Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I understand that there is going to be a meeting tonight about the rail and harbor.
Rail and Port Revitalization Forum
Wednesday, August 20 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Wharfinger Building, 1 Marina Way, Eureka.

As one who loves trains, I would like to present as sound of an argument pro-train as I can. Without saying how I might feel about ANY proposed project, I would like to propose my own “rail down the Eel”.

The way that America got out of the last depression, was with work projects that put Americans back to work. Instead of just hiring people to break rocks and pay them for it, they paid them to build, or rebuild, America’s infrastructure. The railway down the canyon should be thought of as a work-project, an enviromental project, an infrastructure bebuilding project, and with the side benifit of gaining a railroad.

With all this talk about legalizing marijuana, they very well could legalize it. If that does happen, it is my opinion that it will drain Humboldt’s economy. We are going to need an economic boost in Humboldt County if we are able to remain here and survive. I know that there are those people that already “have theirs” and don’t care about the working people, but there are still people struggling to make an honest living, and need jobs.

They say the Eel canyon is too unstable to put a rail line through, if that is so, that would mean that there are many slides that now simply slide into the river and wash away. With an active rail line, those slides would have to be stabilized or hauled off if they landed on the tracks.
In Europe, their rail system does not make a profit, and is not expected to, it is part of the subsidized infrastructure and it is understood that it is a benefit to have. The whole world raves about the Euro-rail and their travel passes, and most of the freight in Europe is moved on their rails.

With good engineers the slides could be stabilized, bypassed, via ducted, and otherwise be dealt with in an environmentally sound way. Although expensive, think of the expense of it all, being spent right here at home on American workers that need good jobs! Call it economic recovery if you want. It is far better than spending our money off-shore to do the same thing in another country.

My point being, I would rather see American workers working to stabilize and clean up the Eel canyon, and end up with a working Railroad, than to pay them to sit on the couch, smoke dope, and bitch about the environment and stop progress.

As for what would happen to keep the rail alive. We have the worlds most erosive river, and an abundant supply of rock and gravel to ship out. I don’t anticipate the United States sucking the great industrial tit of China forever. Our forests are rapidly maturing and they could become a sustained industrial base for lumber. Yes! logging can be done in an environmentally sound way. We already have a large dairy and Cattle industry that needs the rail. Who knows, fishing might come back.

All that I know is that we can’t survive without producing something to make a living from.

Can a freight train really move a ton of freight 436 miles on a gallon of fuel?
Yes, and some do even better. The figure used in the rail industry's advertising is a national average.


Anonymous said...

Ship out gravel Ernie? lol. Oh boy, as though there is a gravel shortage elsewhere? As though there are no serious implications to the environment?

I agree works projects helped get the country out of the depression. But they were done on projects that made sense, financially. In essence, the project would lead to a huge windfall. That won't happen here Ernie.

Humboldt county would be better off spending 1billion on the high speed rail network between SF and LA. Sad but true.

Rose said...

You are the kind of person who creates, Ernie - a "can-do" personality. The opposite of a naysayer. The kind of person who made this country great.

You're out on a limb here. Can-do is not the popular sentiment these days. Cry-poor is.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I wish I knew if you were the wise Anon, or the dumb one, or the just plain vicious one, but I’m going to go with wise.

A freight train will need to haul a variety of products. Gravel being one of them. A freight train could put two tons of gravel into San Francisco with a gallon of fuel. Still laughing out loud? Hard rock is a more likely shipped product, gravel being a by-product, and the river gravel could be used as base material for roads and railroads. We would probably not be able to make a good point for being pro-motherhood either if it weren’t for everyone being so enthusiastically willing.

A hardware store is not viable just selling carpet tacks either, when they built the store, they knew that they would have to have to rely on more than one product. The trains will loose money greasing the wheels also, but I hope that they do it!

Your estimate of a high-speed rail sounds like a bargain! Spend another two billion and put the high-speed all the way to Eureka if you really want to make California a state to visit. Some of us are tired of looking at movie stars. Some of us would like to take a trip through the redwoods. But, I’m willing to settle for a slow moving freight train right now.

samoasoftball said...

