Crews loaded cars Tuesday onto a flatbed semi, poised to depart to California to begin repairing a rail line that was mangled by mudslides triggered by wildfire.
The so-called impact train hit a bump but no major problems, and was due to depart at 4:30 p.m. local time for Gilroy, California, where it will deliver flood-control equipment.
“The impact train is one of three to be sent out to help repair the railroad that was hit by the avalanche,” said Tanya Brusewitz, of CP, which operates the line.
The railway provides services to a stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway through the Klamath River Valley in northern California and southern Oregon, and was damaged during an onslaught of mudslides this winter.
Brusewitz said the cleanup effort could take several weeks, and there were concerns the railway could cease service between Whistler, British Columbia, and Golden, California.
“It really depends on when work is completed,” she said. “We don’t want to take this momentary delay and seriously disrupt people’s way of life.”
A handful of grain cars got stuck and had to be removed from the line by hand after last week’s incident, but the overall damage has not been nearly as bad as officials initially feared.
“It’s not a system that’s been wiped out,” said Chuck Spies, communications director for the Gilroy-Carmel-Monterey County, California Emergency Management Agency.
There was relief among the farmers and ranchers who rely on the railway as a way to reach the customers near their operations.
“We don’t want to hurt the farmers that need the product,” said Peter Elms, spokesman for the Southern Oregon Cattleman’s Association, which is assisting the railroad with the cleanup.
The railway connects the Oregon city of Eugene, where CSX tracks wind through vineyards, and St. Johns, Oregon, where long-haul freight and farm-finished goods pass through the city of Medford.
When railroad rerouted trains around Klamath Falls and its outlying cities during the flood, farmers were forced to truck their produce, Rizler said.
There are fears the damage could continue to pile up, but Brusewitz said things were looking better than it initially appeared.
The agency estimated Wednesday that between 40,000 and 60,000 tons of a fish food called flintfish would have to be dumped as waste, with less than 3,000 tons hauled from one of the irrigation districts by the time the railway is completed next week.
But things would have been much worse without the railway, she said.
“I think by any measure we’re significantly behind where we’d hoped to be,” she said.
“And so this is a great relief to us, because this allows us to get on with the work of rebuilding the railroad and returning rail services to a level that can be welcomed by customers,” she said.