Empty train cars finally moved from track near Arvin

Empty train cars finally moved from track near Arvin »Play Video
FILE -- Graffiti-covered, out-of-service train cars are seen Wednesday, March 27, 2013, near Arvin, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo/Lou Enriquez)

ARVIN, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - After a six-year battle, neighbors in an Arvin community are happy that a couple dozen empty Amtrak rail cars have been moved.

Amtrak had said they were trying to sell the mail delivery cars that are no longer in use. Neighbors had complained the empty box cars have been a magnet for graffiti and crime.

A neighbor who didn't want to be identified started contacting Eyewitness News in 2010, saying the cars first showed up in Nov. 2008. He continued to worry, and kept watching the string of cars. He wanted to stay anonymous, worried about retribution of some kind.

This weekend he could hardly believe his eyes. "Out of nowhere on Saturday at 4 p.m. they took all 25 cars," he said. "And, I feel so great that they're gone."

The neighbor had spotted people living in the big, empty cars over the years. He worried that brought crime and vandalism. He was also upset by graffiti sprayed on all the cars.

"From Russell Avenue all the way to Buena Vista Boulevard, there were 42 cargo trains from Amtrak," the neighbor described. "They covered that entire highway, I couldn't see anything." The cars sat next to Tejon Highway. And, they continued to sit there.

In November 2010, Eyewitness News contacted Amtrak. A spokeswoman said the cars were used for mail delivery, and Amtrak was no longer in that business, so they were being stored at that location. She promised to look into the situation and get back to us.

We checked in January, and the Amtrak spokeswoman said they were "working to resolve" the issue. We also checked with her in March and August of 2011. By August, Amtrak said "more than half" of the Amtrak cars had been sold to another company, indicating they would be moved.

Neighbors were still frustrated and worried by the remaining empty train cars.

Amtrak reported in March 2012 they were in negotiations to move the cars, "and plan to relocate them by December 31, 2012." But, when we checked in mid-December, Amtrak said about a "half dozen" cars had been sold and would be moved, the rest would be "secured" at the site until they were sold.

Neighbors said they had continued concerns, saying they now saw graffiti on street signs and trucks belonging to a company operating in the area. They believed it could be related to people drawn to the empty train cars.

In 2013, Eyewitness News again contacted the Amtrak spokeswoman, who responded she was checking on the current status. A reporter who went to the site counted 25 cars still on the track.

Then, the neighbors suddenly saw the train cars gone the past week-end. The man who first contacted Eyewitness News said he had continued to be worried about the situation.

"My neighbors got robbed on Dec. 5," he said. "When those (remaining) 25 cargo trains were there in December there were people staying there." He insists the empty cars were a source of problems.

Neighbor Efren Alvarez said he was also worried about people staying in the cars. With the train gone, he figures that reduces the risk to local kids and the chance of problems like fights in the box cars.

Ann Kasinger is glad the train's gone, considering those concerns. "Now that you mention the things that could happen, yeah -- I guess I am," she said.

Last year when Eyewitness News checked on the situation, the Amtrak spokeswoman said they were leasing space on that stretch of rail, and the cars would stay there until they sold. Late Monday, she responded to our latest questions, saying the lease had expired, and the cars were sold to a broker.

It's still not clear where they went.

"I don't really care," the concerned neighbor said. "I'm just so happy, and kind of emotional."

He thinks the continued pressure on Amtrak paid off. "If it weren't for you," he told Eyewitness News. "Those trains would never leave."

He insists the spur of track in their area was a poor place to simply store unused train cars. "I'm very happy that they're gone," he said. "It's been almost 6 years. I can't believe it they're gone. I just feel great."