Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates filed a friend-of-the-court brief this week in the lawsuit over the state’s plan to remove 34 miles of railroad tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake and create a trail for bicycling, hiking, snowmobiling, and other pursuits.
ARTA joined the suit on the side of three state agencies being sued: the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Transportation, and the Adirondack Park Agency.
The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, based in Utica, contends the plan to divide the state-owned Adirondack Rail Corridor into an 85-mile rail segment and a 34-mile trail segment is illegal. DEC and DOT developed the plan, and the APA approved it.
The society is the parent company of Adirondack Scenic Railroad. If the state’s plan is implemented, ASR will have to shut down a seasonal tourist train that runs 10 miles between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. However, it could continue running trains out of Utica and Old Forge. In fact, the state’s plan also calls for fixing up 45 miles of largely unused track between Big Moose and Tupper Lake, so the tourist trains will be able to travel farther than they can now.
The nonprofit ARTA formed in 2010 to push for removing the tracks and establishing a recreational trail all the way from Lake Placid to Big Moose or Old Forge—up to 90 miles. In the legal brief, ARTA’s lawyer, former Congressman Bill Owens, says ARTA didn’t get all it wanted in the state’s plan but nevertheless accepts the result.
Owens noted that the state held numerous public meetings, reviewed thousands of comments, and examined many studies and other documents before deciding that dividing the rail corridor into two segments would be the most beneficial use of the corridor.
“The result of this fundamentally rational and fair process by the Agencies was a plan that gave the Petitioner [the railway society] some of what it wanted and ARTA some of what it wanted,” Owens wrote. “Petitioner should not get a second bite at the apple through this lawsuit.” He accused the railroad of trying to “make an end run around the will of the public.”
ARTA Chairman Joseph Mercurio said in an affidavit filed with the brief that thousands of people, hundreds of businesses, and most municipalities along the corridor supported removing the tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake or at least studying the idea.
“Unlike the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, Inc., ARTA chose to accept the result of New York State’s process,” said Mercurio, a Saranac Lake resident.
Both the legal brief and the affidavit were filed on Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court.
The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society contends, among other things, that the state has failed to comply with state Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Law.
The rail corridor is on both the state and national Registers of Historic Places. The state acknowledges that tearing up tracks will result in an adverse impact on the historical resource, but it says it can mitigate the impact by fixing up depots and other structures, installing interpretive signs, and taking other actions.
In his affidavit, Mercurio said ARTA has suggested a number of other ways that the state and municipalities could repurpose the rail corridor. These include turning depots into visitor centers and cafes, displaying old steam engines on railroad sidings, and converting dining cars into snack bars.
“The history of the Corridor can be better protected, enhanced, and presented to the public by an invigorated multi-use recreational trail than by neglected and infrequently used scenic railroad,” Mercurio said.
State officials say they will decide on specific actions down the road, but Jonathan Fellows and Suzanne Messer, the attorneys for the railroad society, contend that isn’t good enough. They say the law requires the state to come up with a detailed mitigation plan long before undertaking any work.
“The removal of the rail infrastructure will destroy a unique historic resource in the name of erecting more trails in the Adirondacks, of which there are already many, and no true measures have been considered to mitigate that destruction,” they said in a memorandum of law filed with the court last week.
Owens noted that the rail corridor is used only for tourist trains, not moving freight or passengers in and out of the Adirondacks. “This means that even as a tourist railroad it does not maintain its full historic nature,” he said. “Instead, the Agencies have reasonably determined that the removal of the tracks and ties will leave in place the character of rail infrastructure. Therefore, minimal mitigation, if any, is required because the Corridor is not being destroyed, merely repurposed.”
The railroad society also contends that the track removal violates the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which designates the rail line as a Travel Corridor. Owens, however, said the recreational trail will also be used for travel—by cyclists, walkers, snowmobilers, and others.
“If bicycle tourism and snowmobile tourism are not transportation, then Petitioner’s usage as a scenic railroad … would similarly not be transportation … because the purpose of a scenic railroad is not to move freight or even people,” he said. “The purpose of a scenic railroad is to enjoy the scenery.”
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Robert G. Main Jr. heard arguments in the case on January 30. He has prohibited the state from removing tracks until he issues a decision.
NOTE: Dick Beamish, the founder and former publisher of the Explorer which owns Adirondack Almanack, is active in ARTA. He has retired as publisher, but he remains on the Explorer board of directors. He had no input into this story. In fact, no one at ARTA knew I was writing this story.
It is interesting that only now is ARTA showing up in court; they must have believed the fix was in until Justice Main called the state’s bluff.
It’s also interesting that only now is ARTA suddenly concerned about addressing the historic preservation questions. Repurposing dining cars as snack bars, finding steam engines to park on sections of track, turning depots into visitor centers… Why did not ARTA share these ideas sooner – and how exactly do they plan to pay for them? This is a far cry from their original claim that just putting up a few kiosks would be more than enough. It’s all of a piece with the elaborate trail fantasies they’ve been spinning all along.
And let’s talk about that ‘compromise’ ARTA claims to have settled for. Some compromise; the state promises to upgrade a section it was supposed to do all along and takes the rest away from the railroad, including the part it has already restored. ARTA’s claim that they have accepted getting just 34 miles is belied by the fact that they are referring this as “Phase 1” on their Facebook pages – they still plan to go after the rest of the line all the way back to Thendara. Do not be fooled by their protestations of innocence.
Far from taking “a second bite at the apple”, the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society is simply exercising every citizen’s right to appeal decisions by the state that are arbitrary, in violation of the letter and spirit of the law, or are otherwise ill-considered. As the legal appeal has already established serious shortcomings in the actions of DEC, DOT and the APA, it appears to be more than justified. Anyone who has ever been the target of high-handed actions by the state should be encouraged to see that there are still some checks and balances. (IF you can afford them – support the rail defense fund! Not every group has someone with deep pockets backing them.)
As for ARTA’s customary slanders about the railroad, it should be remarked the line hosts thousands of visitors, numbers continue to increase – and that does not include the amazing numbers the Rail Explorers achieved before the state shut them down. The railroad attracts visitors, brings money and jobs into the local economy, helps support its own operations, and provides a unique experience in a competitive tourism market. A ‘free’ bike trail can’t match that – but it will be a constant drain on money to keep it up, and a drain on public safety services.
The corridor is already a multi – use facility, used by snowmobilers, skiers, and hikers in the railroad’s off season, who benefit from the work the railroad does to keep the corridor open. The railroad also supports a cooperative boating – rail operation, and bike – rail trips. The entire line is in use. There could already be passenger service all the way to Lake Placid – IF the state had come up with the funding it promised over the years.
(And if anyone believes the state when it says it will still be a transportation corridor even without rails, so snowmobiles can still use it, these are also the same people who claimed there were absolutely no title problems with the land under the rails..)
Regarding freight operations, it is not possible so long as the line has to shut down for the winter users. My understanding is that to operate as a common carrier, federal regulations would require them to offer service year round – hence no snowmobiles.
For historic purposes, some tourist lines do run occasional freights for photo run-byes and mixed trains, so that could happen. Of course, given the way snowmobile numbers keep dropping, and the way the winters have become so undependable, freight service may look like a better option down the road. The track could support it now.
“ARTA Chairman Joseph Mercurio said in an affidavit filed with the brief that thousands of people, hundreds of businesses, and most municipalities along the corridor supported removing the tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake or at least studying the idea.”
This is of a piece of the rest of the fantasy-based math ARTA and the state have been using to try to justify removing the last railroad into the central Adirondacks, a critical transportation asset in a region where the highways are too easily compromised, and a connection to the nation’s passenger rail system, Amtrak. It would be just as true to point out thousands of people, hundreds of businesses and most municipalities along the corridor also SUPPORT keeping the line – as do people outside of the area. (You know, that place visitors and money comes from?)
Governor Cuomo has called for upgrades to Whiteface and Mt. van Hoevenburg to make them year round attractions. Why spend millions on that, and then cut off a direct means of bringing visitors right to them from around the country and the world? This year Amtrak revived weekend passenger service between Denver, CO and the Winter Park resort. They’ve had sold out trains and filled quite a few hotel rooms. I hear there may be some hotel rooms opening up in Saranac Lake one of these days? Ever think of being able to offer packaged rail travel plans to fill them?
It would be far better for the state to admit Alternate 7 is fatally flawed, and return to the 1996 plan of redeveloping the corridor and building the trails around it. Thanks to ARPS, the railroad part of the plan is nearly complete. Foot-dragging by the state is why the trail plans lag so badly. In other places around the United States and the rest of world, integrating rails, trails, and other transportation modes is a matter of common sense that makes each more than they would be alone.
It’s time to back away from the small group of anti-rail activists who want to carve out their own little private reserve on the public’s dime. Do not compromise the economic and historic value of the corridor by carving it up into little pieces; once started, where would it end? The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts – Rails AND Trails are the way to go. The time for half-measures and false compromises is over.
ARTA isn’t interested in trails. They only want to remove the rail line.
Rail with Trail would be a win-win for everyone.
“Rail with Trail would be a win-win for everyone.”
