Monday, November 9, 2015

State Plans To Give Lake Placid Train One More Season

Adirondack Scenic RailroadThe state will allow Adirondack Scenic Railroad to run its tourist trains for just one more season on the tracks between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, according to a final proposal by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and state Department of Transportation.

In the proposal, released last week, the departments are sticking with their original plan to remove 34 miles of track between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake – the north end of a 119-mile rail corridor owned by the state.

For several years, Adirondack Scenic Railroad has operated tourist trains seasonally on the nine miles of track between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. If the state’s proposal is implemented, those tracks will be removed. The railroad could continue to operate trains on the southern end of the rail corridor, in the Old Forge region, but it would have to compete for the right to use the line.

The proposal calls for rehabilitation of 45 miles of track north of Big Moose, which would allow trains to travel from Utica to Tupper Lake. Once that work is done, the state intends to solicit proposals from railroad companies to run the line. Thus, it is not certain who the operator will be. In the meantime, Adirondack Scenic Railroad could continue to operate south of Tupper Lake.

The Adirondack Park Agency is scheduled to discuss the proposal at its monthly meeting on Thursday. The APA board must decide whether the proposal conforms to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.

APA spokesman Keith McKeever said the board will not be making its decision this week. Rather, it will consider soliciting public comments on the question of conformance with the master plan. He added that the agency is not planning to hold public hearings.

DEC and DOT held numerous public meetings over the past few years to gather public input, and they received thousands of comments. Railroad boosters wanted all the tracks fixed up so trains could travel from Utica to Lake Placid. Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates pushed to have the tracks removed between Big Moose and Lake Placid. This would create a 79-mile trail for biking, hiking, and snowmobiling but allow the railroad to continue operating its more profitable trains at the southern end of the line. The state’s proposal is seen as a compromise and remains unchanged in its essentials since first released in 2013.

Many people urged the state to keep the tracks and build a trail beside them. The Trails with Rails Action Committee (TRAC) submitted maps and plans purporting to show where trails could parallel the tracks and, where that is not feasible, where spur trails could leave and re-enter the rail corridor.

DEC and DOT concluded that TRAC’s proposal is not realistic. For starters, the departments said TRAC’s spur trails – which would be similar to hiking trails in other parts of the Adirondacks – would not meet the goal of establishing a graded trail that could be used by road bikes, baby strollers, wheelchairs, and snowmobiles.

In its final document, the departments raised a number of legal and practical problems with TRAC’s proposal. Among other things, the trails would require filling in wetlands, run afoul of Forest Preserve regulations, and cross private land. TRAC’s plan also calls for users to travel along the shoulders of highways for stretches, raising safety concerns.

Historic Saranac Lake, Adirondack Architectural Heritage, Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, Rail Explorers USA, and the Trails with Rails Action Committee sponsored a rally at the Saranac Lake depot in favor of preserving the rails. The corridor, which stretches from Remsen, north of Utica, to Lake Placid, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Historic Saranac Lake contends that the state has failed to take the historical status of the corridor fully into account.

In their final proposal, DEC and DOT say they have been consulting with the State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation about preserving the corridor’s past. The departments envision rehabilitating old depots and other buildings in the corridor (some to be used as warming huts) and installing educational signs.

This year has seen the successful startup of a new business, Rail Explorers USA, on the corridor. Rail Explorers offers trips in pedal-powered rail carts on six miles of track between Saranac Lake and Lake Clear. DEC and DOT say the success of Rail Explorers is not a reason to abandon the plans for removing tracks for a recreational trail.

“The initial popularity of railbikes is a welcome sign to how popular a multiple use recreational trail is likely to be,” the final proposal states. “While this entrepreneurial use of the Corridor is to be commended, it is still not the best public use of the Corridor.”

The departments note that Rail Explorers offer one-way trips four times a day in season, for a fee, whereas a recreational trail would be open for public use year-round and any hour of the day, for free. The agencies suggest that Rail Explorers could relocate to the corridor south of Tupper Lake.

