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December 1997 - Page 50


N orthwestern Pacific' s Undying Spirit
Text and Photography by Sean Zwagerman
arm, heavy rain fel 1 in the mo n . tall1 s , saturatll1g the earth and m e l ting a winter's worth of snow in a couple of days. The run off overwh e hlle d every river it reached, causing rivers to sweep away rail way tracks as if they were cobwebs. The three major rai l l i n e s i n t o northern C a l i fo rn i a were s h u t down for weeks. S o thor ough was the destruction of t h e F e a t h e r R i v e r Route that Union Pacific considered surrendering the ABOVE: With water lapping fight and abandoning the entire line. In the Cascades at the Schell ville Yard to the north and the Sierras to the east, track repair tracks, January 3 , 1 997, is crews labored to take the knots out of hundreds of just another day on the NWP. miles of s torm-twisted track; most had never been FAR RIGHT: Engineer Ed Lynch face-to-face with the aftermath of such climatic rage. washes No. 3850 at Hopland For t h e employees of Northwestern Pacific, several on June 1 8, 1 997. rivers and ranges to the west, winter 1 996 was noth ing extraordi nary. Storms cl osed the line north of Willits, causing $ 5 m i llion worth of damage, includ ing 20 landslides along 30 miles of track and a col lapsed tunnel near McCann . Since the trains weren't running, the company could not afford overtime pay; repair crews worked only 40 hours a week. The solu tion-keeping the line through the Eel River Canyon
50- December 1 997

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