“It’s alive! It’s ALIVE!!!” MOLA:42’s Guide to Playing With Railroads


MOLA:42’s Guide to Playing With Railroads


It was a dark and stormy night (Oh-oh, here we go…); Baron Docktor Von Arkley Count of Humboldt is in his laboratory overseeing the completion of a long held dream. He is surrounded by instruments humming, whirling, flashing while outside the lightning hurtles about as if launched by the angry gods; the thunder booming like an admonition of the Titans.

“Gans!” the Baron Docktor cries to his assistant, “Release the trial balloons!”demon train

“Yes Master.”

The Baron Docktor gazes lovingly upon the operating table. There lies the hideous amalgamation of several model train locomotives, parts acquired during many midnight forays.


“Yes Master.”

“Prepare…. Plan B!”

“Master, NOT Plan B!”

“Yes Gans, PLAN B!”

“But Master, WHY must it be Plan B?”

“Because Plan A didn’t work and Plan Nine has already been taken.”

“Yes Master.” Gans lopes to the switch marked “Plan B” and waits.

“Master, do I do it now?”

“No Gans, we must wait for the right moment.” The Baron Docktor observes anxiously the increasing manic intensity of the storm. Suddenly he cries out, “Now Gans! NOW!”

Gans throws the switch, electricity arcs from instrument to instrument, sparks fly through the air, the laboratory glows blue with the pent up energy.

Suddenly the lab explodes but in that moment the deformed and gruesome locomotive moves forward an inch. Baron Docktor Von Arkley Count of Humboldt shrieks to the Universe:

“It’s alive! It’s ALIVE!!!”

And somehow his creation continues to lurch forth, despite all reason, despite all attempts by the local peasantry to put the monster down for good.

Please don’t get me wrong, I like trains as much as the next fellow. They are kind of fun. And in many places in the world there is still a role for trains. Just not here.

First: Railroads are really expensive to build. A $20,000 feasibility study showed that the proposed East-West train project would cost a billion dollars OR MORE to build. Being unhappy with the results of this study, the railroad fans are working toward starting a $300,000 feasibility study in hopes that if they put larger amounts of money into the process they will get a different answer more to their liking.

Second: Railroads are expensive to maintain. In this part of the world, the geology does not love trains. Tracks near rivers are especially subject to spectacular failure but the truth is the makeup of the local mountains through which the train tracks must be laid is unstable and prone to sliding out.

Third: Trains can be an ecological disaster in the making. A train hits a section of said unstable track and over it goes into the river. Fuel and cargo are dumped and now we have a problem. Plus, the building of this railroad places a huge scar on the landscape which has far reaching effects.

Fourth: It needs to make economic sense before this titanic monetary expenditure should be wagered.

At first I thought Number Four was the strongest point against reviving the railroad. The local railroad died in the first place because the cost for the maintenance of the line was a whole lot greater than the revenues the railroad could generate.

zombie railroad

a new way for folks to get to Eureka

However, it was announced that there is a plan afoot to haul coal to China and bring back goods from China through our “Deep Water” port.

So really Arkley is a Patriot. He wants to ship even more coal to China (have you seen pictures of the atmosphere there?) so their air gets even more toxic and kills all those Chinese Commies. With any luck, the killer smog will drift toward Moscow and wipe out all those Neo-Soviet Ruskies too.  But I digress…

Yes, this project just might pencil out.

Or it might not.

All this assumes there is a viable deep water port for that railroad to go.

Every few years around a million dollars is spent dredging Humboldt Bay. This isn’t to expand shipping capacity; this is just to maintain what we already have (enough for not-too-large cruise ships to use one at a time).

So, we are talking about a much more intense dredging arrangement, we are talking about building the infrastructure to handle all of that coal and we are talking about building the infrastructure to handle all those containers.

Pop Quiz: Do ships that haul coal also haul containers? For Bonus Points: Do train cars that haul coal also haul containers? Pencils down.

I’m all for renovating the bay’s industrial infrastructure; but for reasonable economic aims. And so far even providing a stopover point for cruise ships hasn’t proven to be all that economically reasonable.

The “Build It and They Will Come” crowd and the “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!!!” flock never want to see that our bay, as wonderful as it is, is not well placed for this intense form of rail and harbor investment. There are other ports on the west coast with far more convenient access to the rail networks. They don’t need billion dollar rail construction; they don’t need to constantly dredge their harbors so big ships can get in.

So… WHY?

I don’t know.

Perhaps Mr. Arkley longs for the days of the “Empire Builders,” who almost on a whim set the laborers off to build a railroad wherever they wanted and there was no one able to stop them. You didn’t bother to worry about who got in the way (troublesome Indians and/or pesky farmers) and you never needed to be concerned about the environment you were tearing up as you went along.

You know, the “Good Old Days.”

Mr. Arkley, I believe, dreams of being an “Empire Builder”. But since he’s using other people’s money to fund feasibility studies and public entities to front his efforts… he doesn’t appear to want to do his Empire Building on his own dime.

As for all the others who want the railroad to return (North to South, West to East): I suggest they build dioramas in the extra rooms of their homes and break out their HO-scale model train sets.

Perhaps that will satisfy their urges.


