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Rail News: M&A

Sierra Railroad seeks STB approval to acquire the 'Skunk Train'


Sierra Railroad Co. recently filed an exemption notice with the Surface Transportation Board to acquire the assets of the 118-year-old California Western Railroad (CWR) or "Skunk Train" from a bankruptcy trustee.

In February, Sierra Railroad — doing business as Mendocino Railway — obtained authorization from the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California and the trustee to purchase CWR's assets, which includes 40 track miles and tourist-train cars.

Sierra Railroad plans to reopen the Skunk Train May 1 — the start of the tourist train season — and offer three services to increase ridership. The short line will expand steam-locomotive service on CWR's 21-mile flagship line between Fort Bragg and Northspur; maintain a "TrainSinger" service; and introduce a "Skunk AutoFerry" that will operate twice daily between Willits and Fort Bragg using 12 converted flat cars with sidewalls to accommodate cars, buses and recreational vehicles.

Mendocino Railway is negotiating an agreement with Hawthorne Timber Company L.L.C. to obtain rights to property underneath CWR's tracks.

The 49-mile Sierra Railroad offers freight-rail, dinner train, and track-maintenance and repair services; diesel and steam locomotive excursions; and moviemaking accommodations.

The Skunk — named after the pungent odor its early gasoline-powered cars emitted — operated along the so-called "Redwood Route" between Fort Bragg and Willits, crossing 30 bridges and trestles, and passing through two deep mountain tunnels.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/13/2004