“Additionally, multiple other local businesses stand to benefit with implementation of the trail. For example, there should be an increase in demand for ski and bicycle rentals,” the proposal asserts.

In a transition plan for the corridor, the departments say rail service north of Tupper Lake will not end until November 20, 2016, after the APA approves the proposal, which would amend the corridors management plan. The document does not say when work would begin on removing the rails and building the trail.

Photo by Susan Bibeau: Adirondack Scenic Railroad train approaches Saranac Lake.

NOTE: This story has been corrected to include all the sponsors of Saturday’s rally to support the rails.

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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

57 Responses

  1. Phil, thanks for your work on this article. One correction — the rally on Sat. was not sponsored by HSL. Members of TRAC coordinated the rally along with ASR and ADK Explorers.

  2. OK, so just another clarification — the rally was coordinated by a number of groups, and HSL was one of them. Here’s the whole list: Adirondack Architectural Heritage, Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, Historic Saranac Lake, Rail Explorers USA, and the Trails with Rails Action Committee.

  3. Boreas says:

    Just curious, can the Rail Explorers group redesign vehicles that would be narrower and run on a paved trail? Basically a side-by-side bicycle or tricycle. I believe I have seen some on the web. I would assume the existing cars would be too heavy and wide to run on a multi-use trail. But a bicycle rental would likely be profitable as well. This, of course, assumes the recreation trail would ever be a reality.

    • Tess says:

      The trail will NOT be paved.

      • Boreas says:

        “The trail will NOT be paved.”

        Paving does not necessarily mean blacktopped. Any compacted/hardened surface is considered paved. But I do believe the section between LP & SL may be blacktopped.

        Regardless of the form of paving, virtually all conveyances can be used on a properly hardened surface. Road bikes may have an issue if it isn’t blacktopped, but then road bikes can ride on the roads, which would possibly be best because of their speed.

        • Phil Brown says:

          The state says the trail will be suitable for most road bikes. If it’s not blacktopped, bikes with super-thin tires may be the exception.

          • Paul says:

            If you can ride a racing bike on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix you should be able to handle this trail! But I think that most road bikers would probably not be too interested. If as popular as expected, it sounds as if it would not be too safe to ride fast on this trail. The road to LP was re-paved last year and it is better than it was. Not as wide a shoulder as I would like but way better than it was.

  4. Keith Gorgas says:

    The residents of New York’s Northern Adirondacks face economic challenges, in some ways similar to those faced by the rest of rural North America. Our permanent population is decreasing and aging. Resource extraction and conversion , efficient logging, and productive farming that employs fellow citizens in other parts of our nation and produces real wealth, however, cannot happen within the Blue Line, due to APA restrictions.

    Tourism is and must continue to be nurtured as one of the economic engines for our region. One of the current and potential contributors to a strong tourism economy is slated for imminent destruction by a policy proposal by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The DEC, with limited public input, is proposing a major amendment to the current Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor that will remove one-third of the historic rail infrastructure and replace it with a trail system operated by the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA).

    This is a serious betrayal of public trust. Letters to the Governor’s office have been 3:1 in favor of retaining the rails. The cost of converting the rails to trails is 50% higher than the cost of renovating the rails, based on the national averages.

    There are several issues with the DEC proposal in any form. If successful, it is unprecedented in converting an operating rail service to a trail. We have thousands of miles of trails for hikers, bikers, and snowmobilers throughout the Adirondacks. There is only one railroad that can connect the largest communities within the Park to the continental passenger and freight rail network.

    Since July, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid has carried 22,000 tourists, and a new enterprise Rail Explorers, USA, a rail bike excursion from Saranac Lake to Lake Clear Junction has carried 15,000 more. This made a significant positive impact on our village where half of Saranac Lake’s retail stores are vacant. Based on a detailed survey of a large sample of the almost 15,000 Rail Explorer riders only, a million dollars were spent regionally since July.