Sure it would. But the state has ruled it out as being too expensive for the taxpayers. They have stated that adding a recreation trail to the narrow corridor through wetlands would be prohibitively expensive. The taxpayers own the corridor, not ASR. Let the taxpayers decide what to do with it.
The state ruled it out based on studies commissioned by ARTA, so it kinda flattens the argument of “letting the taxpayers decide”.
You don’t think DEC/APA has any idea what it would take to widen the corridor and bridges through wetlands? The SLMP would probably be reason enough. Then there would be the engineering and implementation. Not impossible, but certainly not cheap.
That’s only if DEC insists on keeping the entire trail within the corridor. There are places where it would make sense to route the trail away from the line to connect with other access points, campgrounds, etc,
The point about expense is this. Build a cheap trail, get a cheap result. Do it cheap, or do it right.
Think about the long term – whatever gets done is going to be around for a long time – so a big investment up front will multiply the payback over the years, compared with a cheap jack quick and dirty job. This is what I mean by lack of vision.
It’s pretty simple, ones the rails are gone they aren’t coming back. The tourist RR there is very successful and popular. This is the kind of tourism we want in NY state. There are a million other places you can make a trail.
We do not want a train in the Adirondack back country.
The train has been there for over 100 hundred years. There is some reason to believe there is an Adirondack back country BECAUSE of the trains. When people were able to finally get up to the Adirondacks, ordinary travelers, not just millionaires, loggers, hunters, etc. that helped build the popular support for the creation of the Adirondack Park.
There are many people today who want the trains to stay because it’s the only way they can even come close to seeing the back country. The elderly, people with young children, people with health issues. There are people who don’t want to have to drive everywhere, people who are tired of clogged parking lots at trail heads, people who like the flexibility of combing rail with trail trips.
Trains could offer access not otherwise possible – but it’s access that can be controlled, with minimal impact on the back country. It’s not your back country alone – it belongs to everyone.
“When people were able to finally get up to the Adirondacks, ordinary travelers, not just millionaires, loggers, hunters, etc. that helped build the popular support for the creation of the Adirondack Park.”
The RR was completed after the Park was established, and 10 years after the Forest Preserve was established.
Check your dates. According to wikipedia, “In 1894, Article VII, Section 7, (renumbered in 1938 as Article XIV, Section 1) of the New York State Constitution was adopted, which reads in part:
The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”
The rail line dates back to 1892 – not 10 years later, and still runs along much of the original right of way. You can’t talk about the park without recognizing what railroads meant to it – or that this is the last active railroad right into the heart of the Adirondacks.
1894 is the year the “forever wild” clause was added to the state constitution.
The Adirondack Park was created in 1892.
The Forest Preserve was created in 1885.
[I had transposed the two dates above. Fixed now.]
The Forest Preserve was created in 1885.
The Adirondack Park in 1894.
The railroad was finished in 1893. It obviously had nothing to do with promoting the passage of the Forest Preserve Act in 1885, and the railroad was not the impetus of creating the Adirondack Park.
Thanks for heads-up. I transposed those dates. My source (The Forest Preserve by Eleanor Brown) says the Park was created in 1892.
In any case, I agree the RR had nothing to do with creation of the Forest Preserve or the Park. The impetus was protection of the forest — which was being denuded by logging — and by extension watersheds downstate.
Phil, let’s just say opinions differ on that.
If you read materials from the time, you may find that part of the political wrangling over creating the park also involved the railway. Things like boundary lines, surveys – the work done sorting that out for the railroad was also important for the park.
well well look at that…representation by a former member of Congress..yeah that instills waves of trust in me. Hey the state gets to pay off its NIMBY donors, ad this sham group called “ARTA” get its way, at least downstaters like me can scratch off one locale when it comes to investing my vacation dollars
Larry, I hope in the spirit of Phil Brown that no person at ARPS knew that you would be writing such a clear and compelling commentary on the positions taken by the rip ’em up crowd that includes ARTA.
NYS agencies have demonstrably ignored statutes and regulations in the creation and adoption of Alternative 7 — that is the foundation of the Article 78 action. It remains to be seen how the judge will rule. The assertions in the affidavits concerning support for rail removal / trail creation are suspect in the numbers claimed — for certain however, many tens of thousands of post cards and comments have been sent by the paying customers of Rail Explorers and the Adirondack Scenic Railroad to the DoT and Governor Cuomo in support of rail services into the Tri-Lakes; it is regrettable that all that support was counted as a single comment in the development of Alternative 7.
No one at ARPS knew I was writing this comment, or the guest commentary in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise for that matter. They say “the facts speak for themselves.” If that were true, they’d be screaming right now. As a taxpayer, as someone who respects history, as someone wit a lifelong interest in the Adirondacks, I simply do not wish to see a small group of anti-rail special interests push through an agenda that I consider far from the best use of the corridor.
Nothing really to add to Larry’s comment, but I will indeed second the motion that the idea of our ARTA buddies “accepting the compromise” is indeed a huge steaming pile of lies. All of their front line fighters (including board members McCulley, Rolf, Frenette, and Thompson) have NEVER ceased their rallying cry of going further south from anywhere to Big Moose to Old Forge to Remsen (and some of their lesser educated have even shouted on social media to keep going “All the way to Utica”, apparently finding little need of the cold, hard fact that the track from Snow Jct. (Remsen) to Utica is a completely privately owned piece of rail and is not connected in ownership the the Adirondack Line in question.
The idea that they have been innocently playing along here is nothing but sheer absurdity.
For a certified non-profit organization, the good people at ARTA have def. done their share of questionable campaigning. They’ll be the first to say “Oh, but the RR has gone after us in the same fashion!!!” Yeah, no. Have railroad *supporters* called out ARTA for their actions? Oh heck yeah….myself highly included. But has the Adirondack Scenic Railroad actually gone after them and spewed out such open venom?
The answer would be no.
And ya know what? If they did, a lot of people wouldn’t blame them.
*…lesser educated FOLLOWERS it should have said. A word got lost in the posting.
The fact that ARTA has selected Bill Owens as legal representation should tell even the casual reader enough. In 2013, watchdog groups named Owens as one of the most corrupt people in Washington. https://www.scribd.com/document/168986513/CREW-Most-Corrupt-Members-of-Congress-2013-Bill-Owens
Mr. Owens sits on the board of one of ARTA founder, multi-millionaire Lee Kee”s LLCs.
As to Mr. Owen’s claims regarding public opinion, I did some research on the 40 names of businesses in Saranac Lake that ARTA claims support their plan to destroy the railroad. What I found was shocking. There was considerable duplicity,i.e. multiple businesses owned by the same person. Quite a few of the businesses no longer exist. Some were located far from Saranac Lake, one in Connecticut, one overseas, another outside the Adirondacks. I found that a number of the businesses listed are actually owned by staunch supporters of the restoring passenger service to Saranac Lake. When I enquired of the owners why their names were on the list, I was told that they thought they were agreeing to a side by side recreational trail…. that no mention of removing the rails was on the petition they signed.
Subterfuge and dishonesty has marked ARTA’s actions since day one.
The truth is that just a couple of months ago, 33 of the remaining businesses in Saranac Lake wrote letters of support for Rail Explorers to the Village board, and many of them also expressed support for the railroad.
Public comment significantly exceeded 50,000 to 15,000 in favor of restoring rail service with a side by side recreational trail, as per the 1996 UMP. Before the State decided to accept ARTA’s plan, a public opinion poll in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, with thousands of respondents, showed only 7% favored the new plan.
Bravo for the ARTA! The Adirondacks need a good rail trail. To say that there are already lots of trails in the Adirondacks shows a complete misunderstanding of the recreational use of rail trails. The only reason the bed still has any rails is that it’s publicly owned. Otherwise, they would have been ripped out long ago.
Yes, they would have, and if they HAD been ripped out long ago, then the idea of putting a trail on the old alignment would have been totally fine in my “choo choo loving” eyes, to quote some of ARTA’s “finest”, using that word VEEEERY loosely.
The fact that they are going after a set of rails that was NOT abandoned (contrary to what the ARTA-ites will say), is what has made this whole idea stink on ice. Was some of it out of service? Yes. Abandoned? Nope.
And because of the selfishness, the Rail Explorers packed up and left, and the ASR is fighting to keep what it had.
Quote: >>>“Unlike the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, Inc., ARTA chose to accept the result of New York State’s process,” said Mercurio, a Saranac Lake resident.<<<
Seriously, Mercurio. Spare us.
Not even “out of service”, because the Big Moose to Saranac portion was being used to move equipment. It just can’t be used for passenger service in its present state.
Train folks would be wise to remember ARTA is not the only group wanting to re-purpose a part of the corridor for year-round recreational use. There are far more regular citizens, municipalities, and state officials pushing for the change than the membership of ARTA or ASR. Whether ARTA joined the legal fray or not, plenty of people still want the recreation trail. Regardless of what the judge decides, public sentiment will not likely change.
Yes, that’s the point. ARTA did not start the movement, the movement started ARTA.
See http://www.adrtrail.pbwiki.com. which came out of two petitions years before.
It’s also true there are plenty of people who want to see the corridor preserved as a working railroad, including government officials, municipalities, and plenty of regular citizens. That public sentiment will not change either.
