The following is from the Sacramento (California) Bee newspaper. ****** By Walt Wiley -- Bee Staff Writer - (Published November 21, 2003) The 26.5-mile Yolo Shortline Railroad is no more. The little line has been merged into the Sierra Railroad Co., and nearly half of the remaining track is scheduled to be taken up so that the right of way can become a recreational trail. West Sacramento and Sierra officials have reached a deal by which the track south of the Port of Sacramento's barge canal will be taken up and the right of way sold to the city for $5.5 million. "The railroad had wanted to store tank cars of propane and other material along there, right where we have plans for a lot of residential development," said Toby Ross, West Sacramento city manager. In addition, the city was going to have to build or upgrade six expensive rail crossings if the line continued to operate, so most of the cost of buying the line comes from funds the city would have had to have spent anyway, Ross said. "And we end up with a continuous, almost 10-mile-long recreation trail," he said. The Yolo Shortline came into being as a spinoff from the Union Pacific's big takeover of California railroads. In 1991 UP sold to a group of Yolo investors the branch lines from West Sacramento to Woodland and West Sacramento to Clarksburg. As a result of the merger, the line becomes part of the Sierra Railroad, the line that runs the dinner trains and historic steam trains in Jamestown. Sierra, an old mining railroad that still hauls quite a bit of freight between Oakdale and Sonora, is famous as the movie railroad, the setting for more than 200 movies plus scores of television shows. And it cashes in on its quaintness by catering to tourists, so the company is catering to tourists as well on the Yolo track, said Mike Hart, Sierra president. Passenger trains called the "Wild Berry Express" ply the 16 miles of track between Woodland and West Sacramento with a variety of excursion trains. "It's part of what we see as a bright future for us with smaller railroads in Northern California," Hart said. The Yolo line's main business still is freight, which is shipped every day to and from industrial facilities in Woodland as well as the Port of Sacramento and other installations around West Sacramento, all linked to the Union Pacific's main line through a connection in West Sacramento. The line also handles the rail operations in McClellan Park as well as military switch yards in Concord and Riverbank. In all, the Sierra Railroad operates about 100 miles of track in California. "And we're among the bidders for the Skunk Train, " Hart said. The Skunk is the famous shortline railroad through the redwoods between Fort Bragg and Willits, now in bankruptcy protection with the loss of its main customer, the big sawmill in Fort Bragg. The Yolo line dates back almost 100 years to when there were two electric interurban railroads, the Northern Electric and the Oakland Antioch and Eastern, coming together in Sacramento to form a network that stretched more than 200 miles from San Francisco to Chico. It was a grand idea, but the timing was absolutely wrong, said Paul Hammond of the California Railroad Museum. "They never had a chance. The railroads were built between 1905 and 1915 to provide fast, interurban service just when the automobile was becoming a part of everyday life," Hammond said. "They never even made enough money to pay back their construction cost." But the Western Pacific Railroad, hungry for freight business, bought them and in 1929 merged them to form the Sacramento Northern. The Oakland Antioch and Eastern part of the system provided service from downtown San Francisco to Sacramento with a ferry between Antioch and a place on the Solano County shore called Mallard. Remnants of the OA&E's wooden causeway and much of the old right of way still are visible clear back to West Sacramento, where the long-abandoned main line intersects with the soon-to-be- abandoned Clarksburg branch. The Woodland branch was part of the Northern Electric, and still follows the 1912 route through the berry vines and cottonwood trees along the Sacramento River from West Sacramento to Elkhorn, then over an 8,000-foot wooden trestle into Woodland.