    Nationwide, rail travel has seen a 78% increase since 1995. This is manifested, not only in urban and sub urban areas, but in rural communities. Young people are committed to lessening our carbon footprint and utilizing mass transit where available. The train provides the best way for young, elderly, and disabled people to enjoy the beauties of the Adirondacks with low environmental impact.

    The travel corridor has both State and National Historic status. It is living history, and a very important tourist draw. The rail bikes, unique in North America, have become a sensation, gaining news coverage and riders from all over the US and Canada. The DEC proposal to rip up the rails will mean both of these economic engines in the local economy would be gone, along with the 20 current jobs that pay above the regional average. If the rail infrastructure were to be restored connecting Saranac Lake and Lake Placid with the southern part of the tourist railroad and with Amtrak in Utica, the upside potential of both enterprises is unlimited.

    We have thousands of miles of underutilized snowmobile trails, bike trails, and cross country ski trails in the Northern Adirondacks. Destruction of the existing operation and rail infrastructure will remove an current economic asset with no viable proven replacement; it will forever diminish opportunity for business and recreation for residents and visitors of all ages and abilities.

    Keith Gorgas, PO Box 1183 Saranac Lake, NY 12983 phone 518-637-9205 email

    • Boreas says:

      Quote from above: “The train provides the best way for young, elderly, and disabled people to enjoy the beauties of the Adirondacks with low environmental impact.”

      Horsefeathers. Virtually anyone that can manage to get into a rail car will have little trouble on a recreation trail. Accessibility devices of all sorts are designed to work on paved recreational trails. Granted, they may not be able to ride the entire length, but many healthy people won’t either. However, individuals with pulmonary problems will be inhaling fresh air rather than diesel fumes. Most importantly, the trail would be free and doesn’t adhere to a schedule.

      • Chiprle says:

        Now the truth is leaking out. This trail (which was possible to do for free) will be paid for by healthy taxpaying people (ORDA) as a gift horse for athletic people to use free of charge. The worm turns.

    • Tess says:

      “The cost of converting the rails to trails is 50% higher than the cost of renovating the rails, based on the national averages.”

      Dubious at best. Even if that stat is true for “national averages,” We must deal with reality. These rails are NOT average – they’re falling apart along with the ground beneath them. The new trail will not be paved as are most conversions. And in the end, the train is a commercial and economic failure.

      • Bob Hest says:

        @ Tess
        It is difficult to have substantive conversations about this in civil tones when facts are dismissed. The rail operator has in the past five years repaid essentially all the stultifying debt accumulated in prior years, from operating revenues.
        That NYS, the property owner, has not properly maintained this asset is not the fault of the operator that has had a 30-day lease since 1996. Despite this, thousands and thousands of residents and visitors annually have taken advantage of what does exist and is operational. NYS does not provide an operating subsidy to this operator — it does and should while owner of the rail line pay for improvements to its property, whether directly or as a repayment. This is the accepted code of conduct by all property owners.
        So, perhaps describing the train as a commercial and economic failure is inaccurate?
        Bob Hest
        Trails with Rails Action Committee

      • Tess, I don’t know where you are pulling your facts out of, but “whole cloth” is the polite suggestion. I rode on the speeder run last year, and another run was made this year. I know that railroad opponents such as yourself are used to slandering the condition of the tracks, so I looked at them very carefully. They are in astoundingly good condition, given the poor maintenance by their owner, New York State. Most ties are not rotten, the rails are not abused, and need no grinding. Yes, tie replacement will be needed, but that is usual maintenance that any railroad needs to perform.

        In short, you’re slinging nonsense, based on obvious ignorance.

  5. Chip says:

    What are we a charity state? If it’s a good idea for the taxpayers and local economies to convert the rails to a trail, than there’s NO REASON to let the train run one more season. I think the old timers can find other hobbies. Let’s give the train people a pile of cash to burn in their choo choo while we’re at it. NY is made of money!

