Rail test postponed due to technical difficulties

EAST TEXAS (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Tuesday's scheduled test run of almost 3 miles of train tracks refurbished by the Texas State Railroad will be postponed until after the first of the year following technical difficulties.

The Texas State Railroad stretches about 26 miles from Anderson to Cherokee County, connecting in the cities of Rusk and Palestine. A test run was scheduled at 10:30 a.m. to test an additional 2.8-mile stretch that would connect the existing line to the Union Pacific line, Janet Gregg, marketing manager for the company, said.

Earl Knoob, the rail line's general manager, said the run was anticipated to test the rail line, safety equipment and communications between the train and Union Pacific dispatchers.

"The Union Pacific has to have (information) on our railroad in their dispatching computer," he said. "It hadn't been imputed yet, and no one thought about that or knew about that."

Knoob said Union Pacific told him the error would be corrected in a few days, but the railroad would wait to test the line until it finished running Polar Express, its busiest attraction of the year.

The stretch of rail line was unusable before the parent company, Iowa Pacific Holdings, took over in August. Company officials have said it is an important stretch that would allow short line freight operations into the area and the money needed to make the tourist rail line turn a profit, as well as potentially bring industrial businesses into the counties.

Knoob said the workers began clearing trees and preparing for rail line to be laid down mid-September, and after six to seven weeks, the stretch is capable of "walking" trains at speeds of about 5 mph.

"We are still working on it. We are going to be doing more railroad ties, ballast and surface work to get it to where we want (it to be)," he said, adding the tracks will eventually run trains at speeds between 20 and 25 mph.

The company also will work on further updating railroad crossings. He said the total project is paid for through a TxDOT grant.

Knoob said the delay should not hamper prospective freight operations.

"We don't have any freight business set up yet," Knoob said. "We have some that are interested, but we don't have anything concrete going."

A representative from Union Pacific could not be reached by press time.


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