You can have both the rails and the trail. The only thing keeping that from happening is a failure of nerve and vision on the part of the state. This isn’t really about the trail so much as it is about people determined to get rid of the rails. They are trying to use the trail as a lever for that purpose. Don’t ignore that part of the controversy.
He can’t ignore it if he’s part of it.
Seems like you are trying to increase the number of your enemies. A poor strategy.
I am not now, or have ever been anti-rail. However, I am FOR a recreation trail between TL & LP at the least possible cost. That is why I am FOR the compromise. I feel continuing to grant ASR leases for limited usage of the corridor is not in the best interest of taxpayers. If I was for ripping up the entire corridor, I would state that.
If you want to group anyone who has a differing opinion on the future of the corridor in with the ARTA group, feel free. I can convince myself and my friends to join forces and support them.
I couldn’t really care if I make enemies here or not, because opinions are opinions and in the end it’s up to the courts.
With that said, the idea YEARS ago was to get the whole corridor running again with a trail alongside where feasible. The state did nothing but dilly-dally on it. The whole idea of the “compromise” of chopping off the north end has and always will be absurd. Everyone is always saying that “The State said a side-by-side trail can’t be done”, but yet not everyone seems to realize that the studies that these decisions were based on were commissioned by the very people who want the tracks torn out.
To be frankly honest, it’s gotten to a point where I see someone trying to argue against the fact of leaving the rails in, and I automatically get the feeling of where they are coming from. If I was mistaken, then I apologize, but threatening to take your friends and go to the other side based on one guy’s words who is *NOT* affiliated with the railroad is kinda over-the-top, doncha think?
No, I don’t think it is over the top at all. If a REASONABLE compromise by rail groups isn’t on the table, then what is our choice?
If it were to become a working RR again, are you sure NYS would renew your lease after filing suit to stop the state’s plans? Perhaps AMTRAK would be given an exclusive passenger lease. There has never been any guarantee that ASR would have a lease into the future.
Well, it’s not MY lease – though if I hit the PowerBall, that could change. I can’t speak for ARPS, as I’m not a member, but I don’t think anyone at ASR would be too upset if Amtrak got an exclusive passenger lease as long as they kept running trains on the entire line and maintained it.
The whole point of ARPS as I understand it has been to preserve history and keep the rails from being torn out, while making the Adirondack communities in the corridor stronger. Amtrak taking over would be vindication.
For certain, if the suit had never been filed, there would little chance Amtrak or anyone else would be in a hurry to get a lease on the line with the big name destination lopped off the end, so your question is rather ingenuous.
It’s curious how many people seem to relish the idea of a vindictive state government taking away the lease out of spite. Do they really like the idea of letting the state government get more arrogant than it already seems to be to too many?
“It’s curious how many people seem to relish the idea of a vindictive state government taking away the lease out of spite.”
I don’t think they would do it out of spite. I think they would do it to potentially generate more revenue/public interest with another plan. What do you feel their reasoning has been on the monthly leases? For whatever reason, the state doesn’t seem comfortable with a long-term lease with ASR. I do not know why this is so, but it seems significant to many of us on the sidelines.
The state’s position on Long term leases is curious to say the least. The EIS for Alt-7 admits the short term leases make the line very unattractive to potential lease candidates. It has made it difficult for the ASR to apply for grants or loans.
Given the hostility to rail operations that some in the state seem to have, I leave it to you to consider why the state is going out of its way to make the line less viable as a railroad when long term leases would improve the financial considerations. You might suspect they’re trying to tip the scales perhaps?
Considering the average trail user is only on a trail one hour each week, do you really need to remove 34 miles of railroad to accommodate this? Short sections of trail of 3 to 5 miles, where the ROW is wide enough for both rail and trail, would provide for local users plenty of length for exercise. As I recall in the DEC/DOT report, the surveys were as close to 50-50 as you could get for rail vs. trail. What is the source of “far more”?
I am not sure who you are addressing, but the idea of a 34 mile trail is to attract more than the “average trail user”. Most serious cyclists average well over 10 mph. That’s LP to TL in less than an hour. Many people are looking for a more challenging distance, especially if they are going to drive some distance to use the trail – which is the whole idea.
I was addressing you Boreas. The 270+ mile Erie Canal Trail notes their typical user is on the trail an hour per week and lives within 5 miles of trail access. This fits the national average user profile in other bike advocacy reports I have read. Why do you think a 34 mile trail will will attract a larger percentage of “serious cyclists”? Trail boosters promise big results, but data generated as a result of their advocacy shows trails are mostly patronized by local users, or the target cyclist you list are too small in number to matter. 5 miles out and back is a 10 mile round trip, more than the typical user need for their hour per week.
I consider(ed) myself an average cyclist. I used to live near the Erie Canal towpath and typically rode a 20 mile out & back weekly, and maybe 10 miles every few days.That was with a trail in marginal condition, very little in the way of scenery, and no destinations to spend the night. I did pass Green Lake SP. Also not a lot of people vacation in Canastota.
Now take the same trail, put it in a vacation destination, an Olympic training area, the Forest Preserve, and through interesting lands with a nice town as a destination. Would that attract fewer or more users? I don’t feel we need 90 miles, but linking TL & LP through SL by a year-round recreational trail would be quite a unique draw.
Spending money to widen dangerous roads for bike traffic wouldn’t draw many more people than bike it already. It is still dangerous, you still have to share the road with flying automobiles (noise, smell, dust, and lack of peace), and doesn’t help walkers, skiiers, snowmobilers, etc..
Several things you brought up, Boreas, that I’ll like to throw 2 cents in on. After promising a “world class trail” during the public hearings and presentation to the APA, in a classic case of bait and switch, what the DEC is now proposing is a single 10t. stone dust trail. The trail presented by DEC to the APA was a double trail, one side paved. The big pitch was that wheel chairs, kids on tricycles and in-line skiers could use it. If proceeded with, the new trail will be constantly washing out. The terrain between Saranac Lake and Lake Clear is anything but level. We have an over abundance of back roads that have very little automobile traffic. Long loops through Onchiota, Loon Lake, Rainbow Lake , Goldsmith, Franklin Falls, etc, and many people use them for biking. I’ve spent most of the past 59 summers in the Saranac Lake area, and lived here full time for 22 years. I used to be an avid bicycler. I can think of only one or two bike/vehicle accidents. This past winter there were about 10 snowmobile deaths. We have an open, mostly flat rail trail with many access points that goes all the way up to the Canadian border. It receives very little use, and contributes very little to the local economy.
My wife and I enjoy walking it, and might see a half dozen people on a busy morning.
ARTA never pitched a paved trail ever. paving a trail is not compatible to snowmobile or cross country skiing use. The snow would melt faster on pavement vs stone dust. Some supporters in Lake Placid sought to pave a section for rollerblading. It was not deemed appropriate for maximum use.
Sorry Hope, your statement is just not credible. Repeating it over and over won’t make it so.
Comparisons to other trails around the country with added comments like “this could be us!” or “it would be nice!” gave off one hell of an impression. It was only much later that it was being told to us that the trail WOULDN’T be paved. Classic bait and switch.
And you, Hope, asking someone else to prove it is simply hilarious. This whole thread has proven that your little gang of Elite’s simply ignores the questions posed to them when the true facts and your own bunk don’t sync up. I guess you’d be more willing to answer if you actually had an argument that had some validity.
Good chatting with you here. I miss you on Facebook! 😉
I’ve been covering this issue for years. Neither the state nor ARTA promised the trail would be paved. Paving part of the trail was something I heard mentioned as an option, but it was one option among several.
I don’t recall a paved surface being part of the current compromise decision. I was always under the impression it was going to be fine crushed stone (stone dust).
Very reasonable suggestions. As Hope said, I don’t feel the trail needs or should be paved. That doesn’t mean it cannot be paved in trouble sections or heavily used sections near/in towns.
There were sections on the towpath that were muddy and sections at locks (with abrupt 6-10 foot elevation gains) that would gully at times. Neither had much of an impact on me and were usually filled in with gravel when needed – typically once/year. There were also sections of the towpath near Rome that were virtually unridaeble (sp) because of deep, loose gravel and horse damage. So yes, a lot does depend on the surface, terrain, and usage.
The back roads are certainly an option for cyclists and walkers any time, but they are difficult to market if they have no destination or facilities. People are also aware that RR grades are relatively straight and level compared with country roads. And a multipurpose trail adds winter use with snowshoeing, skiing, and snowmobiling.
I am not expecting “world-class” results, but if I could drive an hour, park at one of the Tri-lakes, ride to another without hearing and fearing cars, trucks, and motorcycles, spend the night or have lunch, ride back, and drive home, it would be nice. I believe others would enjoy it too.
Perhaps I am overly paranoid, but one of my best friends received a traumatic brain injury and permanent disability from being sideswiped by a pickup on a country road. A few years back, a neighbor walking 1/2 mile from my house on a state road was essentially cut in half by a drunk driver. So, I rarely bike or walk on any road. Perhaps this baggage overly colors my opinions, but I do not feel I am alone.
What is being proposed is a quality crushed stone surface similar to what is used on other rail trails. Within a year of installation, these surfaces become as hard as pavement and nearly as resistant to erosion as pavement. The railroad is quite flat throughout with no more than a 2% grade on the climb from Ray Brook to Lake Placid.
