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Rail cars staying put with hopes of future use

Why do the CORP (Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad) railroad guys keep dozens of unused, rusting rail cars sitting on the sidings in Ashland? I would think that the cars have some use somewhere and that they'd no longer be a public nuisance as they currently appear to be. Not to mention that they seem to be an eyesore. Might the railroad folks consider collecting their rusting cars and taking them somewhere else, preferably in their own backyard. (This is the NIMBY syndrome speaking here).

— Brian, Ashland

We hate to break it to you, Brian, but those cars are parked in the railroad's backyard. In fact, the rail lines are private property and people shouldn't be walking around the cars, according to Steve Hefley, general manager of Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad.

"That would be considered trespassing if you get on the property," he said.

However, we at Since You Asked headquarters have noticed that half the residents of Ashland would have to be arrested because they use the rail lines to get from one side of town to the other. Those railroad cars also have been used as a kind of jungle gym for those dreaming of riding the rails.

Because of the recession, Hefley said, up to 50,000 cars are parked throughout the country. Those particular cars in Ashland are designed to haul lumber, and CORP has been in negotiations with forest-product companies that might lead to starting up the line through Ashland again.

"It's about getting activity for that line," he said.

Hefley said the Oregon Department of Transportation is considering applying for $14 million in federal dollars this year to rehabilitate the lines and perform work on tunnels south of Ashland.

In 2008, shippers balked when CORP boosted its rates and cut its number of trains, and freight stopped running over the line. The rail line, which traverses the Siskiyous and is sometimes covered with snow in winter, has not been a money-maker for CORP.

Hefley said CORP still operates trains through Medford and in the Montague area of Northern California.

So, Brian, the next time you set foot on most railroad property in Ashland, you're actually trespassing.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.