the Kool Aid. Read the NCRA's "FAQ's": http://www.northcoastrailroad.org/Acrobat/Frequently_Asked_Questions.pdf There is a federal consent decree mandating NCRA's clean up of all toxic waste left, not by NCRA, but by the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads during their operation of the right of way. The NCRA is in compliance with that consent decree and has millions of dollars applied to that task. If the NCRA is in violation of that clean-up court order, why hasn't the federal court cited them? Mmmm? It will take years to complete the clean-up of what the SP and UP left behind when they abandoned the route. The NCRA is a taxpayer owned agency of the State of California, which means US, not THEM. If the NCRA did not exist and did not operate this vital North Coast transportation link, NOBODY would be cleaning up ANYTHING. A clean and well-stewarded enviornment is essential to the welfare of us all. That said, there is no rational basis for the proposition that everything has to be returned to "wilderness" at the expense of human welfare. If you think that a huge segment of the Redwood Empire, and particularly Humbolt Bay, is going to be effectively economically cut off and abandoned so you can go backpacking in a "wilderness," you're just not thinking clearly. Nature and a rail line can coexist quite peacefully, particularly one that's been there for over 100 years!
Robert J. Cleek June 27, 2011 at 08:27 PM
"Bookworm," you haven't done your reading. The NCRA's clean-up plan in compliance with the Consent Decree, including the complete assessment and color photos of the problems existing as of 2002 may be found at: http://www.northcoastrailroad.org/consent.html (All seventy pages of it.) There is a lot of mess left by the prior operators, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific railroads. NCRA has the problems left by its predecessors well in hand. "Like a marriage..." you thought your spouse was late getting home because they were out partying and instead they'd only stopped at the florist to buy you roses.
Bookworm June 28, 2011 at 05:09 AM
I am happy to hear other information regarding the rail situation. Robert Cleek, you and David Keller may have differing views on the situation, but I merely said that this needs to be done thoughtfully, ethically, and honestly, without perpetuating harm elsewhere. I am open to hearing your point of view and educating myself more thoroughly as to to the issues, and I appreciate your sending me the link.


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