Chehalis-Centralia Railroad President Resigns

Former President James Folk stepped down due to internal conflicts with the board; says “organization is doomed to fail.” Photo Courtesy of Chehalis-Centralia Railroad.

Chehalis-Centralia Railroad President Resigns

By Railfan & Railroad Staff 

CENTRALIA, Wash. — The president of the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad & Museum stepped down this week and said it was “doomed to fail” after insurance companies refused to sell the Washington tourist road liability coverage. 

In an email announcing his resignation to the board of directors, James Folk cited internal conflicts within the board of directors for his reason to leave. Folk had joined the board in January 2020 and was elected president of the railroad in January 2022. Railfan & Railroad has reviewed a copy of the letter that was first reported by the Centralia Chronicle newspaper

Earlier this month, the railroad announced that it would be suspending operations and that people who had signed up for upcoming Easter excursions would be receiving full refunds. It turns out that the railroad’s liability insurance had expired and the previous provider was not going to renew it. During an emergency board meeting, insurance broker Tripp Salisbury said two incidents in July 2017 and October 2019 led to insurance troubles. The two incidents resulted in loss runs of more than $1 million in six years. But Salisbury also suggested that there were other issues, specifically with the board.

​​”What you are is a group of people that have a like mindset, and that is to operate a train. I think this railroad needs to be treated and operated as a business,” he told the board, according to the newspaper. “The days of a bunch of friends getting together and playing with trains is beyond us now.”

Those issues on the board further spilled into public view with the announcement of Folk’s resignation. In the letter, he pinned the blame for the railroad’s struggles squarely on the board, noting that some members didn’t want to change course and address the insurance issue head-on.

“It has become very clear that the majority of you have no interest in listening to any outside guidance or making any changes to resolve our current situation,” he wrote. “I see absolutely no hope for our organization to survive. I certainly do not see any way that we will be able to ever get operating insurance and run a train ever again… This, ladies and gentleman, is how tourist railroads die.” 

Following Folk’s resignation, a board member told the newspaper that it was “planning their next steps.” 

This article was posted on: March 15, 2022