    • Keith Gorgas says:

      I suggest that if this is the last year that the Railroad runs, every young person in the Adirondacks should be brought to ride the train. That way they will know what was taken from them, and they should be instructed by whom it was taken. They should be made to realize that we no longer live in a democracy, but now in a bribeocracy where the rich and privileged can enforce their will on the little people via PAC money. And then at the end of the season, one train car should be left at the Union Depot as a memorial to the men and women who for twenty years volunteered their time and energy to maintain the tracks and the right of way. Tourists can stop and marvel at the short shortsightedness of greedy politicians who put their own well being above the long term interests of the communities they were elected to serve.

      • Boreas says:

        Perhaps taxpayers in the late 19th century should have kept the Old Erie Canal running for historical reasons. Instead, the “bribeocracy” saw a dead form of transportation and put their money into the new rail technology. That was successful for another hundred years, but has also mainly died out in the last half-century due to the next technology – autos, trucks, and the highway system. Subsequently because of “elitists”, the unused towpath was turned into a beautiful recreation trail/park with historic canal parks/ museums in several places that has been enjoyed by thousands for decades. It is sad, but time marches on.

        The rail corridor has had a century of boom & bust. It has not paid for itself in generations. Just like the Old Erie Canal, it had its heyday and it seems to be over. I think it is time to let “elitists” that walk, run, bike, use their mobility devices, snowmobile, and ski without burning polluting fossil fuels or buying tickets.

        The compromise allows both groups to have a portion of what they wanted. Develop the southern portion and build Tupper Lake’s economy as a historic terminus with a big train museum. If over the next decade or so the rail/freight interest begins to run a profit, rails can be put back down and the dead-end line to Lake Placid can be revived. The grade will still be there. We do still have the technology to lay rails if the money is there. But I think the money is gone.

        • Bob Hest says:

          Once removed the rails will never be relaid. That is the one certainty in this whole debate, and perhaps this is the objective sought by the rip ’em group?
          Rail transportation is making a comeback all over the planet and particularly in the USA. When Congress gets over the bickering rather than problem solving, I am certain recognition will dawn that the national highway system will cost more to expand to meet demand than is the cost of refurbishing and upgrading to a high speed rail network for passengers and freight.

          • Boreas says:


            Are you suggesting a high-speed passenger/freight line to Lake Placid?? Who will pay for that and to what end? Lake Placid is a village, not a metro center. Rail travel may be on the upswing in metro areas, but not between villages in rural areas.

            • David P. Lubic says:

              Not on the upswing in rural areas? Oh, you mean you don’t need a connection to the rest of the country?

              Tell that to the people in Vermont, which is pretty rural, who are working to expand rail service there. Tell that to the people in the small towns and cities in New Mexico and Arizona who are stepping forward to preserve an Amtrak route through their towns that is threatened with abandonment.
              Tell that to the people in Lynchburg, Va. who are helping to make Amtrak’s Virginia service profitable, and are looking to extend it to Roanoke.

              Let me put it another way–does every highway have to be a four-lane, limited access Interstate? And while we are at it, do highways make a profit?

  6. Peter says:

    In the midst of all this hoo hah, divisiveness, and wasted money on feasibility studies, the Bark Eater Trail Alliance, with the wonderful support of local communities, businesses, cooperative land owners, the DEC, the APA, Town and Village Governments, and nice small scale contributions, has managed to build over 40 miles of mountain bike trails in the last seven years. This has spanned communities from Wilmington to Saranac Lake. It is attracting tourists by the car load with almost no marketing but word of mouth. It has directly supported bike businesses and indirectly advanced all areas of the hospitality economy. Most importantly, it helps attract and retain young people as citizens of the park. So while the absurd rantings of both sides of the rail trail drivel continues on and on and on, replete with hyperbolic guesstimates of theoretical future revenue and absolutely absurd real numbers on the costs of both projects, a far better biking system has been quietly built at no cost to the taxpayer. Volunteers head out in the woods to create and maintain beautiful trails. And we should be oh so thankful that it has been done without the endless editorializing of old men pandering their influence.

