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Iconic train line may be impacted by eminent domain

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2022 | Eminent Domain

Discussions about railbanking have been met with much controversy from Roaring Camp residents. This an iconic California train line that is highly significant to the locals and tourists alike, and the planned talks about this Rails-to-Trails practice has many people fearful that one of their area’s greatest attractions will be lost in the process.

Roaring Camp trains are novelty tourist experiences that provide the epitome of old-time locomotives. You get the whole package, including fully costumed clerks at a General Store that’s so genuine, it seems as if it fell out of a different time period. The “Beach Train,” as it is rightfully nicknamed, is so popular that seats often sell out completely.

The debate has around railbanking has gotten quite heated due to the passion from both sides, particularly that of the trains’ protectors. For many, the train is the sole connection to a past that has all but vanished, lost to history and time. Many fear that without these pieces of history preserved, they will be forgotten once and for all.

A viral campaign to save the train

Social media has helped activists spotlight the issue. On Instagram, “SAVE THE BEACH TRAIN” was the viral ad that made its rounds on January 24th, reminding people of the February 3rd vote.

Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission has planned a discussion about railbanking, which is a technique that first came about in the Rails-to-Trails Act of 1983. According to the RTC, doing this would provide protection over their rights to the railroad section that they have ownership of.

This area is commonly called the Main Branch or Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line. Proceeding with this eminent domain process would mean deeming the line as officially abandoned, which gives federal agencies the freedom to railbank.

Eminent domain would offer preservation of the usability of the line for freight trains well into the future. However, it remains to be seen whether such a freight route will be seen as high enough of a priority for the local voting population to undergo the massive rehaul that these tracks would require.