Here come the trains: UP finished repairs to bridge damaged by Lava Fire ahead of schedule

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta Herald
The first Union Pacific train going over the Dry Canyon bridge, north of Weed, on Aug. 1, 2021, after it was damaged by the Lava Fire on June 28.

Dry Canyon Bridge, which was damaged July 28 in the Lava Fire, reopened Sunday after repairs to the structure progressed faster than Union Pacific first expected.

Originally, UP said it would take until the end of the month for the bridge – located about five miles northeast of Weed – to be serviceable, said Robynn Tysver, a communications manager for the railroad. Freight trains had been diverted over Donner Pass.

In an announcement Monday, UP commended its engineering and operating teams, "who have been working around the clock to restore service." 

"We expect to see continued transit delays over the next few weeks as we reposition resources," UP said in the statement. "We plan to stage inbound trains at strategic locations to assist in working off the backlog of trains, which will help expedite delivery to customers once the bridge has reopened."

The Dry Canyon Bridge was damaged by the Lava Fire on June 28, 2021.

Scheduled trains for the Amtrak Coast Starlight, which also runs along the route, have been adjusted to compensate for the track closure.

UP operations were also impacted by the Dixie Fire, just north of Oroville, which on Monday was 220,000 acres and is 23% contained. Last week, the fire jumped the railroad tracks, damaging the decking on two bridges on the route north of Oroville.

Those bridges were reopened Monday, said Tysver. 

"While we are reopened across the areas impacted by the fires, we continue to work closely with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to minimize any potential fire damage," Tysver added. "Firefighters also continue to ride our water trains and assist crews in protecting structures."

Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation, lifelong Siskiyou County resident.