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UPDATED: They're back! Freight trains return to Sonoma County

First train will travel from Schellville to Petaluma today arriving at approx 1:30 p.m.

Freight trains will be returning to Sonoma County starting today, according to the California Highway Patrol.

A work train, testing bridge stamina, is making its way to Petaluma - the first run of what railroad officials hope will become regular service. 

"The idea is the bridges have to hold 286,000 pounds...our locomotive is pulling two rail cars with trains so we can test how the bridges perform," said Mitch Stogner, executive director of the North Coast Railroad.

The first train will run from Schellville to Petaluma, arriving in Petaluma with a load of grain at approximately 1:30 p.m. Once off-loaded, it will return to the Schellville area.

The train will be running slow through the area, but the CHP wants to remind everyone to obey all the RR crossing arms bells and lights.

"You will be cited if you cross the tracks while the crossing arms are active," CHP officials said. "Pedestrians are reminded to stay off the railroad tracks."

Once in Petaluma, the following intersections will be affected:
Hopper Rd and Caufield Ln
D St. at Lakeville Rd
East Washington St. at Lakeville Rd.

Novato city council is expected to rule on the at their July 12 city council meeting, after which the NCRA expects to run the line three-days per week from Petaluma up to Windsor.

Stogner - who will ride with the train for its return trip - is excited to realize the fruits of his labor.

""Finally, at long last," he said. 

Bay City News Contributed to this report

Robert J. Cleek June 24, 2011 at 06:05 PM
Hoo-ray! It's about time and long overdue. Kudos to the NCRA and NWP Co. for battling the opposition and protecting our economic wellbeing!
Robert J. Cleek June 24, 2011 at 06:33 PM
Enquiring minds want to know: Novato's city council was still playing the spoiler, holding out on finalizing approvals in the hope of extracting further concessions from the NCRA. It looks like all the battling over resuming freight service has ended with a wimper instead of a bang. I'd have thought the first train down the newly restored line would have deserved red, white, and blue bunting, the Mayor in a fancy sash over his shoulder and several high school brass bands to meet it. Instead, all we get for advance notice is a CHP traffic alert. What's that all about?
Alexis Fitts June 24, 2011 at 08:08 PM
Agreed Robert. I've placed calls with the NCRA to find out why such short notice was given, and why no approval was needed from Novato. I'll update here as soon as we hear more.
Robert J. Cleek June 24, 2011 at 09:02 PM
Got an answer, via Brent Ainsworth, Publisher of Novato Patch. This is indeed the first "freight train," but it is technically a test run. They want to test some of the bridges under a full load. They've already been tested with a locomotive alone. There will only be a couple of cars full of feed grain. So, yes, "freight trains return to Sonoma (and Novato) today," but not SCHEDULED freight trains. That will begin shortly, or so NCRA says. Let's hope Novato gets its act together and doesn't delay things any further. Our farmers and dairymen need some relief from the high cost of trucked-in feed, our vintners some relief from trucked-out wine, and all of us some extra space on 101!
Alexis Fitts June 24, 2011 at 09:32 PM
Robert, take a look, I've updated the story with more information from Mitch Stogner, the executive director of the NCRA. It should be clearer now, or after Novato's city council meeting on the 12th.
Robert J. Cleek June 24, 2011 at 10:09 PM
Saw it. Thanks much!

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