Thursday, April 5, 2018

Local Railroad CEO Seeks $5M Payday

In March 2016, Ed Ellis stood before the Warren County Board of Supervisors and said that there would be no oil tanker railcars stored in the Adirondacks.

He said it again and again as he pushed county leaders to authorize a new five-year contract to operate the Saratoga and North Creek Railroad (SNCRR). He gave the Supervisors his “word.”

Ellis is the embattled CEO of Iowa Pacific Holdings, who owns the railroad tracks and the right to operate the Sanford Lake Railway, from North Creek to the Tahawus Mine, under certain conditions. Ellis leases the North Creek to Saratoga Railway, which runs from North Creek to Saratoga Springs. The North Creek to Saratoga railroad track and corridor is owned jointly by Warren County and the Town of Corinth, which lease it to Ellis.

It didn’t take long for Ellis to backtrack. By the fall of 2016, he was floating the idea of storing oil tankers, but backed off it when he either could not get any oil tankers or when he encountered state and local opposition. Jump ahead to 2017 and Ellis did exactly what he said he would not do – he started storing oil tankers in the Adirondacks.

Jump ahead to 2018, and we saw Ellis telling a Warren County Board of Supervisors committee that he never said he would not store oil tankers in the Adirondacks. He said that oil tanker storage was always the plan for the Sanford Lake line between North Creek and the Tahawus Mine. Ellis said that there should have been no doubt about his intentions for oil tanker storage in 2016 and because Warren County helped to block him from bringing in thousands of oil tankers last year, the County is morally obligated to buy the Sanford Lake Railway from him for $5 million.

Ed Ellis says he has been in the railroad business for more than 40 years, but probably during that time most of his business was done in a boardroom and was not public and videotaped. What the videotape shows in 2016 and 2018 is that nobody should trust a word Ed Ellis says about anything.

Here’s the link to the meeting with the full Warren County Board of Supervisors in March 2016. The discussion of the railroad starts at 1:57 and then picks up again at 2:11.

At that meeting, Ellis was asked point blank about railcar storage and told the Supervisors (2:12:33) “we missed the train on storage,” and went on to say that he can build storage capacity on new track in places like Mississippi and Colorado far cheaper than hauling cars from the west to store in the east in the Adirondacks. He said he may bring in other train car types, such as lumber cars, coal cars, and boxcars, but “the oil cars are done.” Ellis was asked to “put in words” in the new contract that he would not bring in oil tankers. “Let me say that I can’t put anything in contract that would encumber any other line that I own because it would be a violation of my covenants with my lenders. I can’t,” Ellis said.

There were statements from Supervisors that more deliberation was needed on the new contract and that they should also research the viability of conversion to a multi-use trail. Ellis was asked for “assurances that he would not transport oil tankers through Warren County” (2:18). Ellis was pushed by Supervisor Jim Brock of Glens Falls who talked about Warren County’s “obligation to the whole region” and that he wanted “to stop any possibility of oil tankers being stored up there” (on the Sanford Lake Railway). Ellis responded by stating “As I said they’re not coming (2:21:50). I know you’d like to have that in writing, but I can’t put it in writing … but you have my word, they’re not coming. No. I’m not putting any up there. No. You have that on record.” When pressed again Ellis said “I’m not putting any oil tankers up there” (2:22:20).

Not all Supervisors were satisfied with Ellis’s word. Queensbury Supervisor John Strough questioned Ellis’s “verbal promises” not to bring in oil tankers to the Tahawus line. Strough asked the County’s attorneys “Is that oral commitment legally binding?” (2:38) One attorney responded “He has given you his word on the record. His corporate counsel in Chicago has told me the exact same thing.” After further discussion, Strough said “Mr. Ellis I’m going to take you on your word.” Ellis responded “You can do that.” Strough finished by saying “If you do allow oil tankers up there I think there will be outrage.” Ellis responded by saying “If there is ever an oil tanker up there I’ll be here and you can tell me publicly that I did not do what I said I would.”

In the end, Matt Simpson, Supervisor from the Town of Horicon, and Dennis Dickinson of Lake George were outspoken in the support of a new contract for Ellis in 2016 and led the effort to approve it. Dickinson called Ellis “a great partner.” The new contract passed narrowly.