  7. Brenda says:

    How can the state destroy the rails if it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places? Couldn’t this be stopped before we lose this resource forever? There are thousands of miles of trails throughout the Adirondacks, but only one Railroad. When it’s gone, it will be gone forever.

    • James Falcsik says:

      Having a structure or location listed on a document that proclaims historical significance does not guarantee protection from destruction. However, there are several procedures and laws that guarantee those properties, structures, etc. are cared for with careful review BEFORE destruction or alteration; and this should include discussion of alternatives to preserve the historic items. In the case of this historic rail corridor, that process is not being fulfilled at this time. Amy, who posted above, is much more qualified than I to explain, but for now the historic preservation community is asking interesting questions. Indeed when gone the railroad plant will not ever return; there are no railbanking protections available for this corridor.

  8. Bruce says:


    The ADKRR has devices at Thendara Station so folks in wheelchairs can board the train. There’s no reason to believe that with the line extended at least to Tupper Lake, every station where the train stops will not have one. While it may be possible to use a wheelchair on a paved trail, if you’ve ever used one you know how much work it can be (been there, done that). Apparently the trail will not be paved.

    Also, the elderly who have difficulty walking even a mile can enjoy the train ride more (been there, done that too). Some of the rail cars are open, some are air conditioned. If you have a problem breathing, you go to the air conditioned car. And with both rail and trail available, folks will have a choice.

    It’s abundantly clear that some train and some trail will provide the biggest benefit to the largest number of people.

    • Boreas says:


      All true. But keep in mind, many people who use wheelchairs and scooter devices want to remain independent and can be very uncomfortable using lifts and such in a public setting. They may not want to stick out in a crowd. Instead, they may prefer the outdoors, staying physically fit, and enjoying the fresh air, rain, and blackflies. Same thing with the elderly. I would much prefer to hobble 1/2 mile in fresh air and relative solitude rather than buy a ticket to ride a crowded, noisy train. But that’s me. With the compromise, we should be able to do whatever we prefer – or both.

      • Bruce says:


        Yes, that’s what I said…people want a choice. I would be careful though, presuming what the handicapped might or might not think about being in crowds, or not wanting people to see them.

        We attended the NYS Fair last year, and in spite of the crowds, there were lots of folks in motorized and non-motorized wheel chairs, and scooters.

        • Boreas says:

          That wasn’t my point at all. People in this discussion have been saying the the train is the BEST way to see the area rather than a recreation trail. What I am saying is not everyone wants to ride in a train when they can use a trail of their own free will.

          I am a healthcare professional and very sensitive to people who use mobility devices, and some are quite self-conscious about being treated differently while some are not. That is the benefit of the compromise. If people want to ride a train, they can do it from Remsen to TL. If they want to use a recreation trail, they can use the section from TL to LP. Why does the train need the entire corridor?

          • David P. Lubic says:

            “Why does the train need the entire corridor?”

            There are thousands of miles of trail in the area now, including a minimum of 3,000 miles that are authorized for snowmobiles (a very small part of Adirondack visitorship). There is only one place for the railroad. Why do you want to take that away?

  9. roamin with broman says:

    A shame the trail is another year away. The rail fans, though vocal, just are not capable of delivering a product that is as popular as they like to think. People want a trail! The communities want the trail!

  10. Steve says:

    I don’t ride trains very much, so it is kind of a big deal when I do. The fun usually lasts about 5 minutes. It isn’t much different than riding in a bus, other than the fact that you can move around a little easier. It is a form of transportation, not a form of recreation.

    I will never ride a tourist train, I will use a recreational trail.

