Thursday, May 28, 2009

Conditions in the Lower Eel River Canyon

As seen on May 27, the Northwestern Pacific mainline has succumbed to a washout and the encroachment of vegetation in the vicinity of the Burger Creek Slide, immediately north of Tunnel No. 16 and Dos Rios (Christian Goepel photo).

Trains have not negotiated Northwestern Pacific’s incredibly remote and serpentine Eel River Canyon since 1998. In the ensuing 11 years, the mainline has fallen victim to damaging weather conditions, unstable geology, theft, and vandalism.

The future of the North Coast Railroad Authority’s Eel River Division north of Willits is speculative at this point. Even so, hardly a day passes when Northwestern Pacific Today does not receive an e-mail wondering about the present condition of the line in Mendocino, Trinity, and Humboldt counties.

Those interested in the railroad’s north end can watch a short multimedia presentation on YouTube containing photographs and video footage made in April by Jen Rice and Rick Sanchez – Hard Times on the Railroad: The Northwestern Pacific from a Boat’s Eye View. It provides a rare glimpse of track infrastructure and washouts along the 43 miles of mainline between Dos Rios and Alderpoint, mostly from water level.

Northwestern Pacific Today will post more information about NCRA’s Eel River Division as it becomes available.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Project Update: Lombard-Ignacio Section

Keith Powley of HNTB Corporation - also the resident engineer of track rehabilitation who works on behalf of the North Coast Railroad Authority - reports that 43,000 ties will soon be replaced by Balfour Beatty forces on the section of NWP mainline between Lombard and Ignacio. Rock is being trucked from Syar Industries in Napa to the NWP yard in Schellville now and ballasting of the 25-mile Lombard-Ignacio section will commence in June. Once the rehabilitation is complete, this trackage will be lifted to Class 3 standards.

In the above picture taken in Black Point on May 20, Powley is marking existing ties for replacement as Balfour Beatty employees behind him drop replacement ties at the appropriate locations.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

First Train in Marin County Since 2001

At 9:45 a.m. yesterday (May 20), a Schellville-originated Balfour Beatty work train carrying three loads of ties crossed the 98-year-old swing bridge at Black Point. This marked the first train movement over the venerable steel span and into Marin County since previous operator NWPY suspended service in September 2001.

The train creeps westward at a slow enough pace to allow Balfour Beatty workers to evenly distribute new ties along the mainline. This picture was taken at the approach to the Simon Slough bridge, 1.5 miles west of Black Point.

After completing the day's assignment, the work train shoves back to Schellville with the three empty cars. This picture was made in the tidelands at the west approach to the Black Point bridge.