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« Ruminations – 8mar16 | Main | The Stop Trump Terrorists (updated 20mar16) »

11 March 2016


Brad C.

Seems like trains would be our Valemaxes. Colfax/Auburn/Yuba City could be nearby distribution "ports". We would still have that "last mile" problem, getting the materials/products to/from the rail lines, to deal with.

George Rebane

BradC 1153am - Sadly, we're much better at tearing out rail lines but not very good at building new ones - see the history of Nevada County. Trucks seem to be the ubiquitous land transport solution, and such a Valemax truck service could be started quicker and with much less expense. I think that the 'last mile' problem is already solved with the parcel delivery service in operation.


It's unclear what could happen first, a new rail line from Grass Valley or Nevada City to join with the mainline in Colfax or Auburn, or a matter transporter powered by a dilithium crystal reactor core able to transport anything anywhere on the planet in the blink of an eye.

I think I'd bet on the transporter but it would be close.


Grass Valley has gold, but what most don't know, is that just West of PV is an iron belt.
The ore is so good, a common magnet will stick to just about every rock. Another resource that will never be.
There was an iron mine within .308 distance from me, that supplied the Nevada City foundry.

Sorry Brad, like the Dr. says. no rails for us. OH how the people along 174 would howl if plans to revamp the old rail grade were mentioned. From the remote possibility of an endangered critter that might get squished or disturbed, to the gross polluter and noisy train. (then who would be on the wrong side of the tracks, finger pointing)

Remember. it was "huge mine trucks rolling down Main St. every 30 seconds" that was the big lie that helped kill IMM.

rl crabb

Well, when Trump takes over he can just eminently domain those sissies along 174, build the railroad, and make them pay for it.


I expect you'll see unmanned trucks (and road trains) long before there's a huge increase in rail capital spending. It would be interesting to see what the optimal truck layout is given the disappearance of driver labor cost.

In any case, local manufacturers mostly haven't been particularly affected by shipping cost (with a couple of exceptions like the now expired furniture maker). It's probably worth checking the cost to a business of sending a largish box from Grass Valley to somewhere like Atlanta vs. sending it from LA or Sacramento. I doubt there's much difference.


Shipping by rail is cheaper than by over the road truck no matter which way you look at it.

We had to have a piece of equipment fabricated. It was cheaper to have it made in Roseville than locally. Just the cost of raw materials alone was worth the trip down the hill.

George Rebane

drivebyposter 507pm - I don't know what the materials and product distribution nets look like geographically. But I suspect there are some big depots in the Sac area since moth major highways and transcontinental raillines run through it.

Your point about current marginal shipping costs is a good one. We have to remember though that we're talking about minimum form factors of about one cubic meter and more than a one-man carry weights when comparing costs. We're not talking about parcel deliveries here.


"it was "huge mine trucks rolling down Main St. every 30 seconds" that was the big lie that helped kill IMM." Walt 3:30

Would like to see your source for that bizarre statement Walt. You'll never find it however.


Walt, just so you know, I would wholeheartedly support the re-opening of that iron mine in PV. Are you sure its a .308 distance from you?
I would think more like .315.


Hay Walt, regarding the old Never Come Never Go, you do realize the main issue is that any line would run through people's developed property, right? You're a strong supporter of property rights I know, so would expect you to line up for the many homeowners.

Todd Juvinall

"jon" you sure don't know diddly about the county. Every post you make a fool of yourself. Walt knows more than you ever could. But as they say, ignorance is bliss. You are very blissfull.

Scott Obermuller

Jon - Walt's statement about the trucks is true. I remember reading that in the Union.
There will never be a rail line again between GV/NC and Colfax. It would have to span the canyon over the Bear River, among other obstacles. The cost of that bridge alone would bury any savings over moving freight by the highway. The average person has no clue how expensive railroads are to build. Hence - the HSR debacle.
There simply isn't the potential for enough dollar value of manufactured goods in Nevada County to justify the cost of a new rail line to Colfax. When the Never Come/Never Go was built, they were bringing bullion out of the mines in huge amounts. And the mines needed the rail line to supply them with all manner of very heavy equipment.

Russ Steele

I wrote a transportation article for Comstock's Business about ten years ago. One of the things I learned is that most of the distribution centers are in Reno/Sparks area, not in Northern California. Yes, there are some distribution centers in Woodland and West Sacramento, but the majority are out of state. It has to do with inventory taxation. At the end of the day, stores send their requests to these distribution centers the replacement products are picked up over-night and delivered to the stores between 6 AM and 8 AM, where is it stocked on the shelves by opening time at 10 AM.

I am still not sure how self-driving trucks will handle the Sierra snow storms, nor how large trucks will deal with California highway weight limits. To be economical, the truck would have to carry the max load. My Dad was a trucker for part of his working life hauling logs, lumber and heavy equipment. He knew all the back roads around the CHP weigh stations. Will the self-driving truck use these routes when loaded to the max? Or, more likely regulations will limit the size and weight carrying limits for self-driving Vale type vehicles, reducing profit margins of Vale trucks.

Transportation patterns are going to change in California once the new locks are opened in Panama this year, allowing medium to large container ships to go from China to New Orleans. The new locks cannot support the largest containers ships or the Vale mode bulk carriers. However, shippers will take advantage of the lower shipping cost with access to New Orleans ports and the central US, avoiding the costly long haul from the west coast ports.

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