By Railfan & Railroad Staff
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The Santa Cruz City Council is backing Roaring Camp Railroads in the fight over a controversial plan to force the California railroad to abandon its line to freight service.
Last month, the owners of Roaring Camp Railroads, began rallying public support against a proposal before the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission that would force it to abandon its rail line for freight service. The railroad said it was part of a wider plan to railbank a county-owned line and turn it into a trail. Roaring Camp currently has the contract to provide freight service on the county-owned Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line, which connects to its eight-mile Felton Branch. But some in the community would like to see the Santa Cruz line turned into a pedestrian trail. The scenic Santa Cruz line, which previously belonged to Southern Pacific and Union Pacific, runs right through Santa Cruz and along the coast.
County officials told the newspaper that they would be fine with the railroad still providing tourist trains on its own line. By forcing the railroad to abandon its own line for freight service though, it would be easier to get approval for railbanking of the government-owned line, which connects to it (and is its connection to the national rail network). But Roaring Camp’s CEO Melani Clark said that would be a shortsighted move.
Earlier this month, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission decided to table the forced abandonment plan to try and forge a compromise with the railroad first.
While the city council’s vote on Tuesday was largely symbolic, it showed the growing support the railroad was receiving.