  11. WanderBiker says:

    It is a shame that there does seem to be so much hyperbole from both sides, but this may just be a reflection of the current societal state of affairs. I cannot comment to the economic viability or feasibility of either plan specifically except for the assertion that there are 1000’s of miles of unused bike trails in the ADK’s. I assume only a non-biking individual could make such a claim.
    Personally, I have a diverse bike riding appetite that includes road and off-road touring (“bike packing” “mountain bike touring” “adventure touring” or whatever you need to call it), “fat biking”, hard single track riding, free riding, trials, BMX, etc. I have ridden many places that embrace rail-trails or “linear corridors”. Some of these areas are thriving, some are doing OK and some are in disrepair (just like active transport AND tourism RR’s). Living here in Saranac, I have the old RR grade that runs from Dannemora to Lyon Mountain which connects via the Chazy Highlands easement (Wolf Pond Rd.) to Loon Lake and beyond via the Bloomingdale Bog trail. That being said, further westward connection requires me to ride the RR corridor in question. I have ridden this, tracks and all, for quite a distance.
    Although I have a bike bias, I am not anti-train. I’ve seen the dual track/trail work, particularly in Pennsylvania. From an engineering standpoint, it could be done (some sections would be tough) along this corridor, but the red tape of the APA and other governing bodies would prevent this. Overall, NYS in general is behind the curve when it comes to bicycle travel, and the Adirondacks compound the problem with the generally prohibitive stance toward off-road riding.
    Although it wouldn’t happen I’m my lifetime, I can envision the potential the ADK park could offer “adventurous” cyclists. The N-S Amtrak that runs the “Adirondack Coast” has 2 stops that would allow non-ADK residents access: Plattsburgh and Port Kent. From Plattsburgh, one could take the unfinished Saranac River trail westward to Saranac and link up via road to my aforementioned RR grade dirt trail. This would link eventually to SL and the RR corridor in question and beyond (Inlet/MRP, etc).
    No, this isn’t for everyone, but with word of mouth, good marketing and entrepreneurial spirit, there could be resources in place allowing for sections to be done piecemeal (NP trail, PCT, APT, CD trail, etc).
    Just my 2 cents…

  12. Bob Hest says:

    Good morning Phil,

    Your reference to the trail system within and alongside the travel corridor, completed by TRAC and provided to DEC as part of the public comment period in late 2014 leaves out a couple of facts.

    The first and perhaps most compelling … the judgment applied by DEC (DOT was not likely consulted) that the proposal was not feasible, as stated in the most recent iteration of the proposed Alternative 7, was a judgment about a trail that was designed following DEC guidelines and close consultation with District 5 personnel in Ray Brook.

    Secondly, no one from DEC contacted the TRAC folks who did the work to do any follow up with questions or concerns.

    The design is viable. The misinformation in the latest proposal regarding this feature that was a recommended action in the ’96 UMP is unacceptable. Volunteers have done what the DEC should have.

    There are many options that have not been explored where rails and trails can and would coexist but for the intransigence of those seeking removal of this historic economic infrastructure.

    Bob Hest
    Coordinator, Trails with Rails Action Committee

    • Phil Brown says:

      Bob, thanks for commenting. Were the DEC personnel working with TRAC on behalf of DEC or were they working on their own? I am just curious. One of DEC’s arguments against the TRAC proposal is that the spur trails would not be suitable for road bikes, wheelchairs, etc. TRAC has conceded this point in earlier articles. So, in DEC’s view, it’s apples and oranges.

      • Keith Gorgas says:

        I’d like to point out, Phil, that in the DEC’s plan they lowball the cost of the conversion, using about $210,000 per mile, which would not be for a trail that wheel chairs, road bikes or strollers would want to travel very far on.

        • Phil Brown says:

          Keith, I am not in a position to verify or refute the cost estimates. The state hasn’t decided what the surface will be. The proposal says it could be packed crushed stone or asphalt or a combination. There may be a third material under consideration, but I forget what it is. In any case, the state says the trail will allow road bikes, wheelchairs, baby strollers. Racing bikes with super-thin tires might not be suitable.

          • Tim says:

            I’ve rode on the new rail trail in Tupper Lake with my road bike and had no problems. It’s surface is fine crushed stone. I’ve seen a lot of strollers on it too. I would think that would be fine for the whole trail.

