A debate is underway across the Adirondack North Country about the future of the region’s rail systems — especially routes which in recent years have been used primarily as tourist-excursion lines.
This morning, the Glens Falls Post-Star reports that Warren County is still unsure what to do with the line that extends to North Creek.
It looks like Warren County leaders will head into 2011 not knowing who will operate a railroad on county-owned tracks or whether the railroad will operate at all…
The county has been in the market for a new operator for the tracks since 2009, when leaders grew dissatisfied with the company that ran the Corinth to North Creek passenger railroad for the last 12 years.
Meanwhile, the Plattsburgh Press-Republican is reporting this morning that a company wants to run a section of the railroad that extends into the High Peaks region, in order to transport garnet ore from the Barton Mine in North River.
The old National Lead Industries railroad between Tahawus and North Creek could be running again, if an Illinois company gets possession of it.
Iowa Pacific Holdings of Chicago wants to buy the 28-mile railroad line that goes from North Creek to the National Lead titanium mines in Newcomb’s Tahawus hamlet….
Iowa Pacific intends to operate the short line as part of the Upper Hudson River Railroad, which runs from North Creek to Canadian Pacific Railway tracks in Saratoga County.
North Country Now is also reporting that new rail freight handling facility has opened in Norwood, in St. Lawrence County.
Improved bulk rail freight service to northeastern St. Lawrence County is expected with the opening of the “Norwood Terminal.”
These developments come as a non-profit group is studying whether the tourist-rail line between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake should be refurbished, as the Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported in September.
AdkAction.org has once again taken control of a study on the Tri-Lakes rail corridor.
The town of North Elba originally intended to use state grants and private matching money to fund the study, which is meant to measure the costs and benefits of rehabilitating the rails between Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake versus abandoning the rail line and converting it to a recreational trail.
An increasingly vocal group of critics has argued that taxpayer spending on these rail lines is a waste of increasingly scarce resources. This from NCPR’s report last month:
Lake Placid snowmobile activist Jim McCulley blasted state officials this week for spending money on the tourism train project in the Tri-Lakes area of the Adirondacks.
McCulley spoke before a panel on transportation issues chaired by state Budget Office Director Robert Megna.
McCulley says the state lacks funds to pay for basic road repair and maintenance – and shouldn’t be investing in the railroad, “While DOT has told Lake Placid and Saranac Lake it can’t fix state Route 86 because 30,000 cars a day make it a low use highway, but a train that carries only 30,000 riders total gets funding.”
But these trains also have a lot of fans and continue to attract support. The Little Falls Times is reporting that the the Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties just awarded the train system a major grant.
Adirondack Railway Preservation Society will purchase a new locomotive to use for Adirondack Scenic Railroad programs, such as the Polar Express, with a $95,582 grant.
So what do you think? Are these trains a costly albatross for the region? Or a part of our heritage that could have real, industrial applications again?