Morning Read: The trains, the trains

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. 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?

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56 Comments on “Morning Read: The trains, the trains”

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    This is also a site of some bias, it does show many successes, but one difference may be that just the snowmobiling was (is) successful enough to maintain a trail functional corridor with no DOT help and last year there was enough money from registrations ( not taxes ) that the State tried to “borrow” a million $. Although the current study will not be all inclusive for the potential of rail or trail from Remsen-to Placid, I hope we can reach a Common Ground.
    A wise man once told me;” If you want to get the trail, you ( I ) should push for the railroad, get it in, then maybe I would live long enough to see them tear out the rail!”.

  2. STEELROADY says:

    This site also has a great deal of information, however, just like Scott’s post it too, has very little to do with this thread.

  3. STEELROADY says:

    Scott did you post this in the “Adirondack Explorer”, or was it Scott Thompson (Carrot Top)? I didn’t think he lived in Beaver River but I don’t know too many folks from there:

    “I am waiting for a bid proposal from National Salvage and Service Co. which will have an initial offer of: Removing the railroad steel and wood, leaving a clean packed surface and pay $1 million. I’m sure the State would need competitive bids which should sweeten the pot.

    We should join forces. We would help fund a professional web site and create an association to drive this idea foreword.

    Scott Thompson, Beaver River”

  4. Mcculley says:

    Save the economy; save the rails! Please who’s is going to ship raw materials into a remote area to create a finished product to then be shipped out. Remember OWD has now failed for the 2nd time and now the state owns the raw material and will not sell it. When Utica NY has no freight terminal with 300,000 regional population it’s says your theory is all wet.

    Also at $30per gallon for gas a family of 4 can still get to the Adirondacks cheaper than riding the train. Remember fuel for trains go up and you have to follow their schedule of 12 hrs from Utica to Lake Placid.

    As far as bankers giving money to the train vs trail why haven’t they given money to the train? The whole point is as a trail will be far less costly to maintain and bring in far more people (revenue) then this joke ever will. Is this why they borrow from their board members to maintain operations? Even on borrowed money with out state giving them $400,000 they wouldn’t have $19,000 in the bank today. LOL We have to subsidies the Montreal-er for Amtrak and you thing this going to work. Please deal in realty’s not wishful thinking.

    Calling it not abandoning because the tracks weren’t removed is also laughable. It had not seen a train in 25 years and I supported the try to reopen it but it’s a clear failure, we can’t afford.

  5. Save the economy; save the rails! says:

    A rail trail would cost at least $800,000 per year to maintain. This is actually numbers from rail trail organizations. It would require 100% outside funding to survive. Show me where you would get $800,000 per year to maintain it, and show me what organization would be responsible for it’s maintenance.

    By hte way, Utica actually DOES have as you call it a “rail freight terminal”, there are TWO shortline railroads serving the iindustries around Utica.

    As far as obtaining loans, the railroad HAS obtained loans from the bank in the past.

    You are still making claims that the railroad is subsidized; that is just not true. They recive $400,000 in outside money every year but as discussed, that is from grants and donations.

    The fact is a rail trail would cost $800,000 per year (all outside funds) to maintain. The railroad takes in $400,000 per year in donations and grants to stay in operation. It requires half as much outside money per year to maintian the railroad compared to a rail trail.
    The railroad spends about 1.5 million per year mostly in the local economy and employs both full and part time employees.

    THe railroad maintains the right of way, and enables winter use as a snowmobile trail. The railroad uses their monmey and volunteer labor to make this happen, and it benefits all snowmobilers all over New York.

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