Parked cars getting towed near the Ballard Terminal Railroad tracks

We all know parking in Central Ballard is a challenge, and on the weekend — especially during the Ballard Farmer’s Market as the weather warms up — it can be downright maddening.

That’s usually when drivers get creative along Shilshole Ave., often parking on — or very near (above) — the railroad tracks that run along the shoreline.

“Last Sunday, I saw some 30 cars parked on the tracks with these, handy, warnings tagged on each car,” explains Jim in the My Ballard Facebook Group, posting these photos. “Several cars were towed a few hours later, when the train made it’s run.”

Most Ballard visitors — and quite a few Ballard residents — are always surprised to learn that the railroad actually runs several times a week. Often in overnight hours, Ballard Terminal Railroad Company runs a one-engine (“Li’l Beaver”) railroad that transports materials back and forth from Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel on Shilshole Ave.

Signs next to the stretch of tracks remind drivers that it’s illegal to park within six feet of the tracks, day or night. When cars block the train, they get towed.

“They tow at last resort,” Jim explained. “I’ve seen the train held up for an hour while they try and sort out the parking before towing.”

Geeky Swedes

The founders of My Ballard

42 thoughts to “Parked cars getting towed near the Ballard Terminal Railroad tracks”

  1. This really isn’t new. For the past 13 years or so I’ve watched people get towed on a regular basis.

    What Floyd said! It is an expensive ticket…But, common sense says what Floyd said, but common sense is no longer as common as it used to be.

  2. “that transports materials back and forth from Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel on Shilshole Ave.”

    From where to where, and why does it need to be done on a train? The thing goes like three blocks.

    I’m guessing this is just a thinly veiled excuse to keep the missing link of the B-G Trail from being built on Shilshole.

    I really don’t give a crap about the burke, but c’mon, this train charade is obvious and silly. Always has been, always will be.

    1. This train is NOT Silly! you have no respect for the city’s history with that kind of remark! this train gives the city character, screw that stupid bike trail! all they do is kill history!

  3. Andrew… very ignorant of you. Paul and the boys get 286,000 lbs of material delivered for peanuts. Rail is by far the most cost effective way to transport a large product like this.

    I’d love to hear you explain your reasoning to the 12 railroad employees and the small army that work at Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel. (or are their livelihoods not important?)

    You do seem pretty proficient at trolling MyBallard and spreading your leftist view… but pump the breaks pal. You just look bad.

    The tracks have been around for over 100 years. It ain’t hard. Don’t park on them.

    (side note) As for the Burke Gilman? The hearing examiner for the city ruled in favor and Cascade Bicycle Club but forgot a few things. The Service Transportation Board and Federal Rail Administration haven’t been consulted on any designs and/or changes. The Feds are going to tie the process up for years as the city failed to even consult them… not to mention the inherent death of someone using the trail.

    It’ll happen… just wait.

  4. @ Andrew: perhaps the fact SB is still able to somehow operate/function is this city is amazing, I think you’d agree. I think they provide an important service as well as employing a few people. The fact that more people are here is a fact, but I thought they all walked or rode bikes anyway? Calling the train a “charade” detracts from any point you may have made. And perhaps if these wonderful cyclists had a “pay for play” plan and had to pass a simple test, like boaters do, as well as displaying that expensive sticker/license plate, like boaters do, there’d be the $$ to do away with the pesky businesses.

  5. The thing about the Ballard Terminal Rail Road is that while it may have started as an attempt to thwart the Burke Gilman Route on Shilshole, the trail has been designed to accommodate it and it really has no bearing on completing the trail.

  6. @Choochoo LOL, “Service Transportation Board”. *Surface. It’s the Surface Transportation board. the feds won’t give a crap about a small realignment that will not affect the service at all.

  7. War on cars? Huh?

    As left alone, the parking would remain. When the city jacks it all up for a trail… they smoke hundreds of parking spots.

    The Burke Gilman is your enemy here… not the railroad and how it is currently used.

  8. I think it is actually nice of the railroad to put flyers on people cars who probably innocently unaware of what they are doing wrong. No?

    Couldn’t they just line up tow trucks and go to town? New business model right there folks. Ballard Terminal Towing Company.

  9. If I owned that railroad I’d be a little embarrassed that it looked so janky that everyone thought it was derelict.

  10. “You do seem pretty proficient at trolling MyBallard and spreading your leftist view… but pump the breaks pal. You just look bad.”

    First off, it’s “brakes”.

    Secondly, it’s a completely outmoded transportation system that literally exists only to disrupt progress.

    Third, Ballard is solidly “left” so I really don’t need to spread any rhetoric to get any points across. In fact it keeps getting more left every year! Yay!

    I should have been more clear, of course, while the tracks are still in use, people need to heed the signs and watch where they park. If you park in a tow away zone, and you get towed away, hey, that’s on you.

    Oh, that’s probably more leftist talk. lol.