Keep the trains and rails!!! The train haters need to FO!!!
personally I hope that if the court rules against the trail, the state just shuts the rail folks down & doesn’t renew or provide any lease to operate in the future. Cannot sue over that either since it’s the states right as the owner of the corridor to not renew or sign any new lease.
At which point everyone loses, because the corridor will go back to washing out and getting overgrown. But you will have endorsed the state’s right to act like a body part I can’t mention in a public forum.
maybe so, but I won’t have that pesky railroad running then either!
For the umpteenth time, I will reiterate that the 1996 plan never promised that the state would rehabilitate the tracks all the way to Lake Placid. The plan said the tracks would remain in place for a “rail marketing period”. Then, if no suitable operator had taken on the job of rehabilitation, the plan said the next step was “full recreational use.”
Thus, the improvements paid for by the state in 2000 should never have happened. After five years, there was still no private operator who could come up with the “mostly private funds” that the plan said were to be used for rail rehab.
So how is that any different in asking where the funds will come from to maintain the Grande Trail?
Trail construction and maintenance are far less expensive than maintaining a railroad. According to ARPS’s 2015 tax filing, they received over $1 million from the state – and that was just to patch up the excepted track enough to bring equipment in to Saranac Lake.
Rail maintenance requires specialized equipment, but with the tracks gone any normal highway maintenance equipment can be employed. At the DEC/DOT stakeholders meetings, town and village representatives have expressed a willingness to help with maintenance, thus spreading the cost around.
And you still won’t admit that it was not the state’s fault that the tracks haven’t been rehabbed to Lake Placid.
You see, Tony, I won’t admit it because that’s not what I think happened. That’s how this game works. If I disagree with something, then I sure as hell am not going to agree with it.
As for asking you for proof of your statement, well….The only reason I haven’t I’d that there have been numerous times where I have openly confirmed and publicly debunked what you yourself have called “facts”. (Remember that letter in the Enterprise that forced you to write in s retraction for your word? Grant it, the retraction was wrong, also, but you get the idea.)
With your track record (no pun intended) as bad as it is when it comes to presenting legitimate accurate facts, why would I ask you to present proof of something that would end up being inaccurate anyway?
At any time since 2000 has the state ever offered any potential lease candidate anything beyond a one year lease with only 30 day at a time operating permits? Is there perhaps a reason why there has been a reluctance to invest “mostly private funds” into the line, when the state reserves the right to pull out the rug at any time?
Considering the amount of work ARPS has been able to do through the ASR despite limited assistance from the state, I think your argument here is pretty much moot.
Ray Hessinger of the DOT stated at the APA hearing on Alternative 7 that ARPS had, as recommended in the 1996 UMP, been offered a longer-term lease, but DOT and ARPS could not come to an agreement. Maybe DOT was overly cautious and had too many restrictions, but they surely didn’t want a repeat of the 1980s Adirondack Railway fiasco. In that case it took over ten years to regain control over the corridor – even after the railway had gone bankrupt.
And yes, I did make an error by not looking at enough timetables. So where else have I been in error?
I don’t think we have to worry about a repeat of the 1980s fiasco. Between ARTA and the state, we could have much bigger one in the making.
@ Tony–ARPS offered to take over the rail corridor in December 1995 and the DEC refused, wanting to maintain ownership. DEC even acknowledged the 30 day leases would not work for business development. Yet the 30 day terms continued, making private development impossible. Other documents also describe the ARPS role as “limited maintenance” of the corridor. You know this and yet you continue to blame ASR-ARPS as though they failed in this process. Would you or anyone else spend their money on property they do not own? Others in your area at the time suggested “providing a restored corridor” to a for-profit business would give them a chance to market and develop private business connections. That is a far cry from the false idea you continue to propagate that ASR was completely responsible for corridor development. The DEC/NYS plan proposed was impossible as is typical from government leadership.
Did they joint the suit or just file the brief? Sounds like both?
They filed a friend-of-the-court brief. In that sense, they “joined” the suit. They are not named as respondents.
ARTA’s goal is to remove the rails for all 90 miles right?
From their website:
“We think it is time to re-examine the entire premise on which the tourist train was permitted. We want a contiguous recreation trail from Lake Placid to Old Forge. This means that if the tourist train continues to operate it will have to do so from Utica to Remsen, freeing the remaining 90 miles for recreation use.”
Utica to Old Forge, but yes.
ARTA has never made it a secret that they desired to go to Old Forge from Lake Placid with the trail. The first phase has always been Lake Placid to Tupper Lake. The premise being that it is a good place to start. If, as ARTA believes, the trail will be as popular as the studies indicate then we would then push to continue south. This has never been a secret. ARTA has agreed to the compromise because we believe that we can show the trail to be the better option for the entire corridor. I would think that ASRR/ARPS would want to show that they have the better idea at least by running to Tupper Lake. No, they would rather suit to prevent the communities from trying something new to improve their own communities and economic sustainability. Go figure.
Nobody said it was a secret I was just asking since, this brief is in support of a case that is about getting the green-light to also re-furbish 45 miles of track. Once that is done, I would assume it would start at the same time the trail work starts (to be fair), it would make the goal of a rail trail with any real distance much more difficult to accomplish.
Hope, you can’t have it both ways.
ARTA can’t claim credit for ‘accepting’ the compromise while still working to take the whole line. If ARTA gets a pass because that’s what they’ve always said they want, you can’t fault the railroad for defending its long-term goals. These “Heads I win, Tails you lose” arguments are pointless.
You want a compromise?
Restore the line to Tupper Lake and let ASR operate it to see how that works. It can be done in about 3 months or so. If that’s really as good a choice for the line over going all the way to Lake Placid, as Alt-7 claims, it should become apparent quickly enough. If it fails to prove out, well. The operations between Placid and SL can continue while we find out, and the Rail Explorers could come back as well. What’s to lose?
Meanwhile, ARTA can try making the area more ‘bike friendly” by upgrading bike lanes, connector trails, etc. in the area to see if that draws any more people. You can also work on those historic preservation ideas ARTA has suddenly come up with.
You want to try something new? Start there. No one is keeping you from doing that now – assuming you really want more than just getting rid of the tracks.
You lose nothing, whether the rails stay or go, and you’ll have more than studies to claim for support when the results are in.
“draws any more people” How you going to know which draws more people? I say that because train riders and trail users all take advantage of local businesses…food, lodging, shopping, etc. You can’t simply count ticket sales on the train because that only applies to one segment of the overall economic picture.
Some folks will undoubtedly take advantage of both the trail and the train with the run to Tupper Lake.
Which is the point – rails AND trail. That’s one of the things that could be tested.
How are you going to build a trail next to the RR where it runs across lake Colby? It’s impossible. There you would have to buy lots of private lake front land to have a trail?
The Travel Corridor IS the connector trail. There are no other options through the Forest Preserve to connect the communities. Thus this is what NYS has proposed. The communities are seeing and hearing what the residents and visitors want and have voted appropriately. Unfortunately for you, that is the trail. Now, Town of Webb is interested in maintaining the train. Have at it.
Hope, you are definitely the bulldog of ARTA, with a bone in your teeth. You never concede any ground, acknowledge anything that doesn’t support your position, or the veer from the messaging you have crafted.
“The communities are seeing and hearing what the residents and visitors want and have voted appropriately. Unfortunately for you, that is the trail. ”
That is not so, and your failure to admit there is not 100% support for the trail weakens your credibility. If you look at Keith Gorgas’ post above, he confirms that ARTA has exaggerated and misrepresented support for the trail. There are people in those same communities who DO want to keep the rails – and they would be happy to support trails that worked with them.
There’s also the problem that it’s not all about you. ARTA is deliberately preparing to weaken the viability of the entire corridor by putting the interests of a small group of anti-rail activists centered in one section of the corridor ahead of the interests of the rest of the corridor and people who don’t live in it but nonetheless pay taxes to support what goes on there or simply want to visit and enjoy what can only be done on the rails.
Your obsession with removing the rails blinds you to the possibilities that cooperating with the railroad would make both more effective. When I talk about making the region more bike-friendly and you refuse to look beyond the corridor, you are deliberately ignoring all of the things that could be done regardless of the rails to support your interests.
Public bike racks, bike lanes, signage, lockers capable of holding entire bikes for travelers stopping by, bike-friendly routes to local landmarks like the state sites in the area, places like John Brown’s Farm, etc. That’s what I’m talking about.
You are so focused on getting rid of the rails, you’re ready to throw out jobs, rail visitors, local history, economic diversity and anything else in your way. You are overlooking things you can do right now. You could be demonstrating what you claim will happen, instead of relying on studies paid for by people whose only interest is in removing the railroad from the area or claims made by groups who are dedicated to trails over rails whether it makes sense or not.
I suspect you need a larger perspective to inform your views. Here’s some suggestions for spring, once you connect with Amtrak:
p.s. You might be able to bring your bike along – Amtrak is adding bicycle storage to more and more of its trains.
Have a good time!
LOL Larry that’s the ” pot calling the kettle black”
Typical of you Hope – you don’t have a response so you make a cheap crack. It’s why ARTA looks like a con game to a lot of people once you cut through the PR fluff.
