Saturday, June 9, 2012

With a Whimper, Not a Bang

Following a recent board meeting, the parent corporation of the West Central Minnesota Railroad announced the strategic sale of the 74 mile shortline connecting Wadena and Cass Lake. During a news conference held at the railroad general office in Nimrod, MN (the terminus of a never-built proposed expansion that had been intended to serve a bison ranch) the CEO announced, "The board has decided that this is the proper time to refocus our activities to the east. The West Central Minnesota Railroad is a high class railroad that has made great strides in its ability to provided safe, timely, cost-effective service to a growing customer base. We are confident that a new operator will step forward and continue serving those customers." When pressed on the railroad's future should no new operator be found, the CEO was less encouraging. "Someone will buy it." he said, after being pestered by reporters for more than 2 minutes. "If it's a railroad operator, great, but remember that scrap prices are high too. We're outa here." He then turned tail and scampered away, an entourage of security guards covering his retreat. Local businessmen and civic leaders commented that "they never did trust that weasly @&;^%$$!"

Corporate officials following recent announcement of WCMR Sale

The next week local newspapers carried the following ad: "For Sale-11' x 42' HO Scale model railroad. Nice condition. Includes continuous run loop. Only operated by a little old lady on Sunday afternoons. Track cleaning records show meticulous maintenance. The infrastructure is in tip-top shape, except there is hardly any ballast and we do have to disclose some power problems on a couple of the #4 turnouts. Completely wired for DCC, most of the feeders tied in to #12 power bus. Loconet installed with 6 plug ins. Passing siding holds trains made up of 2-6 axles diesels and 21 cars. Most of the backdrop is painted. Bring your own rolling stock, motive power, DCC system, and customers. Buyer assumes liabilities with locomotive rebuild shop in Bemidji MN. Oh, and some of the trees have not been trimmed since a recent tornado. $12,000,000 or best offer. Call 739-4567."

Nobody called. And so ended the saga of the WCMR, once-high hopes dashed against the greed of out-of-state railroad executives known for questionable ethics. The only happy locals turned out to be the members of the snowmobile club, whose eyes twinkled at the thought of a new trail. Just goes to prove that every black cloud has a silver lining if you only look hard enough.

(Like a Phoenix, the railroad just may rise again in a different location. You can't keep a crooked RR exec down!)