ASHLAND ' A short train carrying railroad executives, local rail business representatives and government officials will rumble through Tunnel 13 on Thursday to commemorate its reopening.

The 3,100-foot-long tunnel near the Siskiyou Summit reopened earlier this month after being closed since mid-November 2003 because of a fire.

The special train, which will include four cars and two locomotives, will depart from downtown Ashland at noon. The ceremony will be held after the train arrives.

Although the four historic cars supplied by Union Pacific Railroad Co. are full, the public can view the ceremony by parking off the Interstate 5 exit to Mount Ashland and taking the short hike up the dirt road to the tunnel. The road is the first one on the right heading south from the Mount Ashland exit on I-5, and the tunnel is about a quarter-mile up.

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of parking up there at the tunnel so they will have to walk in, said Tom Hawksworth, spokesman for the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad which operates the local line.
— But anybody who wants to is invited to walk up, he added.

The celebration will be held at the north end of the tunnel and include speeches, ribbon cutting and conclude with the train rolling through a banner.

This was an expensive and challenging construction project for us, said James T. Bertram III, director of marketing and sales for the railroad's Pacific region.

But the firm has more than 75 customers in Oregon, including more than 20 in the Rogue Valley, that depend on the rail service, he said.

It was important to restore direct service for them, he said.

But repairing the tunnel wasn't cheap, he noted.

It cost &

36;18 million and counting, he said, noting that work continues on the tunnel.

They put up about a decade's worth of profit to reopen that line for us, said Mike Quilty, chair of Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization policy committee.

There isn't a whole lot of companies I know that would put in decade's worth of profit on the line to provide service to an area, he added. That's being a very good corporate citizen.

In addition to repairing the tunnel, which had partially collapsed, the railroad company has spent more than &

36;16.5 million on track, roadbed structures and signals since taking over the line at the end of 1994, he said.

Quilty's organization, the lead agency for regional transportation planning in the Rogue Valley, is helping the railroad find public funding to further improve the rail system, he said.

CORP's parent company, RailAmerica Inc. based in Boca Raton, Fla., owns 44 short-line and regional railroads, operating approximately 8,900 miles of track in the United States and Canada.

Reach reporter Paul Fattigat 776-4496 or e-mail him at