  11. @Andrew “Virtue Signal” Daisuke
    Your parody of an annoyingly smug, self satisfied Seattleite is pitch perfect, even down to the correction of the “breaks/brakes” typo.
    5/5 Stars
    Your prize, as a Superstar Leftist” is a neighborhood filled with narcissistic doggy parents who fled the Bay Area or L.A. just to inflict the same stupidity on Washington. Enjoy the violent bums and screeching professional “victims” who ratchet up taxes for their lovers working as consultants. Bravo!

  12. @choochoo

    You failed to answer Andrew’s initial question. Where does the train actually go aside from up and down three blocks along Shilshole carrying empty train cars?

    If you are so hypersensitive about preserving parking for everyone except neighborhood Audi’s, Subaru’s and VW’s on public right of way maybe you should give up the charade of an active rail line and replace is it with parking.

  13. As a member of the 36th District Dems and former PCO in Sunset Hills neighborhood, I am quite confident that the majority of citizens living in the 36th District thankfully are moderates and not uber leftists. That said, the influence of a magic thinking political minority is amplified out of proportion to their numbers because so few moderates are registered to vote and/or if registered have decided not to vote very often because they perceive their one vote doesn’t count in a one party hyper progressive town. This has been proven ad-nauseum in academic poly-sci journal articles and books, my favorite being “The Logic of Collective Action” by Mancur Olsen.

    Undue influence of a self-identifying group is important for them, but should not be misconstrued as being in the majority. How you might undertake to organize the actual majority opinion politically is a very interesting and difficult problem, but I’m working on it. And hint – you can’t lie to them by saying their one vote and participation in the current hyper-progressive Seattle electoral process is important, because they know from experience it isn’t (many used to vote earlier in their lives) because they don’t see a way to change anything or seize political power from magic thinking noobs. Instead we need to use the same tactic as the Cascade Bicycle Club: convince electeds we are a voting block, not individual powerless voters. That is real politik power.

  14. easy solution to help parking woes – tow and impound the heaps of junk (rv’s) occupying the same places along shilsole for months at a time…

  15. Those postings are a bunch of baloney. All the employees who work at places SOUTH of the tracks all park there, and don’t get towed, or fined, or anything. If the “train” is going to run, somebody tells everyone and they move their cars. If its not going to run, its free parking.

    The reason these were posted on Sunday is because there were no employees there. I so wish to GOD that the city would pull up and ticket all the cars within 6 feet some random weekday morning at 10:00 AM. If I worked for SDOT, I would have started doing this about 5 lawsuits ago.

    ChooChoo- yes it is a sham railroad. The primary function is for storage, and not transportation. SBSG lot is too small to store the material, so they just park the rail cars, and use the material as needed.

    I would bet $1,000 – that not a single employee of SBSG or CSR Marine, if parked within 6 feet of the tracks M-F 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM would be towed in the next 3 months. Any takers can meet me at Hattie’s Hat Friday the 30th at 5:00 PM. I’ll be wearing train conductor clothes.

  16. @ballardite

    thank you. “You failed to answer Andrew’s initial question. Where does the train actually go aside from up and down three blocks along Shilshole carrying empty train cars?” I find it kind of interesting that Geeky Swedes left it out of his original post as well.

    “Your prize, as a Superstar Leftist” is a neighborhood filled with narcissistic doggy parents who fled the Bay Area or L.A. just to inflict the same stupidity on Washington.”

    It’s fantastic! We have great food, great beer, great parks and schools for kids, all from more and more great people moving here that cancel out all you old bitty’s complaining about everything! And there’s nothing you can do about it. Better move now before it gets even more out of hand, excuse me, more awesome. I hear Whidbey Island is popular for the old Ballard set. Check it out!

    I’ve lived here all my 40 years right here in Ballard, and I couldn’t be more excited about where Ballard is heading.

  17. I’ve lived in Ballard since it was founded. I miss the horses, and the horse shit everywhere. And the brothels and the old rough saloons and the shingle mills spewing out smoke, and the dead horse in the water tank. Boy, those were the smelly old days. Then we joined Seattle and the place has gone to hell since then.

  18. There was never a dead horse in a water tank or a reservoir. This never happened. You can sort through every article in every local newspaper at the time and you will never see even a tiny blurb about this. Also, you can sort through every archived photograph of Ballard around the time of annexation and I defy you to find a photo of a community water tank or reservoir. Just a local myth. Ballard voted to be annexed by big bad Seattle without nefarious coercion.

  19. “As of 2008, the Ballard Terminal Railroad serves only one customer on the Ballard Spur, Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel. BNSF delivers cars containing cement, fly ash, stucco and mortar to the Shilshole Yard; the Ballard Terminal Railroad then delivers these cars to Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel two to three times per week, typically at night”.

  20. Being there’s been much more demand for building materials in Seattle, go figure!, there has been an increase demand for products brought in by rail to Ballard. Expect more activity on the Ballard railroad tracks. Hey, bike path folks, they are bringing in the ingredients to help pathe your stupid bike path. So, don’t park your e-cars on the muddy, dirty railroad, for f sakes. Did anyone think that the condo they live in, the concrete that built it was possibly supplied by this rail company’s customer? Ignorance is the new age.