A week ago on March 29, 2018, Ed Ellis attended a meeting the Department of Public Works Committee of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, and recounted a version of history far different from that captured on videotape and described above.

Warren County has posted video of the March 2018 meeting with Ellis, who opened with surly questions about why the Town of Corinth, a partner with Warren County and who has been more supportive of Ellis’s operations, was not invited. He then went straight after the County: “I’m glad you invited me because as a result of your actions on car storage you basically created a devastating financial situation for me, costing us millions of dollars, the cars are all moving out, no customer will do business with us. So congratulations you succeeded on that.”

Ellis failed to mention the opposition from Governor Andrew Cuomo, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as state agencies. He did not mention opposition from other local governments, such as specific towns in Essex County and the Essex County Board of Supervisors, from any of the Adirondack environmental groups, or from elected representatives like Dan Stec or Betty Little.

Ellis then put a demand on the table to Warren County saying they need to “buy the Tahawus railroad (the Sanford Lake Railway) for $5 million.” He said if they did that he would pay all his bills. If not, he said he has no money to sustain the operation of the Saratoga & North Creek Railway. Ellis owes Warren County over $28,000.

County leaders at the meeting rejected Ellis’s demand. Ellis then tried a new tactic, saying he only renewed his contract with the County in 2016 “based on car storage.” He said he informed the county of his plans to store cars on the Tahawus Line during contract negotiations, and now in 2018 “The County has taken that away from us.” The 2016 meeting notes quoted above shows Ellis spinning pure fiction.

What is real is Ellis’s desperation. At one point in the meeting, when asked about plans for operating the rail line this summer, Ellis said. “Let me be clear. You either buy the Tahawus Line for $5 million or we are done. D-O-N-E.”

Glens Falls Supervisor Claudia Braymer rejected Ellis’s contention that the County has undercut him. She argued his freight service and tourist train businesses had failed and now he was looking for Warren County to bail him out. Ellis said that he is still confident that the freight business will develop some day, but he needs to store railcars until that point. Ellis says he is “now out of time” for the original agreement. Ellis claimed that he has made investments, fixed line, ran snow trains, tourist trains, Christmas Trains, and was the only bidder who tried to make the line work, but none of his activities “resulted in financial viability.” Ellis said he never would have signed a new contract if the County had opposed his plans for railcar storage.

Other supervisors chimed in “We’re not buying the line. That’s not happening.” Ellis said the Saratoga and North Creek Railway is broke and cannot operate and cannot pay the County. “We don’t have the ability to pay.” When asked about his contractual obligations, Ellis said “We have a contract but we have no manageable wherewithal to fulfill it.” Finally, Ellis said “If you want a railroad, you’re gonna have to pay for it” and encouraged the County to send some one to Albany “to get the $5 million.”

At another point, Ellis name-dropped new Department of Transportation Commissioner Paul Karas, who he referred to as his friend and neighbor from Chicago. Ellis said he was looking for a deal with Karas, through a “third party” intermediary.

One of those who attended the 2016 meeting and questioned Ellis was Jim Brock, retired 4th Ward Supervisor from Glens Falls. In a letter to editor in the Post Star last week about how Ellis was rewriting history, he wrote:

Mr. Ed Ellis, owner of the Saratoga and North Creek Railway, has a memory as leaky as his oil cars. His complaint is that the uproar over his company storing tanker cars on the line north of North River has chased away potential customers. He now wants the county or some other entity to buy the rail line there for $5 million to make up for his losses. What he seems to forget is what he told me and the board on March 16, 2016. The following is from the county board minutes:

“Supervisor Brock informed he was very concerned about the possibility of storing oil cars, as he felt they had an obligation not only to the county but also to the region. He said he was not versed in the law so he was unaware of the legal aspects of it, but he would like to stop any possibility of oil tank cars or any other types of cars from being stored in Tahawus. Mr. Ellis interjected that, as he stated earlier, due to the cost of transporting them, no oil cars would be stored in Tahawus; however, he noted, it was not an option for him to put that in writing, but he was giving his word that this would not occur.”

“Supervisor Brock inquired whether Mr. Ellis would store cars in Tahawus if the need did arose, and Mr. Ellis restated that he gave his word that oil cars were not coming here. Supervisor Brock remarked that had not been his question, and Mr. Ellis replied that the answer to the question was no, they would not be stored there. He pointed out they now had it on record that he had given his word that no cars would be stored in Tahawus.”

