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 Post subject: Re: Feds sue Durango and Silverton over 416 fire
PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 3:36 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
Posts: 491
As they say... your guess is as good as mine! At the end of the day none of us have a crystal ball.

Insurance costs could certainly rise, but I don’t see an outright ban coming immediately. Perhaps for Durango because they travel through the national Forest. Again no crystal ball.

I wouldn’t put it past Al Harper to leave Durango and move to Silverton if the town wins their suit. He worked out quite the deal with Bryson City when he left Dillsoboro did he not?


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 Post subject: Re: Feds sue Durango and Silverton over 416 fire
PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 7:58 pm 

Joined: Sat Aug 31, 2013 4:11 pm
Posts: 287
I'd be interested in reading the complete filing to see the exact federal statutes and the liability provisions established by those statutes. For example 18 U.S. Code § 1856. Fires left unattended and un-extinguished. Now that is the criminal citation that permits the govt to fine and imprison you for not extinguishing your camp fire - fine plus up to 6 months in the pokey. Sans language such as "xx U.S.Code" this is a total civil proceeding where the fed is jumping in the game first to get the big settlement.

Now if it is a filing like you see in hazardous substance spills there is typically very specific language defining liability and determination of amount. The government has to fully demonstrate how the liability amount was determined and provide all documentation supporting the actual cash/expense amount. Having experience in this type of proceeding, the DOJ tends to not move a filing forward without having reached the point that a lawsuit is the only way left to settle the matter, and they have a solid case. The feds have almost unlimited time* and resources to pursue this, and the D&S and Am Heritage Railways do not.

*some may wonder about statute of limitations - filing the lawsuit satisfied that.


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 Post subject: Re: Feds sue Durango and Silverton over 416 fire
PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 8:21 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
Posts: 954
Location: Tucson, Arizona
I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do have court experience. The fact that the railroad runs through a national forest is separate from the legal facts of the current lawsuits. The facts are that the railroad has repeatedly caused serious wildfires that have endangered public and private property as well as human life. The fact that the railroad has caused these fires, some of which have required use of government resources to combat, demonstrates that the railroad’s practices are insufficient/deficient and that change is required.

The attorneys for both parties will likely aim to reach a negotiated settlement, rather than risk a jury trial. Depending on where the case is being heard, the railroad may want to settle rather than risk going against a hostile jury (such as a jury with several environmentalists on it). The railroad may find it in their interest to agree to convert ALL steam locomotives to oil fired or the government may insist on it.

With multiple lawsuits going on, this is most likely going to turn out to be an expensive damage control exercise for the railroad. I expect that in light of what they may have to pay (court costs, attorneys fees and potential damages) the cost of converting the steamers to oil will seem cheap. I foresee the cases potentially costing the railroad at least a couple million dollars at the minimum.

As previously mentioned, the DOJ won’t pursue a weak case and has determined that the situation with the D & S cannot be resolved without a lawsuit with suitable damages to address the conduct of the railroad.

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 Post subject: Re: Feds sue Durango and Silverton over 416 fire
PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 9:24 pm 

Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 10:28 pm
Posts: 236
Crescent-Zephyr wrote:
As they say... your guess is as good as mine! At the end of the day none of us have a crystal ball.

Insurance costs could certainly rise, but I don’t see an outright ban coming immediately. Perhaps for Durango because they travel through the national Forest. Again no crystal ball.

I wouldn’t put it past Al Harper to leave Durango and move to Silverton if the town wins their suit. He worked out quite the deal with Bryson City when he left Dillsoboro did he not?



There's a huge difference between Bryson City and Silverton! Bryson was always the logical place for putting your headquarters on that railroad. Dillsboro was cramped at best with the shop and depot separated by a good half mile. Add to it minimal parking options, not much in the way of restaurants without forcing people to drive into Sylva and minimal hotels. Bryson City has space to grow, restaurants, motels, parking, and was already a tourist town.

Silverton has a couple of small places that hang on through the tourist season because the railroad comes up to drop off people for a couple of hours. D&S wouldn't have a chance of surviving if they left Durango.


