Blowing Smoke

| June 14, 2012

Editor:

I thought the article about the fantasy train idea was great; local journalism at its best. I also thought it treated Mr. Barnum, if not his plan, with rather surprising respect, since Barnum seems to be entirely in either denial or the dark about the plausibility of a project involving the expenditure of billions of dollars that currently don’t exist to build a railroad to serve a need that probably never will exist. Sure, it’s nice that people have nostalgic dreams about the Golden Age of Railroading, but I don’t think that qualifies them as transportation planners.

So when I saw the letter from Ms. Bonino (Mailbox, May 31) accusing the NCJ and the reporter of being biased and untruthful, and just “not lik[ing] the railroad,” I felt moved to respond. Ms. Bonino’s main points seem to be that the article unfairly slammed Mr. Barnum for his immense knowledge of “people, ideas, truth and happiness” -- a level of insight the NCJ can “only dream” of achieving -- and that railroads cause less damage to the environment than other transportation options. Both claims seem beside the point. Thus, while Mr. Barnum may well be more admirable than the ink-stained wretches at the NCJ, if Jesus himself came down from Heaven and proposed that we all take up shovels and dig a canal from here to Albuquerque so we could run excursion boats, I’d be opposed, even if Rob Arkley himself was heading up the opposition. And I’m crazy about canals, and recognize how efficient they can be in some situations, just like railroads. Unfortunately, according to the very convincing case made in the article, we’re not  in a situation where the railroad in question makes any sense, because there is no money to build it or run it, or customers to use it, and building and running a train through forest land would be enormously destructive.

Given the practical absurdity of the plan, and the fact that it is supported by a hard-headed billionaire who will go unnamed for possibly for the first time in NCJ history, my cynical response is that Mr. Barnum and others are being used by pro-development forces who don’t intend to spend one cent of their money on the railroad, but are pushing the idea in order to make responsible politicians like Mark Lovelace come out against it, thereby leaving them open to the charge that they’re environazis who hate the working man. Or maybe it’s all a joke, and Mr. Barnum’s name is intended as a clue that we’re being flimflammed in fun.

Bill Hassler, Mckinleyville

 

Editor:

William F. Barnum complains (Mailbox, June 7) that rail advocates are being ridiculed by reporter Ryan Burns, but he then goes on to dismiss detractors of the imagined rail as "troglodytes" and characterizes those who question the logic behind the scheme as people who oppose "any proposal that might increase economic activity and prosperity."

If Mr. Barnum's proposition had real merit, he might not be so thin-skinned about "practical objections."

Joel Mielke, Eureka

Comments (1)

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I also think that an East-West Train is not practical. We already have a Railroad Line From Eureka to Oakland and beyond that only needs extensive repairs. It was only functioning for over 75 Years. In those days they had better technology and engineers that knew how to get the job done and not just how to charge. The big problem is that the US abandoned the best train system in the world to sell more gas and cars and pave over the country for trillions of dollars. As someone who rode on top of the freight train both for transportation South and just the ride; I can tell you that besides freight, a lot of people would take the train through the Wine Country and the Incredible Eel River Canyon both headed North and South. It beats the hell out paying an arm and a leg to be abused by the airlines. Of course the best use for the Balloon Track is a God damned Train Station, not a Home Depot

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Posted by Richard Bennett on 06/15/2012 at 1:39 PM
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