Ellis is clearly feeling the heat. His plans to haul stone from the Tahawus Mine failed. His plans to haul materials for Barton Mines failed. His commuter trains, snow trains, Christmas trains, tourist trains, dinner trains and Thomas the Tank Engine trains all failed. He has stiffed contractors from one side of the country to the other. His only option now is to try and extort money from the State of New York. Last fall he was telling people he would leave for $12 million, and now he is down to five.

The State of New York has a new petition at the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) in an attempt to de-certify Ellis’s operation of the Sanford Lake railway. The state is arguing that Ellis has failed to haul freight from the mine or to allow use of the line for snowmobiling in the winter, two key conditions of STB certification in 2010 (when Protect the Adirondacks was the lone voice in opposition).

If the state wins, Ellis will be left with only the salvage value of the steel rails. Once the Sanford Lake Line is out of service, the corridor reverts back to private landowners, including returning most of the line to the Forest Preserve and other parts to a few dozen other landowners. Ellis has failed in other railroad operations in other parts of the U.S., but found that storage of railcars can be a lucrative business. A component of the storage business that Ellis apparently invented is extorting local governments to pay him to remove these railcars due to their unattractiveness and degradation to the communities where they are stored.

It appears that Ellis has failed with every trick he has tried in the Adirondacks. It’s time to do what Warren County Supervisors said should have started back in 2016 – to investigate options to convert the rail line into a multi-use public recreation trail.

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Peter Bauer

Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.

He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century and Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife and two children and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks.

Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Twitter.




46 Responses

  1. Bill D. says:

    Caught on tape !
    Whew !

  2. Tony Goodwin says:

    Peter, thanks for the perfect documentation of the complete dishonesty by which Ed Ellis has operated in Warren County. Hi vaunted “freight contract with Barton Mines” only means that a few times a year they will ship one box car – not exactly a lucrative business. As for the tailings at Tahawus, I would love to see that ugly pile disappear from the view from Santanoni. Unfortunately, Iowa Pacific does not have an operating commercial quarry in Tahawus, so all he can ship is whatever sized rocks the original mining operation couldn’t use. Operating quarries usually offer many possible grades of stone from “stone dust” to “shot rock”. Each grade has a somewhat uniform size and a specific application.

    Furthermore, it is a long way from Tahawus to any possible customer. The plan was to haul it by rail to Troy where it would be loaded onto a barge. Of course then the barge must be unloaded onto trucks to take the material to where it will actually be used. With all those transfers of a heavy, bulky commodity, the shipping costs would clearly eat up any advantage Iowa Pacific had because the material had already been quarried.

    Iowa Pacific tried to blame CP Rail (the railroad that would take the tailings from Saratoga to Troy) as the only stumbling block. But shouldn’t Ed Ellis have found out what CP Rail would charge BEFORE he bought the line to Tahawus?

    • blackbear says:

      Iowa Pacific has nothing to do with the ownership of the mine, and nothing to do with the “operating commercial quarry” at the mine.

      • Tony Goodwin says:

        Ownership of the mine had everything to do with their business model when Iowa Pacific bought the Sanford Branch. Iowa Pacific did not buy anything that was, in the end, economically viable; but now Iowa Pacific wants Warren County to pay millions to bail Iowa Pacific out.

  3. Boreas says:

    This guy is a piece of work.

  4. James Bullard says:

    This seems to be the new American business model. Go into business and if it fails, figure out a way to get the taxpayers to bail you out.

  5. tom prevost says:

    Where are the Warren County legal beagles? Why are they not putting liens on the operating equipment for the arrears and continue until they are up to date or go bankrupt?
    I have ridden the train a few times. One time, my guests, wife and me were the only passengers from Saratoga to North Creek. the ADDITIONAL tourism to North Creek has not materialized. Has any one collected data on the additional economic benefit to Warren County and Corinth this generated in 2017? What would be the economic loss if they pulled out?

