Choo-choo here long, long time | VailDaily.com
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Choo-choo here long, long time

My first memory of the railroad tracks meandering through Eagle County was back in the late 1960s.I did not move here until 1984, but my family would hitch up the wagon (a 1968 Olds with fake wood siding) and travel to this part of the Rockies every chance we could when I was a kid. Anything to escape the Texas summer heat.My dad was (and still is) a train nut. Anytime a family member spotted one of the metal snakes during our travels, we would detour however long was needed to chase it down and record the engine numbers. He kept a log of those engine numbers for probably the same exact reason I keep track of lost golf balls each round – absolutely none.It’s just something we do.Therefore we ended up spending quite a bit of quality time in train yards such as Minturn.Many of those memories are 35 to 40 years old, and I remember the tracks around here seeming ancient at the time and, except for a few new stakes, ties and underpasses, have not changed a lick since then.Nor do I think they will in our lifetime.The town of Avon wants to take turns with Union Pacific seeing who can hit the fire hydrant target from farther away, and I can ask you, whose snake is longer?All of the talk about bullying and David vs. Goliath indeed seems relevant on the surface, but the slithering actions of an ancient corporation with a tentacles reaching nationwide are not to be dismissed with arrogant hand waving and creative letter writing.I bought a house along the tracks in the late ’80s. It only took a few weeks to get used to the occasional noise. While I was an elected member of the Avon Town Council in the mid-’90s, Union Pacific stopped using the tracks due to the efficiency of “financial constraints,” and was considering abandonment as a viable option. At the time we were in early negotiations with the proposed Village at Avon, and UP was playing a significant role concerning access points and the costs associated therein.They were challenging to deal with then and also a few years earlier when the Avon Road underpass was “negotiated.” (We paid and they allowed us to do so.)Anyway, local and statewide trail groups were salivating at the potential uses of the prime land underneath the tracks, as was every developer with cash (or the ability to borrow more) and every landowner with at least a square inch connected to the government granted right-of-ways of the late 1800s, myself included. But bitter experience of earlier abandonments and a bit of logical long-term thinking caused the brain trusts at UP to stick to their guns, and the tracks were simply put on indefinite hold. They would not allow their long-standing rights to be compromised, knowing that once they gave an inch, the miles would be snatched up quicker than Lindholm can shout, “Why the hell was I forced to spend $7 million for an underpass?”So when I read about this “Seinfeld” nuisance ordinance making it a no-no for the choo-choos to be parked along the tracks in Avon, I could not help but think it is all much ado about nothing, and has as much teeth as Aspen when they voted themselves a nuclear-free zone.It’s only been a few years since empty coal cars were parked along the tracks in Edwards for weeks at a time, and I don’t recall a single complaint. They were not “ugly,” simply part of the normal landscape of that section of Eagle County. And to make an analogy comparing them to the Berlin wall was just flat out silly. Hell, Fred Green’s selfish berm is more of a Berlin wall to certain Edwards residents than temporary train cars to all of Avon.Underpasses and overpasses (including pedestrian only) have been studied ad nauseum for the entire stretch of railroad that encroaches into Avon. Sometimes the town gets what they want (such as the on-grade crossing over by the Elementary School). Sometimes they don’t (every other time that I am aware of). But each time they are at the mercy of a segment of American history that was set firmly in place by the federal government over 100 years before Avon even became a town.Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to give up the fight, just bring your checkbook to the battle. And maybe Harry Frampton, as well.You’ll probably need both to win.Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at poor@vail.net Vail, Colorado


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