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Don’t Trivialize Trains


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Beginning with the article's title, "Choo-choo Fantasies" (May 24), Ryan Burns seeks to trivialize the concept of an east-west railroad by ridiculing its potential supporters. This approach mirrors one used by our county's troglodytes (cave dwellers) to any proposal that might increase economic activity and prosperity. Another is to swamp it with "practical" objections. He does plenty of this, too.

Burns would have readers believe that those who have been discussing the east-west railroad are a small band of aging history buffs in love with a "fantasy." Far from it. Instead, they are a growing number of business and professional people and civic activists who understand that if an economy is not growing modestly and steadily, it is shrinking. There is no way to keep it static, like a fly in amber.

The group that thinks the east-west railroad may hold promise first wants a serious study of the route's feasibility. Modern day grade and curve standards must be taken into consideration, as must right-of-way ownership and environmental matters.

And, of course, one can't build a railroad if no one comes. One or more inbound shippers will be needed under contract, as will an interested shipping line. The group discussing the project is fully aware of these matters.

Mr. Burns would do well to meet with his publisher Judy Hodgson on this topic. In a 1990 article in the North Coast Journal, she wrote that in 1890 a committee of Red Bluff and Eureka citizens was formed to discuss such an idea. "A century later, it may be an idea whose time has come," she wrote. She also spelled out potential advantages of such a route: "It is shorter -- 125-140 miles vs. 250 to Oakland. ... The terrain is more stable. It crosses no rivers and requires no tunnels."

In the early 20th century the north-south route won out, partly for then-current economic reasons and partly for political reasons. Times have changed, but the characteristics of an east-west route that Hodgson wrote about are still there. It is time to seriously consider if it could be made a reality. 

William F. Barnum, Eureka



I enjoy a good pipe dream as much as these railroad guys. Sure, the 2 billion bucks could be better spent on education or health care for all. But a cool train! Until I heard of the evil, environment-killing plan to use it to haul coal toward Asia. No Way! 

Dave Ellis, Cutten



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