Newspaper Article

Date: February 28, 2012

Source: Write for Arkansas

Title: End of the line: Caddo Valley Railroad a step closer to pulling up rails

With no offer on the table, the last rail line in Pike County is on the verge of being dismantled.

Friday was the deadline set by the federal Surface Transportation Board for proposals to purchase the Norman Branch Line, which runs between Gurdon and Birds Mill, Ark. No proposals were received.

Richard Streeter, an attorney for the line's owner, Caddo Valley Railroad Co., said the company will be allowed to start taking up the rails in March.

Caddo Valley will officially declare the line abandoned after the salvage operation is complete. "It probably won't be made until sometime around June, because it's going to take a while to salvage all the materials and get everything cleaned up," Streeter said.

Caddo Valley purchased the line in 2000 from Arkansas Midland Railroad Co. and operated it for several years before running into financial trouble.

The company attempted to sell the line in 2005, but the effort was scuttled when Arkansas Midland exercised its right to purchase the most profitable three miles of line, which serve a Georgia Pacific paper mill in Gurdon.

The two customers remaining on Caddo Valley's portion September 2010. With its parent company, Bean Lumber Co., in bankruptcy and prices for scrap steel soaring, Caddo Valley moved to have the line abandoned.

In December, the Surface Transportation Board delayed a final decision after Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe submitted a letter on behalf of the Southwest Arkansas Intermodal Authority requesting more time to work out a purchase plan.

The STB has since declared that Caddo Valley can move forward with abandonment on 17.6 miles of track.

For the remainder, it ordered Caddo Valley on Wednesday to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that track removal does not impact endangered species, including the Ouachita rock-pocketbook, the pink mucket, the red cockaded woodpecker and the piping plover.

The decision does not significantly impact Caddo Valley's plans, Streeter said.