Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Train Ride

What a great idea, and using the rail line right of way for a bike and pedestrian trail connecting to the Parkway while being able to offer two-hour train rides is a very optimal use of the railroad.

Tourist train gains steam
Reviving historic foothills line would foster community ties, tourism and fun, backers say
By Tony Bizjak - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The historic -- and long abandoned -- Placerville Branch railroad that meanders quietly through the wooded hillsides of El Dorado County may be on the verge of a new life.

A group of train fans is proposing turning the 140-year-old rail line into an excursion train ride, climbing from old town Folsom through Latrobe to Shingle Springs.

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.

"There could be packages to go to Apple Hill and the wineries," said one of the proponents, rail buff Bill Anderson of Folsom.

"Cyclists could take their bikes. It's a fantastic venue with scenery and wildlife."
Proponents say someday, passengers could even dine on the train at tables with white tablecloths, like the Wine Train in the Napa Valley.

Folsom city and El Dorado County officials -- part of the rail line ownership group -- say they will work with Anderson's organization in the coming months on the plan.

Officials, however, say they also will look for proposals from any other interested groups on what could be done to get more community use out of the rail line corridor, which includes the tracks and adjoining space for recreation trails.

Not everyone is on board the train, however.

Some El Dorado County residents say the roughly 40-mile 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.

Mike Kenison of Shingle Springs is among residents who said they don't want to see a train squeeze out those other recreational uses.

"A train is a nice tourist thing," Kenison said. He's not necessarily opposed to one, "but people are out there biking and hiking all the time with their families."

Kenison, who rides his bike and walks on trails next to the tracks, asked planners to look into connecting the corridor in Folsom to the existing American River Parkway.

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.

He said the time to do it is now, because community interest is high.