  6. Paul says:

    “Jump ahead to 2017 and Ellis did exactly what he said he would not do – he started storing oil tankers in the Adirondacks.” The company did this not him. He has a fiduciary duty (why he said he could make no promises). Sounds like its time to fold up the tent. Build a trail? Maybe – but maybe not. I would like them to get that Sanford mine slag out off there – an eye sore from the HP.

    Possibly a cool rail line to bring in hikers instead of cars.

    • Hope says:

      As long as one can drive to a trail head and park with all your gear, nobody is going to take a train to a trailhead. The Silverton-Durango Train has that option but there is no way to drive a car into the area served. Until cars are banned from coming into the Park, mass transportation will not be financially viable. Not enough people will use it.

      • Boreas says:

        Agreed. In order to be useful, the train would also have to run frequently – more like a bus shuttle. I would hate to sit at the “station” at -20^, wet and cold, for a few hours waiting for a scheduled train. But that is just me…

        • Larry Roth Larry Roth says:

          But as long as taxpayers can be persuaded to spend millions on ‘free trails’ but not rails, nothing will change – and that’s exactly how some people want it.

  7. Paul says:

    Sorry – does Ellis get the 5 million like the headline says?

  8. Amy Godine says:

    Wow! What fine reporting! Thank you!

  9. tom prevost says:

    As I noted a few months ago. This appears to Ellis’ mode of operation. Look at the mess he left in Santa Cruz Texas. Tons of money lost by state, long term cleanup as he just abandon the tank cars. Look Hoosier Lines and lawsuits in Chicago area. Similar in Oregon, Washington State. A little proactive legal work may be necessary before he walks away from a mess that Warren county residents will have to pay for. He buys cheap, makes a mess, sues local community and walks away. By the way, he was getting $4.50 per day per tank car in Texas. Similar in Oregon.

  10. Tim says:

    I nominate Peter for a Pulitzer!

  11. Curt Austin says:

    Ever-optimistic railroad advocates will fight to keep alive the possibility of hauling stone from Tahawus. It’s their mission to save railroads wherever they are, as if railroads were endangered. Points:

    1. Tony raises a good point, that the new owner of the mine does not have a permit to operate a quarry. He will be claiming he’s only doing reclamation, but the site has already been officially reclaimed.

    2. The big visible pile is actually not so big. For one thing, it used to be much bigger; two-thirds of it has already been trucked away (source: Gordon Medema). More importantly, there’s only enough to support rail transportation for 2-3 years (source: my calculation from photo measurements, at three trains a week, 40 weeks per year). *The long-term business plan involves digging up the less visible, re-vegetated piles.* If you like good views from Mount Adam, they should be left alone.

    3. Since passenger and freight service is not profitable, we’re talking about this potential stone business having to pay for the entire cost of a 90-mile rail corridor, or be subsidized. If it’s owned and maintained by the public, let it be used by the public. There will be more jobs that way, too.

    4. Finally, and I say this as often as I can, reversion will take place on the Tahawus portion unless “rail banking” is successfully invoked during the federal abandonment process. Reversion means no trail over the easement portions. I’ve met with DEC legal staff about this, but I still fear that their adverse abandonment action might screw it up.

    • Tony Goodwin says:

      When I said that the mine wasn’t an “operating quarry” I meant that there was no operational equipment capable of creating a variety of grades of stone so that a quarry can provide crushed stone that the customer needs for a particular project. A permit to operate a quarry on that site is a different matter.

      • Curt Austin says:

        Thanks for the clarification. Your remark triggered a memory from speaking to Gordon Medema (site manager) – he didn’t think a permit to re-establish mining at the site would ever be approved. I’m not sure about the distinction between mining and quarrying.

        Mitchell does do some screening at the site, I believe. As you say, the stone in the big pile does not meet any particular specification. The stuff in the other piles would require crushing to be useful, but note that there is no electricity except that which is generated on-site. All this stone has a higher density than common rock, which is undesirable for most purposes.

  12. Greg Keefer says:

    Very good reporting. Ellis has played these games with multiple other localities and in many cases, lost for similar reasons as are his excuses here. Seems he’s in breach of contract and as such, the county should cancel his contract and sue him for what he owes – I believe around $18K. Agreeing to his demands which sure look like extortion, would be a colossal failure of county and/or local government. I can’t believe elected officials would go for that if any of them have future election hopes. This situation has become the great Adirondack clown show.