I am not going to change my opinion because you are calling me a bulldog. I know that there are people in my community that support trains. Some of them are my friends but we agree to disagree and move on. They are not in the majority. In Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake, recent votes by elected officials have confirmed support for option #7 but you just keep on writing protests against, what is obvious to us locally, is the support for option 7. I get that you don’t agree with it but you are not in control and neither am I. It’s a political decision and out of our hands at this point.
Hope, we can argue the theoretic economic outcome of trail vs. rail all day, and the it won’t solve anything. I am sure that I am not qualified to say how the majority of Tupper Lakers feel about the issue. In NY, we don’t have public referendums on important issues. I’m sure your finger is on the pulse of your home town, and I’ll take your word as spokesperson.
On the other hand, you would be hard pressed for find someone who has spoken with more Saranac Lakers than I have about this, and I can tell you that overwhelmingly residents favor restoration of the railroad along with a recreational trail. Many people in Saranac Lake feel powerless against the political machine in place and the big money that;’s behind ARTA. They are scared to say publicly what they say in private.
Tupper Lake stands to win no matter what, and that’s good for you. I expect that in a decade Tupper Lake will be the capital of the Adirondacks.
Just to remind you, in last year’s reader’s poll in ADE, Alternative 7 got a whopping 7% approval rating. Hardly the will of the people.
I frequent many of the retail establishments in Saranac Lake and my personal experience has been very positively pro Trail. I don’t ask about it but just go about conducting my business as usual. People come to me and say thank you for pushing this.
I don’t seek it out. I’m sure that you, Keith, will get the same from folks who agree with you as well. Political votes are more indicative of the underlying desires of a community. Not you or I.
Keith, it may be true that if you ask someone in SL do you prefer the rail with a trail to a trail only they might say they support the former. But it has got to be one or the other. I asked above how are you going to build a rail with a trail in the following places (as a start).
1. Where the train crosses 5 or more streets in SL in a few miles and across a bridge over the saranac river.
2. Where the rails cross Lake Colby with all water on both sides all the way across the lake? Are you planning on using eminent domain to take lots of private parcels along the shore for a trai along with building other bridges that you would need to put a trail next to the rails there?
The rail with a trail is not practical or really even possible so I would ask people in SL do you want one or the other? They might still says rails.
It may be a political decision, but it’s now having its day in court, and so far it looks like a bad political decision.
It also looks increasingly like a decision that is neither supported by the facts or the greater public. It looks like a decision that was arrived at through back channels and behind closed doors without real public participation or oversight. That may be considered political, but it doesn’t make it right or inevitable.
At some level, DOT, DEC, and the APA are supposed to make decisions in the best interests of the public, not merely on the basis of politics. Deciding what is ‘best’ is of course a challenge, but it looks like that process has been questionable since the beginning of the review process.
Her proven ways on Facebook are to simply block you, which is basically the social equivalent of an ostrich sticking its head in the sand. The great thing is that to see her replies on the respective ARTA pages, all I have to do is sign out. I find it funny, actually, that my perusing of the ARTA social media sites to openly point out their hypocrisy on numerous occasions has gotten me shut out–kinda like those fantastic stakeholders meetings!
You’ll notice both now and in the past that when presented with a question or comment which they simply can’t spin, they’ll ignore it.
I’ve confronted both Tony Goodwin and Jim Told about the basis and breakdown of Lee Keet’s infamous $500k a week “trail income” number. I received no answer.
I’ve asked how Jim McCulley can, as an ARTA board member, can openly work with the NY State organizations on this grandiose trail project…..The same state organizations that he referred to as being staffed with “soulless” people.
Or, elsewhere in this very thread, I presented an article from seven years ago from (gasp!) The Adirondack Explorer about the Beaver River access situation, with our good buddy Scott Thompson himself being quoted as saying that a road along the tracks apparently had been surveyed and staked out for B.R. access, but the State never followed through with building it. I ask how a road can be surveyed and proposed, but when a trail is mentioned? Nope. ARTA refuses to let you think it can be done.
It’s good to see new names in this thread calling ARTA a sham other than the usual rail advocates. It’s nice to know that people are finally starting to see through the cloud of bull and that they’re seeing the whole ARTA debacle for what it is–nothing but a small group of elitists who are joined by just one common cause. Not for a trail, not for prosperity, not for the fair and equal good of all. None of that.
All they want is for the RR to be torn out.
It wouldn’t be much, but I’d have more respect if they just admitted that instead of wasting our time with this whole trail farce.
It’s gotten tiring.
*Tony Goodwin and Jim ROLF it should have been.
Auto correct strikes again.
I believe the state has pretty much decided that the compromise…part rail, part trail will be the order of the day unless something highly unusual comes up when the easement agreements are closely examined, or in negotiations.
There’s little point in personal attacks on folks who post here. I seriously doubt anything said on these pages will make one whit of difference in the final outcome at this point.
BTW, the rail AND trail is likely a dead horse, why continue beating on it?
That is an interesting statement Hope. The Camion economic impact statement NYS hangs its hat on to support Alternate 7 make this statement for snowmobile impact on the trail only scenario: “Whether or not the tracks are removed, snowmobilers will have the new snowmobile trails that will provide connectivity and access and induce out‐of‐state visitation.” So this is another flaw identified in the Alternate 7 economic impact study, which is a point in the ARPS law suit before Judge Main.
It’s not all about snowmobiling. That is only one use option. Even if it was, the tracks inhibit the maxim use of the corridor in winter. The environmental groups will oppose any new snowmobiling trails built through the Wilderness lands of Whitney, Lows and Lake Lila thwarting any other possibilities for snowmobile trail connecting Old Forge, Big Moose, Beaver River, Piercefield and Tupper Lake. Also there is cap on the number of additional miles of trails that can be built on Forest Preserve land.
As far as I’m concerned, the whole noisy snowmobile crowd should be ignored. Their numbers have declined by 46% over the last 14 years, their economic impact has to have shrunk accordingly. Available numbers suggest no recovery from the horrible 2015-2016 season.
That means, for my money, you might as well close up the ARTA “Snow” side on the Facebook account. It serves no purpose. The claims of increased activity from that sport are totally bogus, simply because conditions have changed.
Maybe you should go talk to the motel, inn and restaurant owners along snowmobile trails and in particular in Tupper Lake how snowbiling impacts their bottom line.
Wrong question. You should ask how the snowmobile trade is for their bottom line now compared with 14 years ago.
Both good questions. The answers are multiple. Yes, the cost of snowmobiles has gone up tremendously (rediculously) but they will last for years and tens of thousands of miles. The cost has reduced the number of back yard registered machines, but come to Old Forge. Many seasonal renters, many snowmobile camps ( $200,000 + type) new businesses opening and the only winter income is Snowmobiles.
How has tourist Railroad affected the tax base? Just sayin’
Part of the public hearing introductions spacificly said an alternate enhanced trail to Beaver River would be part of the plan. We naturally started calling those involved, Hessinger and the regional DEC people, most often Keith Rivers and all said after looking at the route, inquiries to the property owners on the corridor and physical characteristics, there is no way! That’s 8.5 miles out of 90.
“Over the past few decades, there has been talk about building a dirt road to Beaver River, and a route paralleling the train line was even surveyed and flagged, Thompson said.” –Adirondack Explorer, 2010
So you can survey and map out a ROAD to Beaver River, but you can’t do a trail, eh?
[…] Rail-Trail Advocates Join Adirondack Trail Lawsuit […]
” the purpose of a scenic railroad is not to move freight or even people,” he said. “The purpose of a scenic railroad is to enjoy the scenery.””
This is kind of an interesting quote. I don’t have a dog in this fight but you are obviously moving people on a scenic RR. Especially if you expand it to the point where it actually goes places that people might want to hang out. Into the Whitney Wilderness for example.
Do many environmental groups and individuals favor having the trains in the adirondack backcountry and support having the associated herbicide used on the train tracks just so they can keep snowmobiles from having a better trail on the rail corridor in the winter ??
Herbicide use is something both DOT and DEC oversee. If you think it’s a health hazard in the way it is being used and applied, take it up with them. If the railroad had been using it inappropriately, you’d better believe they would have acted – 30 day operating permits, revocable at any time, remember? You can find details in the 1996 UMP, section H I believe.
Besides, we all know snowmobile exhaust is so clean, they drive them around just to freshen up the Adirondack Air.
I checked and watched for several years and for the most part they seemed to comply with what the law and regulations required for spraying herbice plant regulators (Article 33 of the NYS Environmental Conservation Law). I found a few spots where they seemed to spray closer to water sources than allowed. The way herbicide is used on the railroad is different than on power line transmission lines or roadways where they spot spray only individual trees or only spray under sections of guide-rails. The power transmission lines want grasses and small shrubs to grow. The railroad is sprayed for the whole width for the whole length of the railbed and that amounts to tons of herbicide sprayed.
The proposed first step of restoring the tracks from Big Moose to Tupper Lake includes 66,000 ties ( about 1/3 of what will be necessary ) . I wonder what the volume of Creosote that means running into the ground water and then there’s Round Up now considered a carcinogen as well. I can not post pictures here, but I have beauties of creosote bleeding through the snow and abandoned small piles of old ties strewn on the corridor near Lake Lila.
