By AMY LINDBLOM
A dispute between the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento and Sierra Northern Railway could put the brakes as of tomorrow on weekend train rides at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown.
At issue is which entity, the state or the privately-owned rail line, should maintain the tracks that carry passenger and freight trains.
Mike Hart, Sierra Northern Railway owner, said an inspection of the tracks between Chinese Camp and Jamestown revealed defects that make the tracks unsafe for passenger trains. But the defects do not affect his company's freight trains.
Federal laws mandate that any defects be corrected within 30 days of completion of an inspection report or the passenger trains must stop, Hart said.
Cathy Taylor, director of the California State Railroad Museum, said she has never seen the inspection report. Moreover, if there are defects, costs to repair them should be shared by Sierra and the state because Sierra's freight trains use the lines more than the weekend passenger trains, and cargo-loaded freight trains are heavier and cause more damage, she said.
Taylor said that in a 1982 trackage rights agreement, Sierra is required to maintain the tracks in order to run freight trains.
"CSRM requested a detailed track inspection over 30 days ago, got the list of serious defects and they were confirmed by another inspector (from CSRM) as well," Hart said.
"CSRM has made no contact with us during that time period, asked for no work windows to make corrections."
On Tuesday, Dave Magaw, Sierra Northern Railway president, wrote Taylor and said the museum must bring the track up to passenger-train standards if it wants to continue operating the trains.
"Until the museum has done so to Sierra's satisfaction, however, Sierra cannot allow any further passenger trains to operate over this track," Magaw wrote.
Taylor said museum officials never asked for an inspection, and denied ever receiving a copy of the report.