A tourist train to the Golden Spike National Historic Site is one of those "That makes sense" ideas that never makes enough sense to happen.
It does sound simple. There was a train that way once. Why not again?
Mike Burdett, a member of the Promontory Rail Restoration Project, said many studies done over the years also say the idea makes sense. He keeps all those studies in a big box.
"We've spent $600,000 for all these, your taxpayer dollars," he said, as he set the box on the floor with a heavy "thump!"
The collection starts with a 1991 feasibility study by Ogden that cost $40,000. In 1992 Congress appropriated another $200,000 for a feasibility study, and in 1994 the National Park Service completed that one.
Both studies said the rail line is "feasible," but that doesn't mean it is something you want to do. Is it worth the risk?
Between 45,000 and 50,000 people per year visit the Golden Spike National Historic Site. The studies say a tourist train would draw anywhere from 100,000 to 400,000 more. That's between 250 and 1,000 more tourists a day, a huge tourism boon to Top of Utah.
In addition to feasibility studies, Mike has a 2000 business plan written up by the Weber State University school of business, a 2002 plan to restore the train depot in Corinne, a 2004 site plan of that same Corinne station complete with parking lot, and a 2004 engineering study done by the Golden Spike Heritage Foundation, again using state money.
Mike said he's got more than just piles of study books. The Union Pacific has donated 6 miles of the original Transcontinental Railroad right of way between Corinne and Stinky Springs to the foundation.
He's working with Hill Air Force Base which, he said, is going to donate about 6 miles' worth of rail. That rail could have come from the original line, torn up in 1942 and used on military bases during World War II.
The biggest stumbling block, of course, is money. Building the project would cost an estimated $30 million, "but half of that is for the stock," he said, engines and cars.
"There are lots of railroads around hurting for business. We could get one of them to come in and run it."
Mike sees lots of ways it could happen: Contract with ATK to haul rocket motors from the plant near Promontory, which are now trucked to the rail head near Corinne; tie in with FrontRunner for Box Elder commuters; have the National Guard help build the roadbed and lay the rails.
This isn't just Mike talking. In 2010 the Legislature passed SB 152, creating a Utah State Railroad Museum Authority charged with, among other things, working to build a tourist rail line to Promontory.
Mike's a member of the authority, but he said the authority hasn't got any money and Gov. Gary Herbert hasn't appointed a chairman for it yet.
No money, no leader. What does the effort have?
Well, it's got 6 miles of roadbed between Stinky Springs and Corinne, some rail from Hill Air Force Base, a box of studies that say it can really happen, and the fact that, when it comes to trains, a lot of people get a funny gleam in their eye.
"I think there are people across the country who would drive their campers here and volunteer to build the railroad if it came to that," Mike said.