Friday, December 07, 2007

Our Tourist Train Future

I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one who enjoyed John Murray's My Word piece published earlier this week where he takes a look at what a tourist train around the bay might be like. I'd meant to comment on it the day it was published but, once again, the piece wasn't included in the Times- Standard web site.

Taking a look at the T-S site again this morning, I noticed the letter to the editor someone else sent in who also enjoyed the Murray piece and I got to thinking about it again. Still, the piece hasn't been added to their web site.

What to do, says I. Then I remembered the e- edition of the T-S. I knew it should be there, and it was. You can't really link to the stories on the e- edition, or even the e- edition itself, as far as I can tell, but you can copy and past the text of whatever's on it, so I broke tradition (I try not to paste whole news stories or commentaries) and did that here.

I've included Murray's piece in its entirety below for those who might have missed it. I felt it was not only a fun read but also right on the money.

All aboard the scenic tourist train

Welcome aboard! We appreciate your paying $15 to ride this steam excursion train to Samoa and back. I will be your host and point out sights and answer your questions.

Yes, that is an oft-asked question. No, that is not graffiti. Someone actually was paid to paint the restaurant that way.

Now hold on as we get up to our full speed of 15 mph. This is the Old Town portion of the tracks.
No, you cannot see the place where Councilman Glass and Mr. Arkley got into their altercation from the train.

If you look to the left you will get glimpses of the bay and the marina. Now coming up on your right is a 20-foot retaining wall. At the top of this wall where it is not visible from the train is the Ingomar Club and the picturesque Humboldt County Library.

As we proceed, you will note on the right the backs of many buildings that you normally don’t see.

Now we are crossing the Eureka Slough. If you look out to the right you will see Highway 101, and on the left mud flats.

We are further along, and if you
will look out the right you will see Highway 101, and to the left mud flats.

Here is a break in the scenery. On the right is Highway 101, and to the left is California Redwood’s plant.

Yes, sonny, I know you can ride your bike faster than this train travels, but probably not for two hours straight.

Now up ahead we are breaking into the open and you will notice Highway 101 on the right and mudflats on the left.

Now this is really interesting. On the right is Highway 101 and Resale Lumber, and on the left is Bra-Cut Lumber.

We are now approaching a real eye-popper. On the left are a series of billboards that you can see close up rather than from Highway 101 which, by the way, is still on our right.

If you have seen enough of Highway 101, you will be pleased to know that we are leaving it, and that is South G Street on the right. Coming up on your left is the Arcata sewage plant. We lose our
scenery for a while as we wend our way through Arcata.

Yes, sonny, I know those people are jogging faster than we are traveling.

We are leaving Arcata now, and on the left is Samoa Boulevard. On the right is some pasture. Please keep the windows on the right side up, as that giant sprinkler is spraying a collection of barnyard waste mixed with water.

We are now traveling through downtown Manila. When we clear Manila, you will notice the mud flats to the left and Samoa Boulevard to the right.

Here we are at Samoa. You have 20 minutes to look around and then be back on board for the return trip, where 101 will be on the left and the mud flats on the right.

No, madam, it is not mandatory that you ride the train back. Yes, you could probably walk across the bridge faster. Yes, it would probably be more scenic that way also. Do me a favor and take that snotty kid with you.

-John Murray lives in Arcata.-

Opinions expressed in My Word pieces do not necessarily reflect the editorial viewpoint of the Times- Standard.

John Murray


At 9:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where is this train anyway? Oh yea, its on the East Coast somewhere waiting for the THA to come up with $400,000 to fix. And that is just the engine. Passenger cars are a whole other deal.

At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok- That WAS pretty funny.

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Pogo said...

Maybe we can get T. Boone Pickins to finance this boondogle with the $1,000,000.00 he does not have to pay ANYONE who can prove the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth lied about John Kerry.

At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe that someone would really say in public how crazy the tourist train concept is. How brave. I mean it "sounds good". But is it really one of those things that if we wait for it to happen it just gets in the way of other more realistic opportunities?

