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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.