Supporting the Sacramento Southern Railroad
By Jim Matthews, with information from Phelps Hobart and Greg Lukenbill. Photo courtesy Kelly Huston.
This article will appear in the upcoming Spring 2019 FEDSHRA Newsletter. It has been released now to provide notice for the upcoming Sacramento City Council meeting.
You might have heard that the Sacramento City Council was planning some actions that would undermine the Sacramento Southern Railroad’s expansion plans. Railroad supporters need to be at the March 26, 5:00 pm City Council meeting, at the Sacramento City Hall at 915 I Street.
As seems to be the case with all railroad plans, this story is complicated. Here is a summary.
The Sacramento Southern Railroad is operated by the California State Railroad Museum and now runs the excursion trains a short distance south of Old Sacramento, almost to William Land Park, on part of the former Southern Pacific Walnut Grove branch line. The Sacramento Southern plans new excursion train operations further south on the Walnut Grove line, in the area of the delta communities of Freeport and Hood. Hood is 16 miles from Old Sacramento.
The area of contention is the four and one half mile Sutterville-Pocket segment of this line in a primarily residential area between Sutterville Road and Pocket Road. Residents are concerned about train noise and esthetics. This Sutterville-Pocket segment is itself in between the area of current Sacramento Southern operations and the planned Hood/Freeport excursion area. Some points need to be clarified.
First, this is not a “rails-to-trails” proposition – at least not now. The City Council’s plan is to put trails beside the existing tracks all through the proposed Sutterville-Pocket segment “greenbelt” corridor. The City Council is, however, planning to sever the Sutterville-Pocket track in a few places, mostly where it crosses major streets. They will argue that rails can be re-installed at these points when (or if) the time comes to commence excursion train operation south of Land Park. We would want to oppose any such track severance including street crossings so as to hasten the day when expanded excursion operation begins. As a side note, Placerville & Sacramento Valley Railroad has been safely flagging trains across busy streets in Folsom for several years. It can be done.
Additionally, contrary to some circulating “alarmist” stories, there are no future plans to operate frequent, full-size, excursion trains over the Sutterville-Pocket segment. Such excursion trains, according to plans, would operate south of Pocket Road, between there, Freeport, and Hood. The Sutterville-Pocket segment track would only be used to move empty excursion train cars and locomotives from south of Pocket Road up to Old Sacramento for occasional maintenance and back. This is an important function, but could likely mean no more than two trains (one in each direction) per week in the Sutterville-Pocket segment. And, such rare maintenance movements could be scheduled to transit the Sutterville-Pocket segment at convenient times, possibly mid-day on a weekday. And, all trains that do go through the Sutterville-Pocket segment would be powered by quiet, modern, clean-burning diesel locomotives.
So that’s the story. Railroad enthusiasts will need a presence at this March 26 and future City Council meetings to support the railroad and have and understand the proper information. Also, make your views known to the Sacramento City Council members, at the following addresses:
All Council Letters are Addressed to: 915 I Street, 5th Floor Sacramento, CA 95814
- Mayor Darrell Steinberg
- Angelique Ashby
- Allan Warren
- Jeff Harris
- Vice Mayor Steve Hansen
- Jay Schenirer
- Eric Guerra
- Rick Jennings, II
- Larry Carr