Standard Disclaimer: My opinions are my own and not necessarily those of the Tuluwat Examiner.  I am not on the staff of the Tuluwat Examiner. I don’t even know who these people are. But I have learned that the staff members of the Tuluwat Examiner are extreme thrill seekers eagerly awaiting the chance to see fully loaded coal trains screaming through Old Town.

They hope to watch coal trains chase down VW vans full of terrified hippies.burning train



15 thoughts on ““It’s alive! It’s ALIVE!!!” MOLA:42’s Guide to Playing With Railroads

  1. Between the downsizing of what seems as ill run LLC’s and not stepping up to the plate and cleaning up the balloon tract how many “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! has the Honorable Dr Von Arkley already cost us locally ?? I wonder how that little matter with Bank Of America is working out for him ??

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The 50 Million Robbie owes B of A that they wont forgive. With all his assets frozen so he can’t play the shell game and leave us all holding the bill again. I wonder if Robbie moving to New Orleans helped? The old JOBS, JOBS, JOBS…Just like Virginia said the last election and never produced too.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. There is a derailed oil train burning in a nice Virginia river (the James River) in downtown Lynchburg as we type.

    Is this what you have in store for Humboldt Bay?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I guess the message from the comments here is we shouldn’t bother with trains. An accident might happen?


  5. Fred, an accident is when a car runs into a power pole. It can involve pain but usually only involves a few people.

    When a shale oil train derails and blows up in your downtown, dropping heavy crude into your river or bay, that is a disaster, at least a potential one.

    Lac-Megantic, Canada was the scene of a derailment with 47 dead and an obliterated downtown.

    Its a matter of scale.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah, to dream the impossible dream. But it does keep him occupied and, hopefully, out of our hair. However, he is like a bad penny, just keeps coming back.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ever been in Roseburg Or.? A derailed fuel train wiped out about five blocks of downtown.


  8. If this whole railroad idea is such a fiscally viable scheme, why isn’t some private entity funding it. It never ceases to amaze me how the same folks who want goverment out of the marketplace so it can be all free and laissez fair and stuff want it all up in there when it comes to funding this kind of malarkey. I think it would benefit many property owners along the proposed right of way if they could sell while people thought this was going to happen. Even if nothing ever came of it, they could make some money…..

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Question: Who has been responsible for cleanup with these dishasters? It doesnt seem that the companies involved hop up to fix it, BP was too busy blaminhg everyone else, if I recall correctly the Army had to bring in drinking water to the victims of the chemical spill in Virginia, FEMA usually gets involved, but there should be less regulations and taxes? Shouldnt they have their own methods for dealing with disasters?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Fred, the message is that it is not a viable transport system in the N. Calif. unstable coastal mountains. There is not enough freight to move here even if we had a working port, and the ecologically sensitive environment here would take a bg hit if a derailment happened. Just look at the derailment yesterday on the east coast. 50,000 gallons of crude down the river. If rail was a money maker here, the rails would be back by now. The timber industry was what kept it going before and timber is not king anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think a train up here is viable, either, for some of the same reasons you have, and some others. Still, if you’re going to have heavy industry with good paying jobs, there will always be a risk of something going wrong.

      It is also remarkable the vitriol that is raised here and elsewhere by those poo- pooing the idea of using rail to actually bring commerce to the area. Those same people are likely strong supporters of the high speed rail plan for Southern CA.

      That idea will cost at the very least tens of billions of dollars more than current estimates for being thrown around for either a east- west or north south rail up here, Yet the HSR plan will simply take people to the same places they’re already going to, to do the same things they’re already doing.

      But bring the suggestion of increased commerce to a train project, that brings out the derision.


  11. Fred Mangles:

    I don’t know if I would call what has been said here about local train schemes “vitriol”; perhaps “frustration” is a better word for how many of us feel. This train business has been going on for some time now and if anything it just gets bigger and more fantasy driven as it goes along. And on top of that, a good deal of time and money is spent for this chimera that would be better spent elsewhere.

    And no matter how hard we try to keep the discussion based on a somewhat fact-based plane; the train advocates will not listen. So if we are a tad touchy on the subject… well it’s not a good thing but perhaps it is understandable.

    As I said in the article, trains are a good idea in some places, a bad idea in others.

    I’m not as familiar as I should be with the attempt to start up a “bullet train” type of operation in Southern California. To my ear, it seemed like one of those “It sounded like good idea at the time” propositions that get stuck somewhere on the way and went out of control.

    Perhaps I did vote for it… because it sounded like a good idea at the time. I certainly am fallible.


  12. All:

    Once again thank you for commenting and bringing your own points of view into the discussion.

    I was hoping a pro-train advocate or two would have also commented… they tend not to be shy in the face of adversity but in this case I guess we scared them off.

    The loss is ours as well as their’s.

    I think the accident comments are valid and need to be considered just in case fantasy does win out and we do have trains rolling through Old Town Eureka. All it would take to jump-start disaster would be just one VW Van full of terrified hippies to get things going (or a mini-van complete with soccer mom and kids).

    I would like to thank once again the Staff of the Tuluwat Examiner for the excellent use of their images in the body of my article. I admit on Wednesdays when I first look over my stuff in the TE I see what has been done with the pictures first.

    I also would like to thank the TE for being gracious enough to allow me two shots at their readership this week.


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