Monday, October 1, 2018

Tony Goodwin: A Railroad To Lake Placid Is Not Sustainable

To date, much of the rail vs. trail debate has touted the potential benefits of the possible uses of the Adirondack Rail Corridor. The supposed benefits of a trail include increased local recreational opportunities both summer and winter plus economic benefits from those who will travel to the area to use the trail with bicyclists and snowmobilers to be the greatest users.

Rail supporters question whether those benefits are greater than the benefits of a fully restored railroad that would supposedly bring greater economic benefits by transporting more visitors to the area.

Mostly left out of the debate is any discussion of just who and in what numbers would actually ride a restored railroad running 140 miles from Utica to Lake Placid.

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad (ASR) may have managed to survive so far offering short scenic rides, but 140 miles of railroad is true “transportation,” not just “scenery.” Individuals seeking actual transportation are most likely traveling to a destination where those travelers can then engage in another chosen activity. The ride in the train/plane/car is merely a means to the end and not the entire reason for the trip. When someone flies from the East Coast to Aspen, Colorado in February, they don’t fly for the 35,000-foot high view of the Great Plains. No, they fly because that is the most efficient and economical way to get there to ski. A train ride from Utica to Lake Placid (plus any connecting train ride to Utica) will never be as convenient and economical as driving, flying, or (if coming from the major markets of Albany or NYC) taking the more direct train to Westport and riding a shuttle to Lake Placid.

A cursory look at both the geography and the population very quickly indicates that there is no way a railroad could survive hauling passengers between those two locations. Utica is a city of approximately 70,000 with perhaps another 30,000 in the greater metro area. Lake Placid is clearly a major tourist destination, but only has a population of about 5,000 if those living in surrounding North Elba are counted. The total population of the towns in between is only about 10,000.

Rail supporters have countered this lack of immediate population with the fact that Utica is served by four daily Amtrak trains in each direction. Rail supporters thus say that riders, to/from Lake Placid could theoretically take the train to Utica from New York City, Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo, or other locations in between. The ASR’s business plan for expanded rail operations repeatedly touts the possibility of “cross-platform transfers” as a way of insuring a steady flow of passengers. Unfortunately, the operating schedule as proposed in the business plan does not include any ASR train that actually connects “across the platform” with an Amtrak train from New York and Albany. Specifically, as proposed the only daily ASR train leaves Utica at 8:40 am, but the first Amtrak train from that direction doesn’t arrive in Utica for another three hours. Thus, travel by train from New York or Albany would require an overnight stay. Assuming one was willing to board a train at 4:30 am in Buffalo, a wait of 40 minutes would actually allow a cross-platform transfer. But how many would be willing to do that?

An additional major problem with train travel to Lake Placid is the amount of time required – in part because of the additional 100 miles that must be covered when going via Utica. The current plan for track rehabilitation only envisions restoring the railroad to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Class II track. The speed limit for passenger trains on Class II track is only 30 mph. If a train could maintain that speed from start to finish, it would still be 4 hours, 40 minutes for the 140 miles from Utica to Lake Placid. But the grades out of Utica and the six likely station stops (Thendara, Big Moose, Beaver River, Tupper Lake, Lake Clear, and Saranac Lake) could easily stretch the trip to nearly six hours. Add to that the 4-1/2 hours needed to get from New York City to Utica, and it’s a long day of travel just to get there. The proposed schedule in the ASR’s business plan confirms the six hours to Lake Placid (8:40 am to 2:40 pm) with a change of trains required in Tupper Lake.

The prospects for a profitable, and therefore sustainable, train to Lake Placid are further diminished by the recent experience of the Saratoga and North Creek Railroad (SNCRR). With great high hopes, in 2011 the SNCRR inaugurated service on a two hour ride between Saratoga and North Creek. That service included a mid-day, round-trip tourist run plus two more runs to directly connect with both the northbound and the south bound runs of Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express. Total travel time northbound from New York City to North Creek was 7-1/2 hours. Starting in 2012, the SNCRR added a third train that connected with both runs of Amtrak’s Adirondack running between New York City, Albany, and Montreal.

