A reader sends word that the Union Pacific short line recently operated as the Willamette Valley Railway between Silverton and Stayton may be abandoned soon.
|Willamette Valley Railway Shortline (yellow)|
between Silverton and Stayton
[S]ervice to Stayton was suspended in January 2012 after a storm compromised the tracks north of Aumsville. Operators of the Willamette Valley Railway have been seeking abandonment for much more of the track, reportedly everything south of Mt. Angel.The paper said there was some interest in an excursion train, but the cost seemed prohibitive.
“There hasn’t been a train here for two years, plus, at this point in time,” [Stayton City Planner Dan] Fleishman said.
He said area businesses that were customers of the rail line prior to the 2012 halt included Wilco and RedBuilt Engineered Wood Products. NORPAC, which has spurs to its food processing plant, has not used the service in years, and Fleishman said a representative from the company indicated little interest.
|North-south route follows low elevations|
in Waldo Hills, parallels Howell Prairie Road
|Gov. T.T. Geer|
(Not to mention its link to the Geer line, an east-west spur into Salem that parallels State Street, and links to the Geer family, and the fact that Governor Geer biked and signed Oregon's first bike path legislation. A trail here should be named after Governor Geer - the Geer Trail!)
|Geer rode his bike|
The railroad between Silverton and Stayton is only weeks away from being abandoned. After the application to abandon the line is filed with the Surface Transportation Board, the public has only a few weeks to file an application with the STB to let them know of the intent to convert the railroad right of way to a trail. The application should come from a public agency such as Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The OPRD manages several rails to trails in Oregon.This is one of those rare opportunities, and at the moment may require acting first and asking questions later.
We talk about how our approach to road building inclines us towards building new shiny things before maintaining old, existing, and tattered things. Parks and Recreation is no different, and we should be aware that new parks also require future maintenance. And who knows how you'd pay for the trail construction.
At the same time, railroads near cities aren't abandoned every day, and at the very least, this one is worth a more detailed look to determine its recreational possibilities. With such a path, some people might even commute between Salem and Silverton, especially in the summer.
There are real possibilities here worth a closer look. Opportunity is knocking!
Contact Rocky Houston and Steve Kay with State Parks and Recreation to let them know this is a rare opportunity and deserves further study.
With enough interest, the next steps can be formulated.
(Obviously there's more to this story and we'll update the post or post further on it.)
Update, May 2nd
So the Stayton reporter for the SJ got info from the operator, who suggests that he's not "weeks away" from abandoning it:
“Right now we haven’t filed anything,” said David Root, general manager of Willamette Valley Railway, which operates the rail service between Woodburn and Stayton, including the stretch in question south of Silverton.It still seems like a very much worthwhile exercise to lay the groundwork for a potential filing should the line remain uneconomical. At the same time, as a former rail administrator notes on a comment to the story,
That stretch hasn’t seen an engine roll south since winter 2012 when storms compromised the tracks in a half dozen places, including one spot near Macleay that cost the railroad $8,000 to repair. Willamette Valley Railway repaired that area and buttressed the others enough to get an engine and railcars of goods out of the Stayton area.
Root said he is currently in the process of penciling out a feasibility study that will underscore how much commerce, how many railcars of goods, would be needed to ship in and out of the area south of Silverton each year to make that part of the railway’s business worthwhile.
He said it was feasible as recently as a half-decade ago before recession and other circumstances syphoned off a significant chunk of the shipping.
“We’re having discussions with Union Pacific (owner of the track), and discussions about services,” Root said.
And, yes, he added, discussions about abandoning the rail south of Silverton.
if you believe in a healthy economy and envirnomentally sustainable transportation, then you should want to save the railroad--not turn it into a trail. This line has potential for hauling freight and people and that's what we should be supporting.She's right that we have been sometimes too quick to abandon rail lines and that as our transportation mix changes, rail will be more and more important.
But if the line will in fact be abandoned, it would be nice to be able to have the homework done and be able to step in with a reasonably complete proposal.
To that end, in a comment below, Oregon Parks and Recreation makes this request:
it would be more constructive to brainstorm possible partners. Who should be at the table? Cities? Clubs? County? It's like a dinner party ... once you figure out who the host is and the guests are seated at the table, we can do our butler thing and find a way to serve. Sometimes we take a more active role and host the party ourselves. So imagining a list of possible partners would be the most helpful thing at the moment.