You’re worried about creosote? I think Dave Lubic covers that pretty well in his response. It doesn’t have to be creosoted timber either – concrete ties are all the rage these days. The new line double-tracking between Albany and Schenectady is laid on concrete ties. More info here:
They’re talking about crushes stone for the trail now. (Funny how that world-class paved trail seems to have gone by the wayside.) Have you ever looked at an MSDS for crushed stone? Try this:
Since some others have brought up environmental questions about those horrible, dirty, obsolete, etc. railroads, well, you might want to see what I submitted as environmental comments when the public opinion phase was open.
Anything man does has an environmental impact, and some of these things can be strongly negative.
In terms of this railroad or a trail conversion, the impacts can, in my opinion, be reduced to four areas—water pollution, air pollution, noise pollution, and, for lack of better terms, aesthetics—how pretty something is or how pleasant it sounds.
There would be two principle components of water pollution in regard to the railroad. One would be runoff, from leaking fuel tanks or something similar, and the other would be creosote leaching from ties.
Photographs of the railroad’s right-of-way reveal some pretty clean looking track, suggesting few if any fluid leaks from locomotives. The photographs that are available of the Adirondack’s equipment suggest older machines that are lovingly cared for, which reinforces the impression that this would not be a serious issue.
A potentially more serious issue is the question of creosote leaching from the ties. Creosote is considered hazardous enough that most uses of it have been banned in New York State, including the use of old ties for gardening purposes, and the use of creosote as a preservative for various deckings. The disposal of creosote treated products is also regulated. Indeed, it is not even permitted to manufacture creosote in New York, nor is it permitted to manufacture anything containing creosote except for use outside of New York in conformance with regulations in other states, or to exempted uses in New York State. The two exempted uses are for railroads (ties and perhaps bridge timbers in wooden bridges), and utility poles, either those used by a public utility or by an individual on private property to support wires for utility services, such as power and telephone lines.
What this set of restrictions and exemptions tells me is that creosote treated lumber in the field is not considered a serious health issue by the State of New York; rather, an industrial facility that makes creosote, or one that produces creosote products, is a serious threat because of the larger quantity of the chemical in a relatively small area. It’s also considered important to keep creosote away from people in potential casual and frequent contact with it, including their vegetable and flower gardens. People in those situations, and at boating marinas, are much more likely to be in contact with creosote treated lumber than they are with the ties of a railroad or the poles of a utility company. People could ingest creosote from vegetables and fruits in proximity to borders in a garden—but they are not likely to be growing their vegetables between the rails of a railroad.
Burning anything creates air pollution. The questions in relation to a railroad or a trail essentially become differences of degree.
Diesel locomotives burn mid-range distillates, which are essentially close to kerosene; other such distillates include home heating oil and jet fuel.
For purposes of simplicity and brevity, we’ll limit the discussion to carbon dioxide, which has gotten much attention in recent years as a potential “greenhouse gas.” Buring a gallon of diesel fuel (without added ethanol) produces about 22.38 pounds of CO2; a similar quantity of gasoline produces 19.64 pounds of CO2. Despite gasoline’s lower CO2 output on a unit basis, the huge number of automobiles in use in the United States results in gasoline producing over 2 ½ times the CO2 as the use of diesel fuel in all forms of ground transportation—420 million tons for diesel fuel vs. 1,087 million tons for gasoline.
The figures for distillate fuel consumption include both trucking and railroads, however. For comparison, we need to break this down further. We do find that railroads in 2012 burned an estimated 3,188,150,000 gallons of diesel fuel in 24,707 locomotives in Class I railroad service in 2012, averaging 129,038 gallons per locomotive per year, with the average locomotive traveling 60,100 miles, a figure which would include yard and switching locomotives with low mileage. That works out to an average fuel consumption of 2.14 gallons per mile.
For comparison, the trucking industry burned over ten times as much fuel oil–36,343.072,000 gallons. The best trucks in Class 8—large heavy-haul tractor trailers—could get up to 7.5 miles per gallon. However, hauling single trailers on rubber tires resulted in a fuel consumption of 6.5 gallons per thousand ton miles, vs. an average of 2.1 gallons per thousand ton-miles for railroads hauling long trains on steel rails. Alternately, this works out to one ton moving 476 miles on one gallon of fuel by rail, vs. about 154 miles by truck.
OK, what does this work out to for the Adirondack Scenic? It’s about 141 miles long, and the locomotives, though well maintained, are older and have higher fuel consumption, probably about 3 miles per gallon. Assuming one locomotive per train, we would be looking at 846 gallons of fuel for a round trip. That round trip could have a train of about 5 cars (perhaps more), with a seating capacity of about 350. That works out to something like 117 miles per gallon per seat. Modern automobiles come pretty close to this—94 miles per gallon per seat—but that assumes four people in an automobile, and that’s for the newest fuel averages for cars sold in 2013; the average auto in the United States is now over 10 years old. A more realistic average of two people per automobile at 22 miles per gallon works out to 175 automobiles using 2,241 gallons of fuel. Comparable CO2 emissions would be 18,933 pounds for the train vs.44,013 for 175 automobiles.
All of this is essentially speaking in terms of visitors coming from outside the area. Not addressed is the prospect of eventually replacing some local road traffic as well, should driving become pricey enough that it becomes relatively uncommon compared with how it is today.
There’s no denying it, railroads can be noisy. A locomotive at full power can produce over 90 decibels at 100 feet away, and the horns can be at 110 decibels at the same distance. For comparison, diesel trucks can also be at about 90 decibels, but at only half the distance, which means the truck is quieter than the locomotive.
Against this we must consider the frequency of the sound in terms of how often it comes around. The railroad might run two to four trains per day, but a highway with any level of traffic roars most of the 24 hours in the day. In that respect, the railroad is quieter than a highway. The choice of which is less objectionable—occasional noise from a train vs. nearly continuous noise from a road—is up to the listener.
This brings us up to the final category of environmental impact:
I like to say a railroad treads lightly on the land. That sounds counterintuitive to most people, what with large, heavy, often loud locomotives.
But look at a railroad from the air, or in a satellite photo. Very often the railroad is hard to see compared to the wide swaths of rivers and the broad ribbons of highways. It is not unusual to have to look for a railroad indirectly, looking instead for the rows of trees on each side of it, in a line that doesn’t quite look natural. One person has told me that he and a pilot, following this railroad from the air, had “lost” it, and had to circle around until they found it again. Even major bridges across rivers or deep ravines are understated, thin and dark, compared with the wider and lighter colored bridges of highways.
I noted above how a railroad can be quiet compared with a road. It’s also worth noting that the sound is different in its “timbre.” That’s a musical term, defined as “the quality of a tone distinctive of a particular singing voice or musical instrument”—in other words, what makes a guitar sound like a guitar, a violin like a violin, a trumpet a trumpet—or what makes a train or car or truck sound the way they do. Most of us just ignore traffic noise, but trains for many of us don’t sound bad at all.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to recall a story a man told me about his son, who was about five years old at the time. He had taken this boy alternately to a drag race and to the Strasburg Rail Road in Lancaster County, Pa. The boy didn’t like the drag race at all; he asked his father, “Daddy, why are those cars so angry?” The visit to the steam-powered Strasburg Rail Road was a different matter. From his description, the locomotive was No. 90, the largest engine the Strasburg owns. The father said his boy was not afraid of this large, black, loud, and hot machine, going up to it and touching it. His father said this massive, tall, machine, of steel and steam and coal and fire, had the character of “a large, friendly horse.”
There is a good reason we called steam locomotives “iron horses.”
I am not the only one to say a railroad treads lightly upon the land. The railroad writer and former editor of Trans magazine, the late David P. Morgan, once wrote:
“Deface the land? Rubbish! To assert that a railroad mars the pastoral scene is to question the entire influence of man upon nature. A barn, a plowed field, a crossroads, a fence? Are all these versus beauty, too? A railroad is, considering the work it accomplishes, quite economical of space. Moreover, it is built and maintained with a wholesome respect for nature for both employ a balanced approach. Finally, as a railroad ages, so does it tend to blend with its surroundings.
“Shall we prove the point?
“There are hundreds of vistas in America which are unthinkable without the railroad. Harpers Ferry minus Baltimore & Ohio would be like American history without old John Brown. And what is Southern Pacific across the Sierra Nevada but happy evidence that the nation is unified, that the invention of man has overcome the natural handicaps that the defeated the Donner party in the same mountain pass through which the railroad runs? Pittsburgh without rails becomes just another bend in the river; the New River Gorge returns to an inaccessible, unexploited passage of potential commerce; the Dakotas and Oklahoma and the unending Southwest revert to the Indian.
“Oh no; rails do not crease, they bind.”
What more can we add, what more can we say?
Sources for my information:
Runoff in general
Air pollution from cars
Per gallon of fuel:
Sources of carbon dioxide by source
Fuel consumption by sector:
Railroad fuel consumption:
EMD Fuel Consumption Chart:
Trucks in the United States:
Registrations by county in New York
Efficient automobiles—provided they are new:
Diesel vs. gas auto comparison:
Well thought and written comment, but I’m not sure it is the most important issues. From where I sit I can’t design a business plan that works with the Rail Road and if not here then where? One point on efficiency: if there are a lot of empty seats, how much lighter is the train and how much less fuel will it use?