          • Boreas says:

            I used to ride a ~20(?) mile stretch of the Old Erie Canal towpath park between Syracuse and Canastota which had the crushed stone surface. It was great. I used an ancient Schwinn road bike with fairly narrow tires, but not as narrow as modern road bikes. It might be a little spotty after a lot of rain, but would usually dry up very quickly. It doesn’t work well for roller blades or strollers with small-diameter wheels, but anything with wheels over 4″ in diameter seemed to work well. The section between Oneida and Rome was used fairly heavily by horses and it really chewed up the trail, making it only suitable for mountain bikes. Regardless, it was by far the best walking/biking trail in that area.

    • Tony Goodwin says:

      Bob, one charge has been that the trail supporters never became a part of TRAC. As a recognized builder of trails, I asked Al Dunham to be included in TRAC’s efforts. Before that, I had corresponded with Dan McClelland of the Tupper Lake Free Press to go out with him to look at the ways that there could be a rail with trail.

      Dan never could agree on a date or time to do the field investigation; and after one email I never was included in any TRAC activity.

      I will also point out that last year I wrote an ADE Commentary regarding TRAC’s proposed alternate trail, a route that had been laid out by Jack Drury. A week later, the ADE ran a Commentary titled “Response to Tony Goodwin”. By the second paragraph, Jack had conceded all of my points regarding cost and private land. Jack then went on to question whether the trail option was viable, but he clearly didn’t do much of anything to defend the “rail with trail” option.

      And for what it’s worth, I have hiked all of the off-corridor sections in Jack’s proposed route. It would take many hours of work and machine time to bring those sections up to anywhere near the standard of a trail on the rail roadbed. And that’s assuming that such work could be done on the Forest Preserve.

  13. Rob Davis says:

    This is nothing short of criminal.

    To remove infrastructure supporting two private businesses (ADR and rail bikes) is ridiculous.

  14. Dave says:

    THE STATE owns the corridor & can do with it what it pleases. The business’s use the corridor per a lease agreement & again, THE STATE CAN DO WITH ITS PROPERTY as it pleases!

  15. Paul says:

    But why not build a bike trail on some of the other already abandoned rail lines in the area. Why pick on the one with a train on it?

  16. Dave says:

    The trains provides no positive financial influence in any community it passes or stops at. Just ask the Big Moose Station how many people came to their establishment this year by train. I bet, it’s less than 50 people & how much money did the state pork into fixing that rail line up from Thendara to Big Moose (millions I believe). The ASR only survives because the state keeps floating them taxpayer money every year. Let’s take ALL the Taxpayer money away from them & see how long they survive!

    • James Falcsik says:

      Here are the Camoin numbers that were NOT published in the proposed UMP that is now before the APA. Using accepted demographic and spending metrics (Essex County Leisure Travel Bureau 2013), the visitor spend resulting from rail operations (full corridor restoration) would be $5,637,209. This equates to an impact of $11,077,115 and $3,301,200 impact resulting from rail revenue associated with round trip ticket sales, for a total impact of $14,378,315.

      If we add the effect of the current Lake Placid-Saranac excursions, the number would increase by an additional $1,214,330 for a total of over $15,500,000.

      Dave if you have data to dispute this, then by all means please post it and your source.

      • John says:

        snowmobiling generates 245 million a year in the ADK according to a 2013 Potsdam study. See anybody can throw out their own study facts. The decision has been made, now the question is: How quick will the rail a’holes run to court to try & block the will of a majority of the people who live along the corridior.

        • James Falcsik says:

          I take serious offense to the name calling; this shows your ignorance more than anything relevant you have to contribute. The decision has been made, but the legal process of historic preservation review has not been completed, nor started as far as reports indicate. Litigation is guaranteed if this does not occur, and I am sure there would be litigation from the trail and sled crowd if decisions had favored the railroad.

  17. kathy says:

    Let the “old timers find other hobbies”!?. I find that agist and insulting as tho the older you get the less you enjoy the trails. Walk a mile in those moccasins before you make a statement like that again! Oh wait…there won’t be a way to do that if things work out the way you envision!