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 Post subject: Re: Feds sue Durango and Silverton over 416 fire
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 3:41 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 9:34 pm
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Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Why does it seem I hear about these fires on the Durango-Silverton line, but I do not hear so much about fires on the Cumbres line?

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 Post subject: Re: Feds sue Durango and Silverton over 416 fire
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 3:05 pm 

Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2007 12:47 pm
Posts: 109
Location: Arizona
softwerkslex wrote:
Why does it seem I hear about these fires on the Durango-Silverton line, but I do not hear so much about fires on the Cumbres line?


The short answer is you don't hear about fires in Chama because they don't set them... The fires they do set are more easily contained.

The D&S has about 35 miles of railroad where the engines are working hard enough to start fires - the first 10 miles is pretty flat. The C&TS has 14 miles where the engines are likely to start fires - the remaining 50 is a moderate grade where in the 20+ years I worked there we didn't light a single fire.

The D&S runs at a lower altitude than the C&TS. So, it is a bit cooler along the C&TS.

The D&S runs through a lot of areas of scrub oak brush, which is great kindling for starting a fire. The biggest areas of fire concern are on slopes facing the south east where the morning sun dries out vegetation making it tinder dry

There are probably other reasons, but those are the big ones.


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 Post subject: Re: Feds sue Durango and Silverton over 416 fire
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 5:50 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
Posts: 954
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Earl Knoob wrote:
softwerkslex wrote:
Why does it seem I hear about these fires on the Durango-Silverton line, but I do not hear so much about fires on the Cumbres line?


The short answer is you don't hear about fires in Chama because they don't set them... The fires they do set are more easily contained.

The D&S has about 35 miles of railroad where the engines are working hard enough to start fires - the first 10 miles is pretty flat. The C&TS has 14 miles where the engines are likely to start fires - the remaining 50 is a moderate grade where in the 20+ years I worked there we didn't light a single fire.

The D&S runs at a lower altitude than the C&TS. So, it is a bit cooler along the C&TS.

The D&S runs through a lot of areas of scrub oak brush, which is great kindling for starting a fire. The biggest areas of fire concern are on slopes facing the south east where the morning sun dries out vegetation making it tinder dry

There are probably other reasons, but those are the big ones.


Very well put. I have never heard of any fires on the eastern side of Cumbres Pass myself. All of the fires I've known of were on the western side of the pass, as you say. Having good road access between Chama and Cumbres makes all the difference-when I was working for the bus contractor there, they had a large ex-army tanker that backed up the motor car with its water tank. On the rare occasion that our railroad had to do fire watch behind a steam powered train, we wan a second section with a pump unit connected to a water canteen car. Crew on the first section would watch for potential hot spots and radio the locations to us. We were also looking out for hot spots and would stop at each location. Engineer and I would get off, start the pump up and thoroughly douse the location until the fire was definitely out.

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 Post subject: Re: Feds sue Durango and Silverton over 416 fire
PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:02 am 

Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2004 7:52 am
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Location: Strasburg, PA
Earl Knoob wrote:
There are probably other reasons, but those are the big ones.
Seems to me that Durango is a lot closer to the southwest desert than Chama is as well. You don't have to travel very far at all southwest of Durango to find yourself in true desert conditions. Add the recent history of heat and drought, and it's easy to see that the four corners area desert is going to be expanding to the northeast.

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 Post subject: Re: Feds sue Durango and Silverton over 416 fire
PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:16 pm 
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Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
The locals I talked with, without exception, were all convinced that this fire was arson by a person and that the RR was blamed due to 'deep pockets' and a huge public front.
I do wonder about that, as wasn't a speeder following the train that they blame for this fire?

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 Post subject: Re: Feds sue Durango and Silverton over 416 fire
PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:40 pm 

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 2:22 pm
Posts: 1431
p51 wrote:
The locals I talked with, without exception, were all convinced that this fire was arson by a person and that the RR was blamed due to 'deep pockets' and a huge public front.
I do wonder about that, as wasn't a speeder following the train that they blame for this fire?



I have wondered about arson being the cause. According to the locals that you talked to, what would be a motive for arson being the cause of this fire?


