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UTAH COUNTY -- Hundreds, even thousands of empty railroad cars are parked on tracks indefinitely, and many are attracting crime to neighborhoods. An idled train in Utah County caught fire Tuesday morning, likely the result of arson.
Though neighbors call them eyesores because they often are a target of vandalism, Union Pacific says the trains sitting idle on the track are huge visual reminders of the struggling economy.
The train of 140 refrigerated boxcars runs for a mile and a half on a track near I-15, west of Spanish Fork, and the railcars haven't moved an inch in more than a year.
"System-wide, we have roughly 60,000 railcars which are being stored right now -- 2,000 which are stored in Utah -- and so naturally we're trying got put them on tracks that aren't in use, or haven't been used for awhile, to keep them out of the public eye," said Dan Harbeke, with Union Pacific Railroad.
At the Union Pacific yard in Ogden, the tracks are full of locomotives that are parked because there is no need for them to pull flat cars, boxcars and container cars. The rail business is down right now by about 20 percent.
The mothballed railcars do present problems for communities, as evidenced Tuesday morning. A fire broke out in a railcar in Utah County, likely the result of vandalism. Fire departments from Spanish Fork, Payson and Utah County responded to keep the flames from spreading to nearby fields.
"If it's a matter of graffiti or something along those lines, we have our special agents that work with local law enforcement to either one, do the best they can to prevent it and prosecute it; or if there is something offensive, we do what we can to move it out of the area or paint over it," Harbeke said.
Union Pacific says it wants nothing more than to have these idled cars become moving trains, transporting goods on the tracks. "We want those cars moving. It's good for our business. It's good for the community. So as business picks back up and people start shipping more, those cars will hopefully be out of the area," Harbeke said.
Union Pacific has moved 10,000 railcars back into service in just the past few weeks, but it could still be some time until some of those in Utah County move again.