It seems the subject of the rail always stirs strong emotions both ways. I will be there tonight to try to wade through the numbers.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Wouldn’t it be nice if we spent so much on our infrastructure, that we couldn’t afford a war. Instead of the other way around?

I would not call my pro-railroad emotions as strong as my pro-job emotions. We have limited opportunities with no railroad, but it is not economically viable, so it needs some other excuse to exist, like jobs, or future jobs. It would have to be built with economic relief dollars. But, I don’t think that anyone is going to offer us any “Dollars” unless we present a united front, and show a strong desire to help ourselves… Yeah, right! Trails anyone?

Rose said...

McClintock gives an interesting speech about what happened when California made a conscious decision NOT to invest in its infrastructure, and the results now that we are many years down the road.

I don't know if it is available online, maybe I'll google around and see if I can find it.

But it doesn't have anything to do with war funding - it started when were in that brief period of time where the threat from Russia had ended, and it looked like war might finally be almost obsolete. Long before Bosnia, long before Saddam and long before 911.

Anonymous said...

Just think ernie, pot could be shipped cheaper and safer on a rail line. I'm sure there are a couple farmers on the East Branch of the Eel.
Logging!? Do you think there are any left in that country that would work that hard trading hours for dollars? Just wondering.


Anonymous said...

I have figured out a way to have trails and rails. first we get all the trail advocates who want to make the railways into trailways, and get them hiking along the tracks, and then we simply start the trains back up. After a while we will no longer have them trail advocates trying to get rid of the rails. Our only problem will be washing all the crap off the front of the locomotives.

: )

Ernie Branscomb said...

Well, I don't know if I would go that far. But, I have to admit that I laughed, so I must be a little sick.

Sick humor is always welcome, as long as it's humor! Oh, what the hell, as long as it's sick!

lodgepole said...

Good post Ernie. It seems there is no shortage of work to be done, yet so many are out of work. I just wonder with this whole rail can't be done thing....has civilization peaked out and were now going backwards?

capdiamont said...

Ernie, I think their post was to spend the money on something else, not that it would cost one billion for HS rail to come up here. HS rail costs around 50 to 70 million a mile. That was from talking to the executive director at the California High Speed rail agency.

Another problem with HS rail is it needs lots of concrete for it's structures, for grade separation, etc. This means gravel, etc. Yet people don't want mining of any type. Where do we get it from then? Canada and Mexico. I'm sure Mexico has real good environmental laws. These are the same folks that tell you to buy local.
Yes there is a gravel shortage, another cause of higher prices of concrete. Which drives up home construction costs, and makes them less affordable to buy.

Anonymous said...

I have recently walked on the banks of the eel river and I assure you there is no gravel shortage.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I think that he meant gravel that was available. It is quite a process to remove gravel from the river bar, with all of the environmental restrictions and all.

I agree that environmental concerns should be addressed, but beyond that, gravel should be made to be readily available. Indeed after the ‘64 floor the Army Corp of Engineers were proposing to dredge it at great expense.

If America wants to rebuild our infrastructure again, we will need gravel for construction. Building with concrete is much more environmentally sound than steel, because of factory pollution. Even when we buy our steel from China, the most polluting country in the world, The steel mill pollution blows right over us a few days later.

The only way to control pollution is make our own stuff the right way, out of Eel River gravel. I know, it’s a idea before it’s time, but it will occur someday.

Anonymous said...

Oh there is still plenty of gravel available at currently permitted locations, especially the one north of scotia near the new bridge, they have so much freaking gravel they are trying to get the railway and port back so they can sell it, as it is the local market for gravel is pretty well saturated and only by transporting the raw material can it be sold. although without many piles of government subsidies it will sit on the riverbar and they will not see the profits they would like. Honestly I think the schools probably need the funding more than the transportation industry, but we will see who's been greasing the wheels at the capital building.