At 12:22 PM, Blogger Rose said...

Very, very funny.

At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Fred. I missed that.

At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be more funny if it wasen't so sad.

At 5:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

God Bless the Timber Heritage project and Marcus. How sad that the forces of negativity seem to be taking over this community. We're going to end up like Cambria- expensive houses, no jobs except tourist jobs, crummy schools because the move-in retirees don't want to pay taxes.

At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Murray's piece was not on the Times-Standard's website, so I couldn't comment on it there.

With all due respect to Marcus Brown and his passion for the tourist train, I believe Mr. Murray's humor does point out the fatal flaws of making a successful excursion train a reality here.

Anybody who has ridden the Skunk Train between Willits and Ft. Bragg understands that the ride to Samoa and back does not come close to offering the same experience. And a train here would have to charge a lot more than $15 per passenger to pay for itself. The Skunk Train charges an average of about $50 per adult.

The Skunk Train is probably the most popular tourist train in the country. If you are a tourist coming to the North Coast, which tour train are you going to choose? And if you have spent $200 for your family to ride the Skunk Train, are you going to be inclined to dig into your wallet again for a trip around Humboldt Bay. A trip, if you really wanted to see these sights, you could make in your car in under 30 minutes.

I don't think I am being negative, but rather honest and objective.

At 7:42 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

I believe the Skunk Train shut down and is still shut down to this day, isn't it? I forget the exact reasons for closing, but it had something to do with finances.

At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"God Bless the Timber Heritage project and Marcus. How sad that the forces of negativity seem to be taking over this community. We're going to end up like Cambria- expensive houses, no jobs except tourist jobs, crummy schools because the move-in retirees don't want to pay taxes."

So no tourist train means high house prices? What?

At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fred....that was several years ago that the Skunk Train shut down. They've been up and running under the management of a new company, that runs several tourist RR's in Calif., for at least three years.

I had some family visit this summer. They stopped in Mendo to ride the Skunk Train. For two adults, two seniors, and three children, it cost $200.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Several years ago??? My how time flies as one gets older.

I'd heard talk of getting it up and running again, but didn't know they'd actually done it.

At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe the same people who operate the Skunk run the train that runs to Oakdale and back from Jamestown or somethere in that vicinity. The combination of limited coastal property, people who can afford same without jobs, and no decent jobs in hte community, results in a Cambria-like scenario. Lovely to visit, impossible to live there without big bucks. And yes, I own a home here.

At 11:04 AM, Blogger Capdiamont said...

Fred, I've posted on the Skunk Train restoring the Willits Depot, in time for their Christmas runs.

As to THA's locomotive, yes the steam enging in on the east coast, however the A&MR 101 Diesel is in Arcata and runs. Still working on it. It currently runs on a biodiesel/reg diesel blend. No I don't know the percentage, but it has helped get rid of the black smoke diesels typically have.

At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The combination of limited coastal property, people who can afford same without jobs, and no decent jobs in hte community, results in a Cambria-like scenario."

What does that have to do with a tourist train?

BTW - Tourists don't want to pay to ride behind a diesel engine.

At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So even if you have (almost... its always almost with you guys) a diesel engine, what are you going to put the people in?

At 4:43 PM, Blogger Capdiamont said...

Funny, because The Skunk Train is mostly ran using diesel's, same with many other tourist trains.

2nd working on that.

At 8:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, it is funny because the Humboldt Bay Tourist Train Feasibility Study says very clearly that you will not have ridership needed to make it work unless you have a steam engine.

At 6:33 AM, Blogger Capdiamont said...

Gotta start somewhere. 2nd the runs were never meant to be 100% steam.

At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They need to be steam if you want to charge more than $20 a ride. Remember according to your study the County is going to need to subsidize the tourist train to a tune of over $100,000 a year to operate and NCRA will need to find the funds to rebuild and maintain the tracks.

Over 20 years, and we are still waiting.


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