At this point, I think it matters more which will be more entertaining and used more? If it’s a ride in the wilderness, why not a tram on wheels?
Crossties are now being made with “green” preservation treatments.
Sorry, spelled my name wrong
I have paddled the Whitney Wilderness area for many years from the time when Lows Lake/Hitchens Pond region was still owned by the BSA, and when Lake Lila was first opened up to paddlers.
So much attention has been given to the Saranac to Placid section of the roadbed that the plans for the western end, from Big Moose to Tupper, receives little mention. I cannot adequately address the legal questions and ramifications of restoring rail service on the western end, but I can say that the plan to do so causes me a great deal of anger and grief.
The Whitney Wilderness area of the Adirondacks offers a true wilderness paddling experience, in my opinion unequaled in other areas of the park. I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend how the state could even consider allowing train travel along the narrow western end of Lake Lila, or restoring the old abandoned Nehasane station to allow tourists to disembark from there. As it is, when vehicles use the roadbed there for passage to the private in-holdings they can be heard from the top of Mt Frederica. loud trains passing through the area, blowing their horns at every road crossing and every old RR station on the way, from Brandeth Lake to Horseshoe lake, will destroy the wilderness experience of the region.
I have walked the decaying RR tracks in the western sections. I have looked underneath the failing bridges, and cannot comprehend why the state would be willing to invest a great deal of money into the crumbling infrastructure. to run trains through a wilderness area. A crucial section of the roadbed used for portaging from Harrington Brook to Clear pond, running through wetlands, may be no wider (and most likely isn’t) than the roadbed between Saranac and Placid where the state has determined that it is not feasible to allow pedestrian traffic to coexist with RR service. Will the state close the portage, thereby ending the Whitney loop? On the environmental front, great sections of the roadbed pass through wetlands and runs adjacent to waterways- areas that would be adversely affected by the necessary use of herbicides to keep the tracks clear of weeds and brush, waterways that could be polluted by creosote and copper from new RR ties.
If the Adk. Scenic RR must be permitted to continue running its train, I am in favor of keeping its use limited to its present section of the roadbed within the already busy corridor from Saranac to Placid- an area that is not adversely affected by its presence. I favor keeping the train where it is, and out of our wilderness canoe areas.
Hrrrummph! More easement issues:
In my opinion, the easement issue is the biggie. If there are more segments that are easements than the state is letting on–and I’m positive there are–they are a string of costly booby traps waiting to explode.
Most such easements are intended for railroad purposes only and have reversion clauses. What that means is if the track comes up, the easement–a type of property lease–disappears into thin air. The roadbed legally ceases to exist.
That means you have to negotiate a NEW easement agreement with the property owners at a NEW price–and you can bet even a trail supporter likes money.
And then there are some who don’t want the money–and don’t want people crossing their property either.
Good luck dealing with those!
The easiest and quietest thing to do is leave the railroad alone.
“The easiest and quietest thing to do is leave the railroad alone.”
I can’t argue with that!
Preseault vs ICC. BASICLY, rail road is old language, ROW is the spirit of the law.
Maybe it’s time for a World Wrestling Federation steel-cage-match with folding chairs to sort this out…
… I imagine it would be entertaining and a better use of resources than the present level of discussion…
Rock – paper – scissors!
When all is said and done, ARTA, and some others, simply want everyone out of their woods. Trains, snowmobiles, hikers, mountain bikers – everyone. That’s right – they don’t want a trail, either.
HELLO!! This is the ARTA guy with a family business that would disappear without some serious use of the corridor in the winter. Every one should realize the Trail use of the corridor will relieve a lot of use of use from other more sensitive areas and with very little impact! Certainly less impact than the Train and it’s infrastructure. Business likes it, environmentalists know it’s advantages: it’s win win.
Out of the woods? That’s just silly.
“Out of the woods? That’s just silly.”
Maybe, maybe not. You do have some people who want the Adirondacks to become “forever wild.” One notable person is alleged to want to recreate a “Bob Marshall” wilderness area with all effects of man essentially erased from the landscape.
Is it true? I can’t really say, but others think so.
And having said that, I can’t entirely blame some people for valuing moose and wolves and the like over people. We certainly see many examples of human beings who behave so badly we wonder at the wisdom of the Creator at creating us.
Who has called for the Adirondacks–the entire Adirondacks–to become forever wild?
The Bob Marshall Great Wilderness is a proposal of the Adirondack Council. The region encompasses about 409,000 acres in the western Adirondacks. Most of the land is already owned by the state.
Thanks for some information I didn’t have.
But here is what could be an important question. . .does the railroad run through the proposed Bob Marshall Great Wilderness area? If it does. . .?
The corridor does run through the proposed BMGW. The council, however, is not calling for removal of the tracks or an end to train use.
Hmmm. . .then explain how Dick Beamish, who is big on the Bob Marshall Great Wilderness and is apparently pretty influential in the movement behind it, has also come out quite strongly against the railroad.
There’s nothing to explain. Dick Beamish has his opinion; the Adirondack Council has theirs.
I agree. The only place humans could possibly be excluded today would be on private land, not public.
A new article on the rail-trail lawsuit can be found here:
How is it possible to write any more on this subject?
It all really comes down to this, one of two things is going to happen:
(1) The state wins the court case & we get the trail between Tupper Lake & Lake Placid. Maybe the state finds a rail operator to invest money into running the rail line & the train runs to Tupper Lake. More than likely the train will NEVER go any farther than Big Moose, because I doubt a rail operator will want to take operational control over the line and at that point the state WILL NOT invest anymore money into rehabing the tracks. And before anyone pops off, the building of the trail & the fixing of the rails to Tupper Lake WERE NEVER tied together. One doesn’t have to wait on the other before it can be started.
(2) The rail folks win & the tracks remain. At that point the status quo returns since I doubt the state would invest any more money into the rails. Since the trains on the northern end were moved to Utica, I doubt the state would even give permission for them to return north, so you’d still only run limited trains to Big Moose. Since the lease for use on the northern end expired with the end of last season, I’d see no reason for the state to grant a new one. And that’s the fun part about this, ya cannot go to court to make the state grant you a lease to operate, since the state owns the corridor & they can grant or not grant lease to use as they see fit.
So now it just boils down to this: DO the rails remain in place north of Tupper Lake, or do they get pulled up. Trains will never see the light of day in getting to Tupper Lake no matter what the court decides.
“Trains will never see the light of day in getting to Tupper Lake no matter what the court decides.” Premature, to say the least.
I’ve heard it mentioned any number of times about getting an operator for the tourist train. Just my opinion, but until available routing becomes definite, I doubt any reputable operator would take it on as a business venture, and it would be a business venture.
I would like to see American Heritage Railways take this on, they do a great job with the Silverton and Durango and the Great Smoky Mountain Scenic Railroads. The track length between Remsen and Tupper Lake is very comparable to either of these lines, I think a bit longer.
It’s barely marketable now to Old Forge. Would there be enough revenue generated to even afford running a train to Tupper Lake. I doubt it. Why would a rail operator want to take on a project, which would require them to put up a lot of money, to buy into something that barely survives now.
Just use the Iowa Pacific example over in Saratoga NY. Their snow train didn’t run at all this year because, no one was using it. It is easier for people these days to hop in their cars & drive to places in the Adirondacks.
I can drive from my home in Maryland, to my camp in Old Forge on less cost in gas than it would cost me for a ticket on the train from Utica to Old Forge. I can see jjst as much of the Adirondacks driving up & I have the freedom to go other places the train cannot take me.
The train has its niche in society. I’m all for keeping it between Utica & Old Forge, but beyond that it is not a investment anyone would or should make.
People want to jump on snowmobilers & they keep trying to use a declining number of snowmobilers as a reason not to do the trail. We may be declining in numbers but we still generate more income into the Adirondacks than the ASR can ever think of doing. Why not go ask the Town of Webb how many permits they sell every year. Why not go ask some of those folks, if they would ride north on a trail to Tupper Lake or Saranac Lake. There are business up that way that would love to see the snowmobile business come north on a snow cover trail without rails.
Like I said the courts going to decide & I don’t think the rail folks will be happy even if they win, because the state has a long memory & can/probably will still screw the rail folks over in the end. Enjoy what you would have left with Option 7 in place, because you may not like what the state gives you if they loose!
Do snowmobilers have a plan to deal with climate change? We can already see the negative effects. What then?
yep, keep riding!
I guess it means you can ride your bike later in the year?
Keep in mind, the snowmobile crowd, and the bike crowd, might not be too happy if they win, either. There is still that easement issue.
We kept hearing the railroad was owned in fee simple. . .and then at least two easements showed up when we kept hearing there were none at all.
How many others are out there? I would be VERY surprised if there weren’t any others. . .they were so common for railroads then.
And remember, if the tracks go away, so does the easement. It’s like the electoral college; a lot of people have said they didn’t like the results of the past presidential election (and I’ll even say I’m one of them), but the law we have now is what we have, and even if you don’t like what the deeds say, that’s that.
The trail crowd may well wind up losing everything if they win, even more so than the railroad.