The SNCRR trains that connected with Amtrak never had many riders, and by 2015 the schedule was down to the one scenic train from Saratoga to North Creek. The SNCRR also tried “snow trains” to serve Gore Mt. The package deal the railroad offered included a lift ticket and was attractively priced. Skiers could also leave home quickly because breakfast was available on the train. However, the two hour train ride plus the van shuttle meant that, after arriving bright and early at the Saratoga station at 7 am, one likely didn’t start actually skiing until closer to 10 am. By contrast, a skier leaving Saratoga by car at 7 am could likely catch “first tracks” at the mountain.

Service on the SNCRR continued to diminish until there was a last run this past April with the season’s final snow train. Along the way, the railroad tried to stay afloat financially with the highly controversial plan to store unused oil tankers.

This was opposed by the State, the surrounding town, and environmental groups, causing the SNCRR to end all service.

Now I will have to admit that it would be a scenic ride from Utica to Lake Placid. Should service actually be restored there, I am sure that the first few trains would be close to sold out with business continuing to be brisk for a few more. Unfortunately, once all those who want to experience a six hour scenic ride have experienced it, those riders will either move on to some of the other great scenic train rides in North America, or they will use a more convenient way to get to Lake Placid.

This pattern of initial surge and then a steep decline would be consistent with the long-awaited extension to Big Moose. The first long train in 2013 was sold out, requiring two engines to get it up the grades. Soon, however, average ridership was down to the 25-50 passenger range per weekly run. This year, service is limited to only ten runs during foliage season. Ten runs a year does not seem to justify the $1.2 million expenditure of government funds required to rehabilitate the track to Big Moose.

As mentioned above, up to this point the ASR has been selling “scenic rides” lasting a day or far less. An expansion to Lake Placid moves into the vastly different category of “transportation” where the destination and what one will do once at the destination is more important than the scenery along the way. Even if the ASR were to alter their schedule so that one could make a cross platform transfer in Utica, a trip to Lake Placid (or even Albany) would require full day of travel each way. One would thus have to take a full three-day weekend just to have one full day for activities in Lake Placid. I believe that most observers would agree that there would never be enough travelers ever choosing that option to sustain rail operations between Utica and Lake Placid.

Photo of Adirondack Railroad track north of Lake Clear Lodge by John Warren.

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Tony Goodwin has a long career in the Adirondacks, starting with an ascent of Cascade in 1955 and becoming 46-R #211 in 1961. Tony received a B.A. in History from Williams College and an M.A. in History from SUNY Plattsburgh. He has written and edited numerous Adirondack guidebooks, including Ski and Snowshoe Trail in the Adirondacks and four editions of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s guides to the High Peaks Region. In 1986 he helped to found the Adirondack Ski Touring Council which has constructed and maintained the Jackrabbit Ski Trail and assumed maintenance of several other ski trails including the Wright Peak Ski Trail. Since 1986 he has also served as executive director of the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society based in Keene Valley. His other Adirondack experience includes Johns Brook Lodge hut crew 1996-68, Adirondack Mountain Club Ridge Runner in 1974 and chief of the first Adirondack Mountain Club professional trail crew in 1979. Tony also served as venue manager for cross-country and biathlon for the 1980 Winter Olympics and managed Mount Van Hoevenberg X-C Ski Area from 1981 to 1985. Tony and his wife Bunny live in Keene. Their three grown children have taken their Adirondack skiing and hiking skills to northern Norway, Truckee, California, and Vermont.

215 Responses

  1. oldadiron says:

    Just another anti rail “article”.

    There is one rail line and thousands of miles of hiking and biking trails.

    • Brian Joseph says:

      There are ZERO trails like this one would be.

      • Larry Roth says:

        You forgot to say “world class trail”. Every rail trail is always “the best”, the “greatest ever”, and so on.

        But a trail and rail combination would be unmatched – and give everyone what they want.

        Well almost everyone – those who want the rails gone will never be satisfied with anything less.

  2. Steve French says:

    “Profitable and sustainable” are definitely a possibility if the rails are left and invested in. They leave open the possibility of freight and economic development should they develop down the road keeping many tractor trailers off the roads. In the meantime the tourism they generate and tax revenue from visitors remains a much needed shot in the arm the area desperately needs.
    “Profitable and sustainable” are nonexistent if the rails are removed and replaced with a taxpayer subsidized trail that will see little to no traffic. A trail will be nothing more than another empty hole for taxpayer money to be thrown away <hence Emperor Cuomos support). The trail lobby keeps trying to sell the farce that the rails are a taxpayer put with little to return because it suits their agenda.

