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Tourist railroad asks agency to drop railbank plan

By | January 24, 2022

Roaring Camp Railroads says forced abandonment for freight use would have ‘highly negative impact’

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Maroon locomotive leads train with holiday lights down street at night
Maroon locomotive leads train with holiday lights down street at night
Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific CF7 2600 No. leads a Holiday Lights train along the Santa Cruz Boardwalk on Dec. 27, 2021. (Keith Fender)

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission is considering a forced abandonment of a branch line owned by Roaring Camp Railroads as part of a move to railbank the line for possible future commuter-rail use — a move opposed by Roaring Camp.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports Roaring Camp, which operates the seasonal Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific, is asking the commission to reject the plan to abandon the Felton branch, saying in a statement that “loss of the right to freight use would have a highly negative impact on Roaring Camp’s business and would represent the first step in a larger, special interests-fueled effort to end rail service in Santa Cruz County.”

The commission said it will receive a report in February on a potential adverse abandonment.

“The RTC is pursuing the construction of a bicycle and pedestrian trail and has done significant planning for future commuter passenger rail and continued excursion passenger rail on the RTC-owned Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line,” RTC said in a statement to the newspaper. “Railbanking the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line, north of Watsonville, would eliminate the need for additional costly repairs on the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line, estimated to be approximately $50-$65 [million], needed for freight service beyond Watsonville.”

The commission said there is no active freight service on the Felton branch, but Roaring Camp CEO Melani Clark says railbanking would preclude future freight operations by downgrading the route’s infrastructure. The commission said it would prefer an agreement with Roaring Camp to an adverse abandonment proceeding, but negotiations have been unsuccessful.

13 thoughts on “Tourist railroad asks agency to drop railbank plan

  1. That’s right, spend millions so 17 people a day can walk and ride and take away any possible future use of a real transportation alternative, a train. These people are nitwits.

  2. It’s baffling to even claim that there would be future freight service to a tourist boardwalk, while there is clearly demand for the passenger rail to connect to the rest of the state.

    1. Not sure if there is demand, but there is no conflict between limited freight service and passenger rail, with good planning.

    2. About a mile, or two north of Roaring Camp (Felton) is an inactive gravel pit. In the late ’80’s early ’90’s an occasional freight train hauled gravel over the SCBT&P to the (then) SP at Davenport Jct, and from there to Watsonville Jct. over the Santa Cruz/Davenport Branch. Demand for gravel is enough that the quarry between Watsonville Jct and Gilory along the Pajaro River (on UP’s Coast line) suffices. There is also a lumber yard and potential customer immediately north of Roaring Camp on the opposite side of SCBT&P track and their parking lot.

      1. There’s still the cement plant at Davenport as well, it’s not shuttered like many seem to think, the only problem is it’s run by Cemex.

      1. Mr. Shigley is not correct. Most of the Felton Branch (beyond the wye near the Boardwalk) was purchased long ago by Roaring Camp Railroads. The county owns the remainder of the track from Watsonville Junction to Davenport (a small part of which Roaring Camp uses to reach the Boardwalk). That’s why this is an “adverse abandonment” application – it cuts off any access to Roaring Camp’s track from the rail network.

      2. The Felton Branch is owned by Roaring Camp, the Santa Cruz Branch is owned by the Regional Transportation Commission.

  3. Is the commission willing to allow the Roaring Camp access to the beach area? I would think the Chamber of Commerce would want a voice in that decision/

  4. This is the work of one man named Brian Peoples. He is a known control freak who has created two groups known as Trail Now and Greenway, both with the goal of ripping the rails out and replacing them with a trail. His goals are to: 1) Allow his rich friends to expand their properties onto the old right-of-way, 2) Launder money off both organizations, and 3) Stroke his own inflated ego.

    He doesn’t care that ripping up the rails will cause more traffic jams on Highway 1 OR worsen the air quality, he just wants money and power at all costs.

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