  13. Larry Roth Larry Roth says:

    If you want a classic railroad villain in the tradition of Vanderbilt, Fisk, or the other robber barons, it’s hard to see how you can improve on Ellis. And if all you care about is having more trails everywhere, this bad news is good news.

    But, it’s not that simple.

    This is existing infrastructure – nothing new has to be built. It offers the potential for expanded tourism to be sure, but it also represents the potential for growing the local economy in ways that don’t depend just on tourism, and again these are already existing businesses.

    A good idea carried out badly is still a good idea. Warren County needs to think about what they really want and need to do – and make sure they pick the right people to do it. The track record of Ellis should have been a warning – but lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater. It would be like tearing down an apartment building because of one bad tenant. This should be a learning experience. It’s possible to do better.

    You can’t talk about rails versus trails without thinking about roads as well. Railroads aren’t just for tourism – they’re transportation. Every rail line turned into a trail is one less chance to shift away from our near total dependence on highways to move goods and people – and one more continuation of the 20th century policies that are changing the climate. And who says it can only be rail or trail?

    When we subsidize highways, we subsidize pouring more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The rest of the world is investing in rail – it’s about time we woke up.

    • Curt Austin says:

      The corridor we’re talking about here does not conform at all to the picture you’re painting. The recent failed efforts to do exactly what you’re suggesting – born of the same unwarranted optimism and/or nostalgia – prove it. it is very simple if we restrict our judgement to consideration of facts in hand.

      There are places where investing in rail would be great. Cincinnati to Cleveland, for example. Tahawus has a population of zero.

      • Larry Roth Larry Roth says:

        Which doesn’t mean it isn’t a destination for Rail tourism, combined rail-trail packages, or as has been mentioned, possible freight with gravel shipments. There is also a Rail bike operation on the line.

        What you call restricting your judgements seems more like a case of ignoring what you don’t want to see or admit.

        And just because Ellis never got around to it doesn’t mean trails can’t be developed in the corridor as well.

        This isn’t about unwarranted optimism or nostalgia – this is about the future. A lot of people still think it’s the 20th century.

        • Curt Austin says:

          Historical trends are facts. Ridership and freight data for SNCR and previous operators are facts. Predictions are not facts; at best, they are estimates, but only if based on sound analysis. Predictions contrary to observed trends are not even estimates.

    • ben says:

      you keep harping about rails, rails, rails, rails, we’ve got to keep the rails! This line has failed. Why should the state invest anymore money in it. This line was better funded, better equipped than the ASR & it still failed. It ran snow trains, holiday trains & summer/fall scenic trains & IT STILL FAILED! Time to tear out the rails & try something different: A TRAIL!!!!!!!

      • Larry Roth Larry Roth says:

        You seem to be confusing this line with somewhere else. If the state has put money into it, I’m not aware of it. Of course if the state does buy it, that’s millions there plus millions more to build a trail, plus upkeep…

        Oh, and it’s not just rails on my part. I want rail with trail. It’s the Trail trail trail crowd that wants it their way.

        • Scott says:

          Too many people think trains do not belong in the adk back country.

        • Austin Curt says:

          If you’re willing to walk by Ellis’s No Trespassing signs (on land owned by NYS), go up the track from Northwoods Club Road. You’ll first pass over a very high fill, and then through a deep and narrow cut. No room for a trail. Walk in the other direction and you’ll find a 300-foot bridge. We’d need another one for a trail. These are just examples of the difficulty. There are no examples of rail with trail in this sort of terrain.

          Rail with trail is a ruse, meant to derail a rational discussion.

          • Larry Roth Larry Roth Jr. says:

            If you insist the trail must be right next to the tracks every foot of the way, then of course you will run into spots where that is not possible, or only with difficulty. And if you insist there’s no need for rail, then the only rational choice is to get rid of the rail if that’s what you want.

            But this isn’t really a rational discussion you want, I suspect, because it appears you already have the answer you want and you regard any alternatives as irrational. End of discussion.

            Here’s the thing: the tracks go where they go because that’s pretty much dictated by the engineering needed to have a rail line in the first place. Routing a trail can be more flexible – and offers benefits you can’t get if you insist on staying on the right of way at all times with the trail.

