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Steam & Excursion > Swanton Pacific RR status


Date: 11/19/22 11:03
Swanton Pacific RR status
Author: CarolVoss

This is copied from their FB websiteBeing locked out of the Railroad was only the beginning. Below is the letter received =inheritthis evening from Dean Thulin of Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences. Please read the full letter and let us know what you think in the comments, now is the time for constructive conversation.  Swanton Pacific Ranch Railroad Volunteers,    I am writing today with an update about the Swanton Pacific Ranch Railroad.   First, please know that the work of the entire Railroad Society in helping with the recovery of artifacts and cleanup of the railroad facilities following the 2020 fire is greatly appreciated. As you know, we’ve spent the past two years working hard to clean up the ranch to get it up and running for future, ongoing use. I appreciate your patience as we focused on the ranch – getting our faculty, staff and students back on the ranch safely for research and learning remains our top priority.   As you’re more than aware, most all railroad facilities and equipment were destroyed.   While several physical structures specific to the railroad were covered by insurance policies in place at the time of the fire, the actual rolling stock, parts inventory, specialized equipment and railroad tracks were not covered by the insurance policy in effect at the time of the fire.   Current rolling stock repair estimates produced and reviewed by subject matter experts are more than $10M, and while FEMA reimbursement may cover a small portion of that, it will not cover it all, leaving a significant financial exposure to the university. Just to be clear, the funding we recently received from the state budget is restricted to building an education center on the ranch; none of these funds can be used for the railroad.   With our need to focus all of our efforts on the core educational elements of ranch operations and given the expected cost to restore the railroad, we no longer believe the university is the best steward of these unique artifacts of railroad history. Therefore, consistent with Al Smith’s wishes at the time of his gift we have made the decision to begin the process of transferring the railroad to an entity that can restore and care for these invaluable assets. We have already discussed this with the Smith family so they are aware of the decision   We have hired a consultant who has developed an inventory of assets including their valuation and repair status. As Al Smith spelled out in his gift, we will be contacting the California State Railroad Museum to see if they would like to receive any of these important artifacts of railroad history. Based on the outcome of that conversation, we may need to contact additional potential stewards of the assets. Our goal now is to be true to Al Smith’s wish that these artifacts are both preserved and made available to the public.   I know your passion for the railroad runs deep, and we hope through that passion you will help us find an organization that has the resources and mission that will ensure both the preservation and public access of the railroad artifacts. I recognize this is not the outcome for the railroad you had hoped for but hope we can count on your support and assistance as we move through this process.   I also want to address the financial donations to the railroad that came in post-fire. Our intent is to utilize those funds to safely transfer the railroad artifacts to their new owner to preserve the integrity of the original intent of those recent donations – to support the restoration of the Swanton Pacific Ranch Railroad assets.   I want to reiterate that this was a very difficult decision. The railroad was a unique part of Swanton Pacific Ranch. We all know that Al Smith got great pleasure in helping to preserve locomotives and providing the public the opportunity to learn about how important steam locomotives were to the building of this country. I firmly believe that getting these priceless assets into the hands of an entity whose core mission it is to restore and make them accessible to the public would be what Al wanted.   Thank you again for your patience as we navigated the post-fire disaster.  -Andy Swanton Pacific Railroad Society California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly)Cal Poly Alumni

Carol Voss
Bakersfield, CA



Date: 11/19/22 12:44
Re: Swanton Pacific RR status
Author: TomG

Thats typical College rhetoric. They wanted the ranch but had to keep the trains as part of the package. Now that its going to cost money its time to cut and run. The term they love to use is " its an unfunded liability and a drain on resources that can be used in a more productive manner ". The fire is the excuse admin has been waiting for. I love how the are going to keep post fire donation to help liquidate whats left. There are 766 colleges in this state and they all think the same.

Tom
Weaverville, CA



Date: 11/19/22 17:17
Re: Swanton Pacific RR status
Author: doge_of_pocopson

That’s a pretty jaundiced AND inaccurate summation Tom. The level of destruction was massive; thus the costs massive and for a college with many demands on its budget and no way to pay for this, it is a logical decision. I am willing to bet the same kind of complaining would occur if the $10-15 mil (likely more - almost everything was destroyed) was spent on something with such a.small group interested in it. I wish someone had the wherewithal to donate the needed funds- I gave what I could - but it is a very large amount. B



Date: 11/19/22 20:21
Re: Swanton Pacific RR status
Author: CarolVoss

We were personal friends of Al Smith because we knew him through our OSH stockholder relationship--- Al had a huge ego and donating the Swanton ranch  to Cal Poly was a big deal for him as he had no other family. The 2020 Fire was the kiss of death for the SPRR and Cal Poly will make the best of what remains and can be restored to use it for student education.

Carol Voss
Bakersfield, CA



Date: 11/19/22 21:04
Re: Swanton Pacific RR status
Author: grizzledgary

I've been aware of the Swanton Pacific RR since it appeared as a listing in some of the earlier issues of The Steam Passenger Service Directory but the limited public operations never coincided with my visits to the area. After the fire I was considering making a donation to the rebuilding but held off as Cal Poly really seemed to be dragging their feet while generally seeming unconcerned about the future of the railroad. Despite the carefully chosen language in this update its clear the fire provided a convenient opportunity for the University to rid themselves of something they considered more of a liability than an asset and the multiple references to Al Smith's "wishes" couldn't be any more transparently disingenuous. I find it interesting that none of the railroad rolling stock nor related equipment were insured for such a loss even though they most assuredly had some form of liability policy in place covering operations.

I'm very sad for the volunteers (and folks who did make donations after the fire...) that likely hoped or even believed they were working in good faith with the university to preserve Al Smith's legacy. No, it isn't time for any "constructive conversation" as the course has been set and Cal Poly can now do whatever they wish, it is over.



Date: 11/19/22 23:51
Re: Swanton Pacific RR status
Author: PHall

Look at it from the viewpoint of the university, what good did the students get from the railroad?



Date: 11/21/22 06:33
Re: Swanton Pacific RR status
Author: mococomike

Do they want it removed from the property or just someone to maintain it? If removal would if fit with a group like a Golden Gate live steamers in Oakland.



Date: 11/21/22 13:03
Re: Swanton Pacific RR status
Author: czuleget

Rio Vista would make the best choice as it is Bay area related. they also have roome to place the collection. Its just a suggestion. 



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