The state has reported to the judge that the only parcels it doesn’t own are the two mentioned. And the state doesn’t see the lack of ownership as a major obstacle. See my more recent article at
I had a little time on my hands and could resist no longer. Let’s count the insults and personal accusations and/or attacks, including where people are personally named, from each side aimed at the other side, culled from the 120 comments on this post so far. In order:
Pro- Rail Comments Aimed at Pro-Trail Folks
1. Larry Roth: “It’s time to back away from the small group of anti-rail activists who want to carve out their own little private reserve on the public’s dime.”
2. Chris Lindsley: “this sham group called “ARTA” get its way…”
3. Chip Ordway: “I will indeed second the motion that the idea of our ARTA buddies “accepting the compromise” is indeed a huge steaming pile of lies. All of their front line fighters (including board members McCulley, Rolf, Frenette, and Thompson) have NEVER ceased their rallying cry of going further south…”
4. Keith Gorgas: “The fact that ARTA has selected Bill Owens as legal representation should tell even the casual reader enough. In 2013, watchdog groups named Owens as one of the most corrupt people in Washington… … Mr. Owens sits on the board of one of ARTA founder, multi-millionaire Lee Kee”s LLCs…. … Subterfuge and dishonesty has marked ARTA’s actions since day one.”
5. Chip Ordway: “to quote some of ARTA’s “finest”, using that word VEEEERY loosely… …and because of the selfishness, the Rail Explorers packed up and left…
6. Chip Ordway: “And you, Hope, asking someone else to prove it is simply hilarious. This whole thread has proven that your little gang of Elite’s simply ignores the questions posed to them when the true facts and your own bunk don’t sync up.”
7. Jim Lahey: “Keep the trains and rails!!! The train haters need to FO!!!”
8. Larry Roth: “But you will have endorsed the state’s right to act like a body part I can’t mention in a public forum.”
9. Larry Roth: “Hope, you are definitely the bulldog of ARTA, with a bone in your teeth…”
10. Larry Roth: “Typical of you Hope – you don’t have a response so you make a cheap crack”
11. Chip Ordway (this one’s epic in scope): “Her proven ways on Facebook are to simply block you, which is basically the social equivalent of an ostrich sticking its head in the sand… Chip then mention by name Tony Goodwin, Jim Rolf, Lee Keet, Jim McCulley and Scott Thompson, before finishing with “It’s good to see new names in this thread calling ARTA a sham other than the usual rail advocates. It’s nice to know that people are finally starting to see through the cloud of bull and that they’re seeing the whole ARTA debacle for what it is–nothing but a small group of elitists who are joined by just one common cause. Not for a trail, not for prosperity, not for the fair and equal good of all. None of that. All they want is for the RR to be torn out. It wouldn’t be much, but I’d have more respect if they just admitted that instead of wasting our time with this whole trail farce.”
12. Larry Girard: “When all is said and done, ARTA, and some others, simply want everyone out of their woods. Trains, snowmobiles, hikers, mountain bikers – everyone. That’s right – they don’t want a trail, either.”
13. David P Lubic: “Hmmm. . .then explain how Dick Beamish, who is big on the Bob Marshall Great Wilderness and is apparently pretty influential in the movement behind it, has also come out quite strongly against the railroad.”
Pro-Trail Comments Aimed at Pro-Rail Folks
1. Hope Frenette: “ LOL Larry that’s the ‘pot calling the kettle black’”
Ooh Hope, the old pot/kettle blast. Strong stuff, plus you added an LOL to really amp it up. Wicked.
There you go, kids: 13 to 1 so far, and a mighty dignified 13 at that, as one reads them. How proud you must all be.
That, folks, tells you everything you need to know about this overwrought, tiresome debate.
It is about as much of a “debate” at this point as ‘More taste! vs. Less filling!’.
Am I aging myself again?
Not as bad as I apparently do.
I’ll admit to being pretty retro. I guess I have to admit it, being a train fan!
But it does show. . .I’ve had people tell me I live in the wrong time (which I agree with), I’ve had people tell me I’m an old soul, and I’ve had at least three people tell me I reminded them of their grandfathers.
The fun part is that one of them was all of one year younger than me!
I considered all to be compliments, but my wife didn’t like them at all! She said they made her feel old!
Thanks for the tally Pete. I believe I’ve already commented on the way ARTA uses math, but it’s kind of you to illustrate the point.
And there’s this about ‘insults’ – the deadliest ones are the ones that are true.
Add your name to the tally Pete, you’ve just “insulted” Larry R., Chris, Chip, Keith, Jim, Larry G., David and Hope. Many of us who put our time, money, heart and soul into supporting the railroad to Lake placid will never give up. Especially true knowing we can have both a trail and a railroad along the corridor. To us it’s not an overwrought, tiresome issue.
I’ve stayed away from this debate because I don’t feel terribly strong about making life easier for snowmobile riders, but I think rail advocates should take a hike.
So which is worse, Pete? Voicing one’s opinion on a subject, or voicing one’s opinion on *someone else’s* opinion on a subject?
You may be interested to know (or may *not* be, either way) to know that the rhetoric weighs heavy on BOTH sides of the issue, so if you feel spending one’s down time to pick apart every comment and keep a running tally is a good way to waste away some minutes, then hey…more power to you.
I was going to provide links to various places where you can see ARTA side in action against the “choo choo fans” as they love to call us, but you seem like your mind is already made up. To paraphrase yourself: That, kids, tells *ME* everything I need to know about your thoughts on the issue.
Epic enough for you?
Does the above sound smarmy? Perhaps, but seriously, man…You call to attention how one-sided this argument is in your own eyes, but when there are numerous places that present the facts otherwise, wouldn’t it be in your better written interests to view things on *both* sides before making such a comment? If you like pulling a “Statler and Waldorf” on an internet forum, then have at it, but it kinda throws your original comment right down the toilet.
To quote Hope: that’s the ‘pot calling the kettle black.
Thanks for the tally!
“So which is worse, Pete? Voicing one’s opinion on a subject, or voicing one’s opinion on *someone else’s* opinion on a subject?”
I see nothing wrong with either. But there is a difference between voicing opinions on a subject or idea and attacking the person voicing those opinions. This is where any meaningful dialog breaks down. We all should strive to keep discussions civil.
Just something new to add to the pile.
This whole process is getting really boring. The ARPS needs to realize that if they loose in court, they will at least possibly get a train going all the way to Tupper Lake; if they win the court case & option 7 gets tossed, we are back to square one: you have a train that can get to Big Moose, you no longer have a lease for the northern end & I seriously doubt the state would grant you another one at this point; so you end up getting less than what you had, & less than what you could have gotten if the state built the trail. SO either way it is a loose loose for ARPS, it’s just which way do they want to loose!
They should study what has been done in Jim Thorpe , Pennsylvania. They have a hugely popular rail with trail recreational corridor. Tourist from all over the world come to ride the trains, hike, camp and bike, there is also river rafting, many interesting historic sights to visit, great shops and restaurants. Some of the trains allow bicyclists to bring their bikes. Everyone is served, The train buffs, families, history buffs, tourists and locals all benefit. Do not stupidly rip up a railroad, that could be a great economic tool for your region.
Thank you, James, and what you have to say could be summarized in the old sentence, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
What you describe at Jim Thorpe is a tourist economy with considerable diversity. It has hiking, camping, rafting, history, and the railroad. The railroad even ties in with biking (taking bikes on trains), history, and may well tie in with some of the other activities, too.
About the only thing missing that’s also in the Adirondacks would be snowmobiling, and that’s more to climate and location than anything else. . .and it looks like between climate change and possibly the expense of sleds, winter sports are taking a hit, and snowmobiles may–may–eventually be on the way out.
Jim Thorpe may be a model recreation area, but it doesn’t have one thing that makes it difficult, if not impossible to get around in order to build a trail parallel with or reasonably close to the tracks. They don’t have the Adirondack Park and SLMP rules to contend with when it comes to AP Wilderness areas, and the use of motorized vehicles or bicycles on a trail through those areas.
Yes, I know some sort of a plan was drawn up by trail folks to route parts of the trail around these areas with connectors, but that brings up the question: is it really then a rail-trail?
Bruce’s comments remind me of a point I’ve made before. . .that the real “problems” here are not technical or even financial, but institutional. In short, some people with some weight to throw around just don’t want to be told “No, you need to leave the railroad alone.”
As to whether the T.R.A.C.’s proposal to move the trail around disqualifies it as a “rail trail,” I wouldn’t worry about that at all. The Rails to Trails Conservancy has lauded other trails that wandered around, including one that left the roadbed for city streets (this was where the railroad was still active in what may have been a really cramped or otherwise inaccessible right of way), and another that was NEW construction along a highway, with no railroad in the area at all!
Let’s put it this way–a good trail is a good trail, whether it follows a railroad or doesn’t!
As a rollerblader and biker, I applaud the State’s efforts to build multi-use trails, HOWEVER I think in this instance the tracks should remain. They provide a unique way to build tourism in a way that is more accessible to the general population. The tracks also represent the historical significance of the rail system in building our state and our country. Think of all of the unique historical landmarks we would be without if we decided to knock them down, so we could build something new. So many of New York’s historic buildings have been preserved to provide a window to our past, the rail system in the Adirondacks should be saved for the same reason.