            If there are no examples of rail with trail in this kind of terrain (and you’ll excuse me if I’m not quite ready to take your word for it) I suggest it’s time to explore what it would take to make it happen.

            It’s cheaper to do a trail by taking out rails than it is to do rail with trail obviously – but there’s nothing more expensive in the long run than a cheap and easy solution. What you gain by doing both is greater than either alone.

            Rail with trail is meant to get people to think outside the either/or box – because we have to be careful what we discard these days…

            And where are these no trespassing signs located? If they’re in the rail corridor, that’s not state land if I understand it correctly.

            • James Falcsik says:

              When the money is coming from taxpayers for trail construction, it appears no expense is spared. Consider the work and cost of this “difficult terrain”:

              https://cloudfront.traillink.com/photos/chesapeake–ohio-canal-national-historical-park_141130_lb.jpg

              This is is a good example of the solutions described in the TRAC proposals for the Remsen-Lake Placid line.

            • Curt Austin says:

              My judgment is that of an engineer who understands both trails and railroads, and who has walked those sections. Find an engineer, if necessary, and do the same, then report on what you find. Don’t forget to count the culverts. Also keep in mind that the trail must be at some distance from active tracks, 20 feet or so.

              Compare the cost of all the required fill, culvert extensions, and doubled bridges to … roughly zero for a basic trail on the railbed. The railbed that has sat unused since 1989 by the mine, and was never used for anything else.

              Besides the engineering difficulties, there is a legal difficulty: the easements over private sections are for railroad use only. A trail becomes possible only when rail banking is invoked during the STB abandonment procedure; legally, they are mutually exclusive.

              You didn’t hear that Brian Mann was threatened with arrest by Ellis for visiting the Stillwater Siding, where the tank cars are stored? That’s on the 14 miles of track on state land, where the ROW is a lease.

          • James Falcsik says:

            The ruse has been that any of these trails need to be tens or hundreds of miles in length to serve the average user when most are local and on the trail for an hour or less once or twice a week. One of the surveys for the Great Allegheny Passage between Pittsburgh and Cumberland showed 85.5% of the users began and ended their walk or ride at the same trail head. Only a small portion of the riders or walkers were “through” users making a longer distance trek.

            The other ruse is that of economic growth from the trail. The big numbers that are advertised by the GAP for economic impact are absolutely manipulated mischievously to obtain results they commissioned. (Other recent Adirondack trail proposals do exactly the same thing.) They can’t determine direction of travel or the type of users from their automatic counters. Instead of using personal income data, they use gross sales from business surveys without considering out of region vs. local sales. The same rules apply to all trails and most of the economic impact studies are commissioned to support a position or agenda, not report on the truth.

            Build your trail-with-rail in segments where feasible; these user surveys indicate a trail 6 or 7 miles is plenty long for the great majority of users. Even trails of 1/2 mile in length can provide the health benefit and nature experience advertised. When most people use the trail for less than an hour a week the requirement these trails need to be 20, 30 or more miles in length is the ruse.

            • Curt Austin says:

              Nearly everyone around here thinks the railroad venture is a failure. Ellis is calling it a failure. No one can question the effort – it was a great effort – but it didn’t work, not here.

              In the survey you mention about the Great Allegheny Passage, did the people say it was a failure? I’ll guess it’s considered a success. I’ve never heard of a trail that wasn’t – and I’ve asked people who would know.

              It’s bizarre that folks are insisting we persist in failure, rather than go for sure success.

  14. Greg Keefer says:

    Spot on.

  15. Jim S. says:

    I don’t usually get involved with rail debates because of my bias for bike trails. I understand why people want to retain the rails from Utica to Lake Placid even though I would prefer the rail trail. This particular line running to Tahawus appears to be a poster child for rail removal. It ends in the middle of nowhere, and by rule it appears the area is always going to be the middle nowhere. It certainly would be a lovely place to bicycle.

  16. Larry Roth Larry Roth says:

    Well, think about it this way. I keep seeing conflicting reports on whether or not there’s the possibility of gravel being freighted out on the line. If the business is there, it’s not nowhere.

    But aside from that, wouldn’t you like the option of a trail in the corridor, and the choice of either taking a train out and riding back, or vice versa? Ditto for people who want to do a day hike instead of a trek.

