Vacant railcars a problem in Opp

Published 12:03 am Friday, March 4, 2011

Boxcars in downtown Opp are becoming a aesthetic problem and officials hope they will be gone soon.

A train hasn’t made its way through Opp since around 2000, but the remnants of a once flourishing industry still remain on the train tracks in town.

As the city works to revitalize the downtown area in an effort to draw more business to local merchants, it has no control over the vacant box cars and overgrown weeds and trees lining the tracks.

Opp Mayor H.D. Edgar said it’s something he has absolutely no control over.

“We do wish they would take into consideration the money and work we are putting into the downtown area,” he said.

The cars on the tracks are owned by Pioneer Railcorp, a company, the mayor said, with whom the city has a good working relationship.

Edgar said the city plans to make a request to the company in the coming days to respectfully ask them to move them from the downtown area.

Pioneer Marketing Manager Nathan Johns said the reason the cars are sitting vacant on the tracks is because they are “in storage,” something he attributes to tougher economic times.

“Now, there is a smaller demand for railcars, and it’s necessary to store those not in use,” he said.

Johns said that there is only a limited amount of railroad space available in North America.

“Sometimes it results in cars being stored in plainer view, as is the case here,” he said. “Our preference is to have no cars in storage.”

Johns said with the economic rebound, they are seeing a decrease in the number of cars in storage.

“Hopefully, that trend continues and these cars will not be there long,” he said.

However, Johns did not have a specific date of when the cars may be removed from the tracks.

“Don’t be concerned about the cars being parked there forever,” he said.

As far as the concerns about the cars being “an eye sore,” Johns said the corporation will do its best to address the city’s concerns.

“Realistically, since this is a more visible area, we’ll do what we can to address the concerns,” he said.

In the near future, Johns said he will have an employee cover the profane graffiti and do a knockdown and weed spray, which he says his company will purchase locally.

“We actually sent a guy out there earlier this week, and he noticed no snakes,” Johns said. “Though we do understand the concern and the weed spray should help.”

Johns reminded residents that those entering railroad property, both right of way and the tracks, are trespassing.

“There is a federal issue where trespassers would be subject to $10,000 fine per individual,” he said.

“(In a) perfect world, those railcars will be out of there soon and used to carry freight across the country three times more efficiently than long haul trucks,” he said. “But in the short term, the cover up and weed spray should provide an immediately improved appearance.”