    • Scott Thompson says:

      Bicycles are assumed from other successes, but Snowmobiles are the best business in North Country winter and when the tracks are not a good trail they have few riders when they get “Good” ( enough snow to groom and connect) there are hundreds a day going every where something is open. That’s a fact, not an opinion.

      • Steve French says:

        Far more people than that ride the train everyday. The train caters to many while snowmobiles cater only to those that can afford to buy one and ride it twice a year.

        • ben says:

          I’ll put snowmobile generated revenue against rail revenues any day of the week.

        • Hope says:

          What Ben said! Any day of the week.

          • Larry Roth says:

            How about the week of July Four, or Labor Day?

            • Terry V says:

              I could see the train in LP from my house.
              there was never anyone on it.
              For many people that visit the park a train is a way to get to work.
              That train sucked its not like a cool old school steam engine

              • Larry Roth says:

                I wonder who bought all the tickets but never rode the train then? Not to mention the thousands who rode the rail bikes.

                Unless you got down to Thendara, you missed the steam excursions on the line.

                You probably also missed the score of private railcars behind chartered Amtrak engines that paid a call to the Adirondacks.

                NY seems determined to make sure this never gets as far as Lake Placid.

                • Terry V says:

                  It went to lake placid and it sucked.
                  The private railcar?? It was likely carrying garbage or toxic waste.
                  I really like history but if you want a train to LP run one from Port Henry or Plattsburgh where the Amtrak stops now

                  • James Bullard says:

                    I rode it to LP and back and it was pretty cool IMO. I wished it went farther. But then I’m a train buff. I suppose if you aren’t you mightn’t be impressed. OTOH there are lots of train buffs out there if you give them something worth coming to ride.
                    Are there tracks to either Plattsburgh or Port Henry from LP? Were there ever tracks to either? We already have tracks going South.

                  • Chip Ordway says:

                    No…actually it was a private charter run in cooperation with both the Adirondack Scenic and Amtrak (yes, THAT Amtrak), that brought a full train of private cars and their owners up from Utica to Old Forge last year. For those who aren’t in the know, like “Terry V” above, these are people who own and operate vintage private rail cars worth millions of dollars who tour all over the country with them, both for their own enjoyment and also for businesses (as in people can rent them as sort of a “luxury cruise on land”.

                    • Terry V says:

                      Sorry you are right
                      I should stop reading Renovated Covered Wagon Journal and move up to Old Rail Car Journal.
                      People come up here for the natural beauty, not to ride diesel trains
                      You old train guys will are funny.
                      You are the taint between renascence fair people and Civil war reenactment guys

                    • David P Lubic says:

                      “I should stop reading Renovated Covered Wagon Journal and move up to Old Rail Car Journal.
                      People come up here for the natural beauty, not to ride diesel trains
                      You old train guys will are funny.
                      You are the taint between renascence fair people and Civil war reenactment guys”

                      Is that the best you can do?

            • Adam Light says:

              How about Presidents Day weekend in February… or any other weekend when there is snow on the ground. Absolutely ridiculous that people think a train is still a viable source in this sense.
              Transporting goods across the country is one thing. I can assure you that the only people that will miss the rails will be smiling in a snowmobile helmet or riding on 2 wheels.

            • SCOTT S THOMPSON says:

              Bikes, but already too busy to do more.

            • Ben says:

              I’ll put snowmobile revenue generated DURING the snowmobile season against 2 years or more of train revenue!

  3. Scott says:

    I don’t care if the train saw a large profit and has lots of riders. I still think trains and herbicides do not belong in the adk back country wilderness type areas.

    • James Bullard says:

      What about snowmobiles in the backcountry? They are noisy and spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. I’m sure the “hundreds of them daily” mentioned elsewhere would equal or exceed the impact of one train.

      • Scott says:

        I don’t like the older sleds pollution and dont like the sleds with illegal mufflers but comparing to the pollution from the train it seems the creosote leaching and annual broadcast herbicide application is much worse.

        • James Bullard says:

          And how are they going to keep down the growth for bicyclers and snowmobilers?

