Historic Rail Corridor Dilemma: Rails to Trails or Rails?

Rail buffs hope to run a tourist train on an unused rail line in the Sierra foothills outside of Sacramento, but there are concerns that it would prevent the corridor from being used as a recreational trail for hikers, bikers and equestrians.

A group of train fans is proposing turning an historic, 140-year-old rail line into a 40-mile, two-hour excursion ride through El Dorado County outside of Sacramento. "A tourist train, they say, could knit foothills communities, draw visitors and money to the region, bring some history to life and just be plain fun. Proponents say someday, passengers could even dine on the train at tables with white tablecloths, like the Wine Train in the Napa Valley."

Not everyone is on board the train, however.

Some El Dorado County residents say the railroad right-of-way between old town Folsom and Placerville should be developed mainly as a recreation corridor for hikers, bikers, runners and horseback riders.

El Dorado County Supervisor Jack Sweeney, who is among officials interested in the tourist train idea, said his goal would be to develop the corridor for multiple uses, including trains.

"I see this as a shoestring that pulls our communities together in a way that Highway 50 doesn't," Sweeney said.

Rail buff "Bill Anderson and his group, the Folsom, El Dorado & Sacramento Historical Railroad Association (FEDS), say existing rails on the line remain largely intact and usable. The Placerville Branch railroad was built in 1867 to haul logs and farm products and serve passengers to and from the foothills, Anderson said."

"To make it happen, the FEDS group is asking for an OK from the agency that owns the rail line, the Sacramento-Placerville Transportation Corridor Joint Powers Authority.

That agency is made up of four governments, El Dorado County, Sacramento County, the city of Folsom and the Sacramento Regional Transit District.

Joint powers authority executive John Segerdell said his agency will work in the coming months on a formal public process for requesting corridor use proposals, and will seek input from its member governments before deciding whether to go forward with a tourist line."

"I think it would probably work," Segerdell said of the tourist train.

"The biggest obstacle is getting it to balance financially."

Full Story: Tourist train gains steam

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