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Washington state heritage railroad suspends operations

By | March 7, 2022

Insurance issues could lead to permanent closure of Chehalis Centralia Railroad & Museum

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Logo of the Chehalis Centralia Railroad and Museum

Logo of the Chehalis Centralia Railroad and MuseumCHEHALIS, Wash. — An inability to obtain insurance has forced the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad & Museum to suspend passenger operations until further notice, and perhaps for good.

The heritage rail operation posted a notification on its Facebook page Saturday that it would halt operations, saying it was “looking to resume operations as soon as we are able to do so” and will refund all tickets that had been purchased for its upcoming Easter Eggspress trains.

The Centralia Chronicle reports that railroad president James Folk informed members in a letter that the shutdown was over insurance. “Many of you have heard that we were having difficult getting operating liability insurance,” he wrote. “Today we received the final answer from our broker that we are not able to get this insurance.”

Folk’s letter said no company was willing to insure the railroad for at least a year and probably longer, and that the organization will face “some very difficult decisions” at a March 9 board meeting.

“The most likely outcome of all this is that we will be shutting down permanently,” he wrote. “It is my intention to see that we are able to wrap up current projects as much as possible over the next few months to leave our equipment in the best possible shape for any future opportunities that may come up.”

The organization was founded as the non-profit Chehalis-Centralia Railroad Association in 1986 to restore Cowlitz, Chehalis & Cascade No. 15, a Baldwin 2-8-2 built in 1916. It began scheduled passenger operations from Chehalis, roughly midway between Seattle and Portland, Ore., in 1989, and has operated about 10 miles of former Milwaukee Road track. The steam locomotive has been sidelined for repairs, with the railroad operating using GE 65-ton center-cab diesel No. 6, formerly of the Puget Sound Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash.

8 thoughts on “Washington state heritage railroad suspends operations

  1. There are countless heritage railways in the US that, I assume, have obtained insurance coverage. What is unique about this one?

    1. It’s a steam railroad. No one wants to insure a tourist railroad with a steam locomotive anymore after the Durango & Silverton wildfire debacle.

      1. I like the idea of permanent closure. Like any business, a tourist railroad should not be operating in a fiscally hostile environment.

  2. State of Washington. I would check to see if the state has made changes to their liability laws, specifically around railroads. After the UP oil spill in the Columbia Gorge, there was a movement to hold railroads more liable for their operations.

    I would check to see if the liability minimum standards were elevated.

    1. Probably the case, and the idiot legislature forgot to carve out an exemption for tourist operations…this is nothing to say of the need to reform liability laws nationwide(or just have national cap on liability, which would piss off thousands of lawyers, but they’re a pox on society as it is).

        1. The war over liability caps ended when the trial lawyers found out their enemy was the medical malpractice lawyers. When they realized that their dispute was leading to a reduction in overall legal fees, they both stopped arguing immediately and the discussion on caps stopped the next day. Not a peep since.

  3. Insurance companies don’t make money paying claims. There must be a better way than “no, so sue us”.

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