    Keep in mind too that some of us are getting older. A train ride is the only way a lot of people would ever experience the area.

  17. Dan says:

    The rail vs. trail battle is one I see both sides of. If the existing rails can be used for profit, albeit tourism and/or industry, fine. If not, put in a bike/hike/snowmobile/ski trail.

    My concern with the tankers being stored here is the potential for containing hazardous materials. Overall, I’d hate to see the county give this guy $5M. Better yet, I’d like to see them do a HAZMAT audit on the cars.

  18. Larry Roth Larry Roth says:

    My understanding is that the cars have been checked and that they are empty. There were no violations or hazards found – or you can be sure it would be all over the news.

    This has not stopped some groups from trying to cash in on “exploding bomb trains in the wilderness.” There are empty tank cars being stored on another line near Watertown, and it doesn’t seem to be causing any outrage.

    If it had been a string of empty hoppers being stored in anticipation of gravel shipments, would there be as much concern?

    • Boreas says:

      Is the line near Watertown in the Forest Preserve? Are they literally beside a wilderness river?

      Haven’t heard anything here about exploding bomb trains in the wilderness. Have you?

      Empty does not equal clean. Even the boxcars have peeling paint. All have lubricated axles and other gear that can come off of the cars and soak into the ground – and leach into the river or groundwater.

      No – empty hoppers temporarily awaiting contracted gravel shipments would not be as much of a concern. But that isn’t the case here.

      • Larry Roth Larry Roth Jr. says:

        I bring up exploding bomb trains because that was the hysterical reaction I saw coming from a local politician who was trying to raise funds and support on the issue. I’ve seen similar pitches, if not as extreme, from several environmental/outdoor groups who claim the Adirondacks as their area of interest.

        You could talk about peeling paint, lubricants, etc. all day long, but if you won’t talk about the larger climate change issues, or the noise, litter, and other problems associated with snowmobiles, you’re just picking nits.

        • Boreas says:

          “You could talk about peeling paint, lubricants, etc. all day long, but if you won’t talk about the larger climate change issues, or the noise, litter, and other problems associated with snowmobiles, you’re just picking nits.”

          All are a problem. But we have cars standing on tracks next to the river NOW. Why not fix what we can today? With the current administration being on the wrong side of energy emissions, we have a while to wait before we can realistically address the other problems you mention.

          • Larry Roth Larry Roth Jr. says:

            Boreas, I have to take issue with you on this. We do NOT have time to wait. We should have been acting on climate 30 years ago, when the oil companies own people were warning them the planet was going to heat up. We don’t have to wait to get rid of Trump and his crew – we can start right where we are in New York.

            You’re freaking out about cars on tracks next to the river now? Cars that have been emptied and secured? Let me tell you about something. I took the last snow train out of Saratoga Saturday. Funny thing about that ride.

            From the train you can see stuff in people’s backyards and towns along the line that looks imminently more hazardous. Those cars can be moved any time after the line is cleared for traffic. The stuff in those towns isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

            • Boreas says:

              Again, why not fix what we can today? As much as I wish otherwise, I do not see the Tweeter-in-Chief being ousted any time soon. Climate change is not a sexy political issue. Until voters re-organize their priorities and Citizen’s United is repealed, fighting climate change will be up to individuals making individual choices daily, not the government.

              • Larry Roth Larry Roth says:

                You go ahead and “keep your powder dry” for the “right moment”.

                Meanwhile, tick tick tick tick….

  19. Charlie S says:

    “You could talk about peeling paint, lubricants, etc. all day long, but if you won’t talk about the larger climate change issues, or the noise, litter, and other problems associated with snowmobiles, you’re just picking nits.”

    Yes climate change. The earth cooking due to carbon emissions. Fumes from automobiles = carbon emissions. There are a million-fold more in automobile emissions than there are emissions coming from stacks on the locomotives of trains… at minimal. I like the idea of rail trails and I have utilized, and appreciate, the Mohawk-Hudson Trail downstate from the Adirondacks, but the idea of getting rid of train tracks seems like a precarious matter to me, especially knowing how much the oil and gas people are opposed to rail service. And of course the conservative base now in power is all about taking away funding for rail service as we speak. Why would they do that? Because Shell and Exxon are up their asses….why else.

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