          • Scott says:

            Hopefully no herbicides. After they remove the tracks and ties then they either mow it once a year with a tractor and mower or they rake it once a year with a tractor and landscape rake.

            • David P Lubic says:

              “. . . they either mow it once a year with a tractor and mower or they rake it once a year with a tractor and landscape rake.”

              You’ve never done yard work, have you?

  4. Bill says:

    I agree that Class 2 speeds are woefully inadequate for regular passenger service. Any serious initiative to restore such service would have to include Class 3 speeds (up to 60 mph) or higher on substantial sections of the route. Otherwise it’s not good for much more than scenic tourist trains which, as many point out, constitutes a substantial under-utilization of such an important resource.

    • Scott Thompson says:

      The State contract for rail rehabilitation that has not happened called for the curves to be leveled, that means NO class III.

  5. John Dunn says:

    I take it that the Cape Air flights to and from Saranac Lake would not be “profitable” and “sustainable” without federal taxpayer assistance. They have less daily traffic than Adirondack Scenic trains. I do not hear calls to end service since people could drive to Albany for more frequent service.
    The Olympic Regional Development Authority is subsidized with local, state, and federal taxpayer money. Clearly, if “profitable” and “sustainable” were applied as the criteria Mr. Goodwin applies to rail service, it would be more cost effective to federal taxpayers to close the Olympic training facilities and concentrate them in Utah.

  6. Larry Roth says:

    While much of this is a rehash of anti-rail arguments that have been put out for years, (way to re-cycle!) there’s one interesting assumption that seems rather curious.

    Mr. Goodwin seems to be implying that no one would want to spend more than a weekend in Lake Placid, and that they wouldn’t want to extend their journey by rail to take in the other destinations along the corridor. While Mr. Goodwin appears to prefer a stay in purgatory to a ride on a train, not all people feel that way.

    As for sustainability, the larger sustainability issue is that Mr. Goodwin seems to be arguing for the elimination of any alternatives to cars on highways as a means of getting to Lake Placid. (The air alternative is one that has not proven especially profitable, if it’s all about money.)

    The rest of the world understands that there is room for all kinds of transportation choices – and transportation as recreation too. I keep getting brochures for river cruises in Europe, cruises that take days going from city to city. If it’s all about speed, people can fly, drive – or enjoy the kind of rail service Europeans take for granted.

    The money needed to restore rail service to Lake Placid is a drop in the bucket when you look at the total infrastructure needs of the Adirondacks or the entire state – but the bang for those bucks would be significant.

    Just do it.

    • Tony makes many good points and yes, many come for more than a weekend, but few are or would be satisfied to stay in one place with no way to go different places to eat or fish or camp or shop or find entertainment.

      • Larry Roth says:

        What? I thought they were going to ride bicycles to get around.

        More to the point, your comment demonstrates how heavily the area is dependent on people having cars. If you can’t afford one, you can’t live or work in the region. If your economy runs on tourism, it’s not generating enough money for living wages.

  7. John says:

    110% agree ASR is a Waste of taxpayers $$ they can’t pay there bills now . Rip of the rails can NYS cut your losses while you can . Rail trail !!

  8. Dick Thompson says:

    Some of these comments once again proven common sense isn’t so common when it comes to the toy trail crowd and the thoughts that frieghtbwill save the day but don’t mind me.

  9. Todd Eastman says:

    Good points Tony!

    Now we can expect another 100+ comments about how viable a rail line could be…

    … in a far, far away place, where everything is like the big railroad days of yore… ?

  10. Steve L Richards says:

    The RailRoad has been there for years and apparently has helped be sustainable so why all of a sudden is it not?

    • ben says:

      Without the state propping it up every year, it is not sustainable.

      • James Bullard says:

        Tell me Ben, who do you think is going to “prop up” the rail trail with annual maintenance? I haven’t heard any plan to charge admission.

  11. Reggie Aceto says:

    Respectfully disagree with your essay and analysis. Best of luck to the return of railroading to Placid.

