According to the Surface Transportation Board's website, BNSF filed a petition to formally discontinue service over the "lead belt" in April of this year. On August 17, the STB announced that it had granted BNSF permission to discontinue service. The reason for petition, according to BNSF, was the contamination of lead throughout the line, and the subsequent cost of over $25,000,000 to rehabilitate it (remove the contamination, plus general repairs). The line is not abandoned, but the writing is on the wall. Thus the Salem Branch's final sad chapter is coming to a close. Here is a timeline of the Lead Line as I know it: 1966: Frisco constructs a new bridge over the Meramec River at Birdsnest to replace the steel truss structure. The new bridge rest on heavy girders atop concrete piers, sufficient to hold the heavy trains hauling lead out of the mines in the Viburnum area. 1967-1968: Frisco constructs the Lead Line off of the Salem Branch beginning at a point about two miles north of Keysville. The new line is built with concrete ties, the longest in the United States at the time. However, many of these are defective and are replaced with wood ties. Governor Warren Hearnes uses a gold wrench to turn a gold bolt to secure the last rail. The line also traverses part of the old Sligo and Eastern right of way south of Viburnum. 1968-1980: Business for the Frisco over this line is apparently good. Typically four GP38-2's are used to handle a single train. Sometimes a GP35 can be found in the consist, judging from a few photos that I have. A switch engine is also stationed at the St. Joe mine in the early years. 1980: Ownership, along with the rest of the Frisco system, passes to the Burlington Northern. 1984: Original line from Lead Jct. to Salem is abandoned. Dismantled the following year. 1995: Burlington Northern merges with Santa Fe. Blue and yellow SF diesels start appearing on the line. 1996: Trains magazine runs an article on the line entitled "BN Gets the Lead Out". 2000 (approx): Soil around the Cherryville area is found to be contaminated with lead. Crews who work the line have been hosing out contaminated gondolas at the Cherryville siding for years. Service is down to one train per week, usually on Friday. 2002: BNSF operates the last revenue train over over the lead line the day before Thanksgiving. The line is officially embargoed on December 2nd. 2003: BNSF dismantles the Cuba yard and begins removal of contaminated ballast and soil. 2004: Work in the Cuba yard is completed. In April, BNSF sends two four-axle diesels down the line to pick up gondolas and hopper cars that have been sitting idle at the mines. One the return trip, the train derails north of Viburnum. 2006: An anonymous person donates $50,000 to research the possibility of turning the line into a tourist operation. The person is believed to be millionaire train enthusiast John Woods, a St. Louis resident with a large farm west of Steelville. 2008: John Woods is killed in a motorcycle accident in Shannon County in October. Nothing more has become of the idea of the line becoming a tourist operation. 2011: BNSF applies for persmission to discontinue service on the line with the STB in April. Permission by the STB is granted in August. The only part of the Salem Branch that is now active is about a half-mile stretch from Cuba Yard to the Georgia Pacific plant. Pat Moreland, Union Mo.