California excursion train plan gets mixed reviews FOLSOM, Calif. - A proposal to restore the Placerville branch of the former Southern Pacific for excursion trains has drawn both support and skepticism, the Sacramento Bee reported. Laurence Daniels, marketing director for the Folsom, El Dorado & Sacramento Historical Railroad Association, outlined the group's plans for operating excursion rail service under the name Sacramento Valley Railroad at a presentation before the El Dorado County Transportation Commission this month. The group operates the Folsom Railroad Museum and participated in restoring the turntable in Folsom's railroad block. Daniels said the historical association would like to operate the railroad under a franchise agreement with the Sacramento-Placerville Joint Powers Authority. When Southern Pacific abandoned the right-of-way, the joint powers authority purchased the 53-mile corridor that extends from 65th Street near Brighton Avenue in Sacramento County to just west of Placerville. The proposed Sacramento Valley Railroad would begin by providing weekend excursions between Folsom's Sutter Street area and Latrobe, Daniels said. A station is planned in Folsom, with a gift shop and interpretive center in Latrobe. Service eventually would be extended to Diamond Springs, with stations there and in Shingle Springs, the Bee reported. Asked about costs of the proposed operations, Daniels said he was not prepared to publicly discuss a budget for the project. "I will say we intend to be fully self-financed," he told the commission. El Dorado Hills resident Paul Raveling commended the effort to restore rail service on the historic line. "It's a great thing to do," he said. But Diamond Springs resident Bob Smart, who advocates developing trails along the rail corridor, said county officials need to consider how the various transportation systems would come together. Smart said he doesn't oppose a railroad operation but noted the tracks have deteriorated over the years and questioned whether Daniels' group could afford the necessary capital improvements. Daniels said he is aware that track is missing in places and that some road crossings have been paved over and acknowledged challenges in operating a railroad alongside a trail. But with the exception of areas where the railroad runs through narrow cuts in hillsides, he said, there is room for a trail with a barrier separating it from the track. Jack Sweeney, who represents the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors on the commission, noted that the board, not the Transportation Commission, represents the county in the joint powers authority. Sweeney said the authority likely would have to issue a request for proposals and weigh the Sierra Valley Railroad's plan against those of other organizations that might wish to provide rail service. It's not an abandoned railroad," he said, explaining that the corridor remains available for a bona fide rail operation. "We also have a nice wide corridor for the public to use for other purposes," Sweeney said. "There are other uses we can make of it at the same time. It's important that we integrate all these things," the Bee reported.