First cargo train since 2007 arrives in Bay Area

COOS BAY, Ore.-- The first cargo train to move through the Bay Area since the Coos Bay Rail Link shut down in 2007 arrived Wednesday.

The train brought in cars to ship lumber to the Georgia-Pacific plant in Bunker Hill.

"Rail line rehabilitation is a duanting project, and we celebrate every little milestone because each one is important. Today represents the restoration of rail service to Coos Bay," Elise Hamner, International Port of Coos Bay spokeswoman, said.

Hamner said the train took most of the day Wednesday to come through the bay area because on the cars being delivered were railroad ties. Those ties were dropped from employees on the train at various locations along the tracks. Those ties will replace worn out and broken ones.

The return of the train had some stopping to take pictures and cheer. Those on highway 101 who saw port officials taking pictures applauded them.

"It's so good to see the train back," one man yelled to Hamner while KCBY was interviewing her. "This is so good for the economy."

One man in North Bend told KCBY "The Port is back baby!"

For the bay area's economy, the train symbolizes a return of exporting local goods in an inexpensive way, and The Port hopes other businesses will begin using the train.

The immediate benefits will be felt at Georgia-Pacific.

The company has been trucking its product up to the North Spit, and there it was load it on to the train. Now it no longer has to pay for trucking. It can get the front door service it has desired for so long.

"We will drop off the cars, and when they are loaded, we will take them up to the North Spit, then up the tracks to Eugene," Hamner said. "From there it will be distributed to Georgia-Pacific customers all over the country."

The Port said it is now focusing on restoring rail service to Coquille some time next year. There are no plans for passenger service. Hamner said the tracks are simply "good enough for freight".

The Federal government regulates passenger rail under stricter guidelines than it does freight. Passenger trains to the Eugene area from Coos Bay is also not likely because the train's slow speed takes two to three days to slowly make its way up to Eugene while the trip by road take just a few hours.

Hamner also said now is the time to think about your safety near the tracks.

"Now that people can see that the trains are here instead of just hearing about it, please do not trespass on the tracks," she said.

Hamner said it is O.K. to take pictures, wave hello and even make gestures to the conductor asking him to blow the horn.