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 Post subject: Re: Feds sue Durango and Silverton over 416 fire
PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:15 pm 
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Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
Ron Travis wrote:
I have wondered about arson being the cause. According to the locals that you talked to, what would be a motive for arson being the cause of this fire?
Arson doesn't need a motive other than the perverse nature of those who set such fires.
Nobody set forth a motive, but the people I talked to said there'd been other mysterious fires in the area around that timeframe.

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 Post subject: Re: Feds sue Durango and Silverton over 416 fire
PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:22 pm 

Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2004 7:52 am
Posts: 1701
Location: Strasburg, PA
Kelly Anderson wrote:
Ron Travis wrote:
If a fire starts near the track shortly after a D&S train passes, is that sufficient evidence to prove that a D&S train started the fire?
In this case, a "volunteer firefighter" "discovered" the fire immediatly after the train had passed. Around here, there are lots of volunteer fire departments in small towns, and a volunteer firefighter gets convicted of arson every couple of years, i.e. he gets a little too enthusiastic for his own good.

In this case, I have no faith that the fire wasn't started by the "firefighter". It was 37' from the track, which is near the recognized limit that locomotives can throw sparks hot enough to start a fire. He was video interviewed about it while standing on the tracks, and there is no burned vegetation in sight in the video.
My post on this subject from December 21st.

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Strasburg Rail Road Mechanical Department


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 Post subject: Re: Feds sue Durango and Silverton over 416 fire
PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:47 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:23 am
Posts: 457
Location: Strasburg, PA
Kelly Anderson wrote:
Kelly Anderson wrote:
Ron Travis wrote:
If a fire starts near the track shortly after a D&S train passes, is that sufficient evidence to prove that a D&S train started the fire?
In this case, a "volunteer firefighter" "discovered" the fire immediatly after the train had passed. Around here, there are lots of volunteer fire departments in small towns, and a volunteer firefighter gets convicted of arson every couple of years, i.e. he gets a little too enthusiastic for his own good.

In this case, I have no faith that the fire wasn't started by the "firefighter". It was 37' from the track, which is near the recognized limit that locomotives can throw sparks hot enough to start a fire. He was video interviewed about it while standing on the tracks, and there is no burned vegetation in sight in the video.
My post on this subject from December 21st.

Watch it, you'll be subpoenaed as an expert witness ...

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 Post subject: Re: Feds sue Durango and Silverton over 416 fire
PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 4:48 pm 

Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2009 5:51 pm
Posts: 119
Location: Massachusetts
p51 wrote:
I do wonder about that, as wasn't a speeder following the train that they blame for this fire?


Correct. Fire patrols on speeders follow EVERY D&SNGRR Train. In addition, I believe that the last train leaving Durango each day includes a box car behind the locomotive that contains water tanks and heavier fire-fighting gear.

The railroad takes other precautions as well. In addition to spark screens, the steam engines also have stack sprayers that spray water into the exhaust. Perhaps someone else can comment on whether or not those are continuously used or whether they are only used on the steeper grades. They also position water tank cars at Rockwood and/or Silverton with a diesel on hand to move them wherever required. Lastly, I have also seen a helicopter used to patrol the line.

It's not like they don't take the fire hazard seriously. I suspect that those precautions are not inexpensive, particularly the helicopter. Given the altitudes, they likely have to use a turbine-powered machine.

/Kevin Madore


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 Post subject: Re: Feds sue Durango and Silverton over 416 fire
PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 5:12 pm 
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Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
Kelly Anderson wrote:
Kelly Anderson wrote:
Ron Travis wrote:
If a fire starts near the track shortly after a D&S train passes, is that sufficient evidence to prove that a D&S train started the fire?
In this case, a "volunteer firefighter" "discovered" the fire immediatly after the train had passed. Around here, there are lots of volunteer fire departments in small towns, and a volunteer firefighter gets convicted of arson every couple of years, i.e. he gets a little too enthusiastic for his own good.

In this case, I have no faith that the fire wasn't started by the "firefighter". It was 37' from the track, which is near the recognized limit that locomotives can throw sparks hot enough to start a fire. He was video interviewed about it while standing on the tracks, and there is no burned vegetation in sight in the video.
My post on this subject from December 21st.

I recalled this but didn't want to quote it in case I got it wrong as I couldn't find it.

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