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December 1997 - Page 52

BELOW: The Willits Hauler
(leH) and the Schellville Hauler (right) wait side by side at Cloverdale on March 1 0, 1 997.

h ere comes something down the river, and [ k new right away what i t was, and there was my name on the side of it: i t was the Island Mountain bridge ! " Another winter like that would likely be the end of the l ine north of Willits. And what NWP needs less than another bad winter is m o r e bad p r e s s . I n April 1 996, Southern Pa cific sold the line south of Wil li ts for $27 million to the Northwestern Pacific R a i l ro a d A u t h o r i ty, a j oint-powers board com prised of the Golden Gate B r i d ge D i s t r i c t , M a r i n , Sonoma, Mendocino, and Humboldt counties. Since t h e n , t h e ra i l ro a d h a s consistently lost tens of thousands of dollars every month and made the

news with derailments, accidents, m issed payrol l s , and ultimatums from t h e Federal Rail road Adminis tration. Northwestern Pacific is dependent on public fun d i ng , and e d i t o ri a l s i n the S A TA ROSA P RESS DEMOCRAT a nd other local newspapers reflect a popu lace increasingly hostile toward subsidizing a railroad that seems to be running steadily downhill. Press portrayal has often been negative, but one cannot write honestly about NWP without mention ing the bad news. The railroad suffers from a tangle of problems so knotted that no one can be separated and resolved. Advocates breathed a s i gh of re lief when the railroad celebrated its first anniversary on July 2 2 ; it often seemed it might not make it. While the seven dirty and dented G P9s inherited from the North Coast have chugged dependably up and down the canyon, NWP has struggled to keep the eight re built locomotives acquired last year in service on the south end . As they have been for decades, SD9s were NWP's locomotive of choice for the 3 percent grades of Ridge H i l l . S D9 442 3 blew a piston in June and

5 2- December 1 997

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