    • David P. Lubic says:

      What’s really interesting is that the leading people who are anti railroad are mostly older. Dick Beamish is 80, Lee Keet has to be nearly that old based on when he started his business, and Jim McCulley looks older than I am (I’m 60). In contrast, a lot of the rail guys are younger, which actually makes sense–that work taking care of track isn’t easy, and you need to be in good shape to do that. I understand they have a locomotive mechanic who’s maybe 20, I’ve been in correspondence with a conductor who’s 32, the road’s director is in her 20s, I believe–so which side has geezers and which side has some who are at least less geezerly?

      This does bring up something that has been seen in other rail debates, though–and that is that a lot of the fight seems to be generational. Basically, if you look at who wants to see expanded rail service in America today, most of the supporters are under about 63, and most of the anti-rail people are over 63–until you get to very high ages, like over 90, when the demographic changes again.

      I think this has to do with when people were born, and more importantly, when they “came of age.”

      The real old timers, now over 90, were born before 1930, and came of age before the country became as auto-dominated as it is now. Railroads, and streetcars, were part of the landscape for them.

      The younger crowd, born after 1953 or so and coming of age in a period of OPEC embargos and other Middle Eastern tensions, including oil wars, and high gas prices, is also environmentally aware. They also live in a time when driving is no longer fun, no longer the free and easy travel epitomized by by the old advertizing jingle, “See the USA in your Chevrolet. . .,” an era in which cruising seems as distant as the days of–steam locomotives. They want alternatives to driving, which includes rail travel–and bicycles, too.

      The middle group would have been born roughly between 1930 and 1953, and would have come of age between about 1950 and that first OPEC embargo in 1973. This is the group that grew up with “See the USA. . .” and can’t believe that the world has changed, and seems to be going backwards.

      Other people in places supporting modern rail have seen this, and I’ve even experienced it first hand. I tried to promote a light rail line as an alternative to a four lane highway, and among other things, I was told I was trying to take away everybody’s cars, was told I was trying to bring back the horse and buggy, and was told this wasn’t a Communist country!!

      A lot of those people have since left this world, which may tell us something.

  18. Boreas says:


    Very insightful. Another thing to consider is the fact that baby boomers lived through the death spiral of widespread passenger and freight rail usage.This was primarily due to the federal interstate highway system started by Ike and pushed throughout the cold war for potential military use. But until the federal government reverses this transportation mode bias, I don’t see private enterprise or state funding having the necessary resources to modernize and expand high-speed rail into rural settings. It is successful between metro areas because of a dedicated commuter ridership, but that volume of ridership simply isn’t present in rural areas at this time. I think electric trolley systems as used in the early 20th century would be useful, but we have buses today that serve the same purpose in rural areas Unfortunately even current county-backed local bus lines are only marginally viable.

    One can’t compare American transportation culture with European or Asian cultures. Unfortunately, until oil is prohibitively expensive, Americans will continue to drive those cars – preferring personal independence over rail schedules. I feel a fundamental paradigm shift will have to occur in America before the upgraded rail systems you envision could become a reality. But that doesn’t mean you should stop trying.

  19. mike says:

    Fleets of autonomous electric cars are the future of rural public transport. Maybe Uber. The trains were the way to get here before widespread car ownership and interstates. The came cars and highways. Next will be autonomous car fleets.

    Intercity trains and metro transport may improve where there are big markets. But rural trains, off the main lines, will be historic relics – cute, pricey, slow, polluting, rolling museums perhaps, but not for modern transport. We can have a better, more active, healthy tourist venue with a trail, especially between LP and Tupper.

    • I’d like to see an autonomous electric car drive through the Adirondacks during a snowstorm. I’d like to see one avoid hitting a deer that runs at full speed into the road right in front of it.

  20. James Dukette says:

    The super wealthy who have summer homes in the lake placid area do not like the non sports minded people who visit their quaint little village.They care not about the local economy. But they have much power in Albany…..They are stopping the railroad, and all else you hear is smoke and mirrors!

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