|Railway Preservation News
|Fillmore and Western Railroad
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|Author:||Bowmore [ Thu Mar 23, 2017 10:27 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Fillmore and Western Railroad|
I volunteer on this railroad and the commission has given the owner a hard time. The railroad operates on a branch line in Southern California that was purchased by the Ventura County Transportation Commission. He had a lease that went through 2021.
The information below is from the Ventura County Star Newspaper.
The Ventura County Transportation Commission and the Fillmore & Western Railway are in preliminary discussions to possibly settle their long-running legal dispute to avoid a May 22 trial.
"Having to go to trial is always the last option," Darren Kettle, the commission's executive director, said Monday. "That's been our position — that we'd just as soon avoid a trial. So if we can, that's better for all parties."
The railroad's attorney, David Van Etten, agreed.
"Yes, we would like to avoid going to trial," said Van Etten, who is based in Westlake Village. "We would like to get a global resolution of both matters," referring to lawsuits each side has filed against the other.
"It's very preliminary," he added. "So there's a discussion of potentially moving the cases into a mediation."
The vintage Fillmore and Western Railway and the Ventura
The vintage Fillmore and Western Railway and the Ventura County Transportation Commission are in preliminary discussions to possibly resolve their long-running legal battle before a May 22 trial.
The vintage, tourist-oriented railway remains in business more than three years after the commission terminated its lease to use the 32-mile Santa Paula Branch Line, which the commission owns. The rail corridor spans roughly between Ventura and Piru.
Negotiated in 2001, the 20-year lease was cut short in 2013 with about eight years left on it.
Commission officials say they did so in an effort to reverse the millions of dollars the branch line has lost over the years. Fillmore & Western says the corridor's financial woes have been caused by the commission's mismanagement.
The trains, including the railway's popular Christmas trains, have continued to run as the two sides have engaged in lengthy litigation in Ventura County Superior Court.
Having failed in its initial strategy to evict Fillmore & Western from the branch line, the commission in December 2015 began a new legal tack by seeking an injunction to halt the railway's tourist-oriented excursions.
The commission has thus far not sought an injunction against Fillmore & Western's other businesses on the branch line: renting its vintage trains for Hollywood productions and freight and mail operations. Those businesses "would be taken up at a later date," Kettle said Monday.
The railroad, meanwhile, has filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the commission, alleging, in part, that the agency improperly terminated its lease. It seeks damages of more than $3 million and is set to go to trial in early 2018.
Fillmore holiday trains rolling again
Steve Mattas, the commission's general counsel, has said the commission disputes the allegations in the breach-of-contract suit, noting that similar claims in a previous Fillmore & Western lawsuit against the agency were dismissed by the court. The railroad later withdrew the rest of the previous lawsuit, which related to the termination of its lease for its Hollywood operation.
Van Etten said Fillmore & Western wants any settlement to be comprehensive, resolving all issues, including the railway's various businesses.
"I assume any resolution will be a final and complete resolution," he said. "Otherwise I don't think either side is going to be interested in it."
Dave Wilkinson, the railroad's president, has repeatedly said he hopes the two sides can at last negotiate a settlement. He did so again Monday.
"I really hope it gets settled," he said. "I really do. I think we've gone through a number of years of just nonsense. But I'm prepared to go either way: stay here or get the hell out of Dodge."
Fillmore & Western representatives and supporters say that if the railway went out of business, tourism and the economy throughout the Heritage Valley would take a significant hit. The railroad attracts 50,000 to 70,000 visitors a year, they say.
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