Freight resumes on Calif., Nevada rail lines damaged by floodwaters

LAS VEGAS - Trains began running early Monday on rebuilt rails in an isolated southern Nevada canyon, nearly two weeks after record flooding washed out tracks and cut freight service on a main Union Pacific line to the West Coast.


The railroad said limited night freight traffic also resumed Saturday on the California "Coast Line" north of Los Angeles.


Repairs were continuing on parts of a 139-mile stretch of track next to the Pacific Ocean between Guadalupe and Moorpark, Calif., and on an 85-mile stretch of rails in a remote Nevada valley south of Caliente.


The two areas were the last of five to reopen after being severely damaged during winter storms earlier this month, the railroad said.


"When we say 'open,' it's limited," John Bromley, Union Pacific spokesman, said from Omaha, Neb. "There are a lot of sections with 10 mile-per-hour speed restrictions. Some signals are still out."


Union Pacific Chairman and CEO Dick Davidson estimated the cost of flood damage in Nevada and California at $200 million - including repairs, lost revenue and the costs of detouring freight into and out of the Los Angeles area.


Flooding did extensive damage along the desert stretch, undermining rails in several places, washing out one-half mile of track and toppling more than 20 cars parked on a siding into the rushing waters near Caliente, about 150 miles northeast of Las Vegas.


Bromley said it could be another week before full capacity is restored on the main line between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, which passes through Las Vegas and carries only freight.


The first trains from Caliente to the Las Vegas area on Monday area hauled coal for a regional power plant in Moapa, and salt for a chlorine plant in Henderson.


In Californian, the Coast Line could begin carrying Metrolink commuter trains and Amtrak passenger service from Los Angeles to Oxnard within days, the railroad spokesman said. Officials plan to resume passenger service to Santa Barbara before Feb. 8, and full Amtrak service to Oakland by Feb. 28.


A limited number of freight trains will continue running on the Coast Line at night, Union Pacific said, while work continues in daylight to remove mud and replace ties to make the line safe for passengers.


"The big discussion this morning is getting signals up and sidetracks open," Bromley said.

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