Doane Yawger: Trains loaded with new cars a good sign

There’s good and bad news surrounding our world of automobiles.

I’ve noticed a considerable number of loaded auto racks on freight trains passing through Merced in recent weeks. That’s a good sign.

Quite a number of solid trains of these steel-sheathed auto racks have passed by recently on both Union Pacific and BNSF Railway tracks. That tells me that despite a somewhat nervous economy, people are still buying new cars.

A few years ago on remote rail sidings in rural areas, whole strings of these auto racks were stored empty, waiting for a return of more prosperous business conditions. That was a worrisome and unsettling sight.

To me, the passing parade of these auto racks is even better than seeing trains loaded with lumber headed south. All that lumber means they are still building houses or office buildings, which is also a good thing, but I like the auto racks better.

It’s also not that uncommon to see a fair number of brand-new cars with paper license plates cruising around. New and used car dealer lots around Merced also are filled with rolling temptations, telling me people are in a buying mood.

I’m afraid clean cars may be a casualty of our continuing drought. Getting one’s car washed in the next few months may be a luxury when water is so scarce. Washing the car in a parking lot or a driveway isn’t a good idea in a drought.

More and more cars are seen around Merced streets with white streaks or blotches in the paint. That means the sun has burned through color layers of their aging paint jobs, leaving white or gray undercoats. Repainting the family sedan may not be the highest of priorities in a budget crunch.

It’s a pretty basic observation but there still is a considerable amount of traffic on Merced’s main streets, especially during the rush hours. What with the price of gas these days, seeing lots of traffic speaks well of the local economy.

To my way of thinking, happiness equates to lots of trains carrying brand-new cars, dealerships packed with shiny 2014 models and cars looking their Sunday best.