  21. Thanks “Defeat the city of Shilshole” for the only logical explanation for the existence of the BTRR. I’ve been trying to decipher the economics of it for some time. SBS&G is on the freaking ship canal, and they get shipments by barge all the time. You’d figure whatever potash is in those railroad cars, one barge load would be equivalent to at least 20 of them, if not much more. Why run a railroad when barge delivery would be more economical? Running it just out of spite to prevent the Burkee-Gilman also makes no economic sense, at least not for 25 years. But cheap portable storage on railroad right of way ,that finally makes some sense.

  22. Ballard Dave and Defeat the city of Shilshole, Ignorane is the only word I can find that’s not too insulting. Where the hell are they going to put a fly ash barge? And do you know where that fly ash is shipped from? And how do you tow a barge from the mid west? Bringing that material in by rail IS the most cost effective way. The only other option is by truck. Go check the other cement companies, they have the same damn railcars coming into those places too. Why is there so much hate over this? Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel has been doing business in Ballard since 1913, for eff sakes. And the employees park on the rails, so they know exactly when the train runs, they put in an order for it. Childish comment to bring that up, “if they can, why can’t i?” Pout pout pout.

    Let’s get something clear here… according to the current bike trail plan, it accommodates the railroad. The railroad is here to stay. This is fact, do your research. My opinion, the bike trail is a bad idea on Shilshole Ave, but if the city makes it happen, then so be it. My opinion is based on my safety concerns.

    With regards to the comment of the railroad company being a sham, why don’t you go down and introduce yourself to the operator of that train and say that. I’m sure he can convince you otherwise. As well as, he might explain to you, if he has the patience, what the other great plans that are going to happen with that railroad.

    Here’s the cold, hard fact. If you park on the railroad tracks, and you hold up the train by doing so, your car WILL be towed at your expense. The railroad company has the right to have cars towed off those tracks even if they don’t make a run. It’s a good thing that they are friendly and make a solid attempt to find the car owner to move it prior to towing.

  23. Does anyone else think it’s BS that a private company can use public ROW for ‘rolling stock’?
    Jesus Christ what a ridiculous waste of space.

    I have a hard time believing that any discussion with Ricky Schroeder and his toy train will convince me otherwise. This train IS a sham and doesn’t contribute to the public good in any meaningful way. is 1913 supposed to impress me? Build the damn trail already– you old boys should be dying from your cigars by now.

    1. I’m not old. Ha ha. Total ignorant troll comment. Jesus, why the hate? Do your research. I’ll say it one more time, and I’m done, call the tow trucks….

      THE CITY’S CURRENT BIKE PATH PLAN WILL NOT EFFECT THE RAILROAD. In fact, it’ll improve the tracks.

      And for the record, the guy that runs the rail company is younger than me.

      What does parking on the rails have anything to do with the bike path anyway?

      And yes, 1913. This business has been in operation, contributing to the local economy since then.

      Waste of space? Wow. Come meet these people that use that space. Come be a part of the community. You’d be surprised what really happens. You don’t see me bitching about the waste of space you reside and/or make your living.

  24. Rory
    I’m sorry that you think our railway is a sham. I worked here as a teen and that helped propel me to a 13 year career on the Bnsf. Now I’m back and am working as hard as I can to make passenger rail on the Ballard line a reality. Why don’t you attend the Nordic heritage opener on May 5 and I can tell you all about it in person. This is Ballard’s own Railway and hopefully soon we will be able to share it with everyone who loves trains as much as I do.

    1. You ignorant fool! Just about EVERYTHING we use today is OLD TECHNOLOGY! Cars! buses! Phones! Clocks! Batteries! oh and boats areTHOUSANDS of years old! and guess what? WE STILL USE THEM! Do some research before saying something so stupid!

  25. Cascade Bikycle Club, has decided to forget putting the trail on Shilshole Ave and move it to where it goes BALLARD AVE!!! We will also settle for the Leary to Market route, sorry for the change of heart its just to dangerous to put a trail in the middle of major freight corridor. We do not want our riders to get killed by a truck or a very slow moving train.

  26. Did SBS&G give up on suing the city over the trail? The deadline to respond to the Hearing Examiner’s ruling passed without comments from Josh Brower and his clients. It appears that they’ve given up.

    1. Not sure about the lawsuit.

      The latest trail plans doesn’t effect the railroad. But, obviously, it’ll effect available, legal parking along Shilshole Ave. Hence, educating the public that both the Main Line and all the sidings are active and being used. It is against the law to park on the tracks.

      The train ran yesterday, luckily, only 3 parked cars blocked the Main Line, all three moved before the tow truck showed up.

  27. The Ballard Terminal Railroad has given me so much opportunity as a young woman working on the rails. I am a conductor and soon to be training as an engineer . I have a retirement and job security . I am also one of the few women to be hired here on the Ballard Terminal. I work hard, my hands hurt and I dedicate 7 days a week along with my crew to keep this railroad functioning. I work with the best guys and I am proud to be railroader. James Norvell and I are working towards bringing passenger service to Ballard, because we want our community to be involved and keep history alive here in Ballard. I encourage all of you to come say Hi and hear our side of the story. We’re actually really interesting people!

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