  12. Travis Shaw says:

    I think the idea of a train going from Utica to Lake Placid sounds fantastic! I live on the Gulf Coast in Florida and would love for there to be another Transit option to visit the Adirondacks, I haven’t visited in 10 years and can’t wait to come again, 25 hours in a car to drive there seems like a bunch of not fun, and the flights from Boston are outrageously expensive. but as long as there is a way to get from an airport to the train station in Utica I think a hybrid travel plan would be fun! a rental car or Uber would be fine once you actually get to Lake Placid / Saranac Lake. Just my two cents.

    • Hope says:

      You can fly round trip from Orlando to Plattsburgh, non stop, for $237. A train ticket from Amtrack for a coach seat from Orlando to Utica, which is a 21 hr. plus trip, is $267, and you still need to get to Lake Placid, a 6 plus hour trip from Utica, which would probably add another $100 on to the trip plus layover expenses in Utica. So the train is not cheaper. What ya waiting for?

      • Chip Ordway says:

        Showing once again what a top tourist advocate you are, Hope.

        Quick question….is the trail between Faust and Uptown closed? I was in town yesterday and didn’t see one person on it, so I figured something was wrong.

        • Hope says:

          Jeez I rode it the other evening and good thing I had a bell on my bike.

        • Boreas says:


          What would a random 2-minute snapshot of ANY RR corridor show (including a busy subway)? Answer – empty track. Even with a Utica-LP corridor running, what would a random 4-6 hour survey find? Likely still nothing, or at most 1 minute with a train running past.

          My point is, a trail corridor is typically open for ANYONE’S use 24/7/365. In an active rail corridor, it is only open for paying customers within a restrictive, set schedule. So in which scenario are NYS taxpayers, local citizens, and visitors getting the most benefit from the corridor? To me, this should be the crux of the argument.

          • SCOTT S THOMPSON says:

            Exactly. And I would rather have a spread out flow of people anyway. Save the $50 and spend it in the businessess

        • Hope says:

          Oh, I forgot to add that the train ticket from Orlando to Utica is one way. You will still have to buy a return ticket. There might be a discount for the round trip but I didn’t notice it on the booking site. The deluxe ticket is past $500 for one way to get a sleeping birth.

          I’m just giving Mr. Shaw a reality check with some FACTS about the costs to get here from Florida. He can get a rental or UBER from Plattsburgh to Lake Placid too. It’s only an hour away. Now if he would prefer to spend more money and time on a train then just say so but lets not insinuate that it will be cheaper.

  13. Boreas says:

    I agree Tony!

    As you mention, there already is an AMTRAK line that comes within spitting distance of the Tri-Lakes area. It connects NYC and Montreal. Why aren’t there a lot of shuttles to the Tri-Lakes or even car rentals from the several AMTRAK stops? Because it just isn’t that popular or convenient given the train’s daily limited runs. I would hardly think ridership from Utica to the Tri-Lakes would be high enough to offer more frequent runs. I live very near an AMTRAK stop, but have only used it once in 20 years, and that required an overnight in Troy! So much easier, quicker, and cheaper to jump in the car.

  14. James Bullard says:

    Looking back at 2015 I find that the DOT estimated the cost of rehabilitating the tracks at $11M according to articles I found on Google. Also from Google that same year the state ran a surplus in the neighborhood of $1B, yes that’s a “B” for billion. Using simple math means that if the state had *chosen* to spend nine-tenths of one percent of the surplus (not the whole budget, just the surplus) the tracks would already be upgraded and the trains would be running. In state budget terms, peanuts. So this is really about politics, not economics. Those in control of the money don’t want to support the railroad. Bottom line.

    • Chip Ordway says:

      As it has been for awhile since our current gov. has been in office. There are pics of him decked out in full Snowsledding gear posing with members of the ARTA board, so it’s quite obvious who his friends are.

  15. Gary Foss says:

    A bike trail seems to me to be a good use of the corridor. I still don’t see why a decent crushed limestone bike trail couldn’t be built and maintained along with the railroad track staying in place for now. Seems like it would be a lot less expensive than the millions to subsidize the railroad

  16. Big Burly says:

    Mr. Goodwin is an ADKer of long standing and his knowledge of the history of the region often is able to make a positive contribution to the debate on the future of the region, unfortunately not on this issue.

    In other forums he has noted his status as a 50-year subscriber to Trains, a major publication featuring the rail transportation industry. That in and of itself does NOT however qualify Mr. Goodwin as knowledgeable about what and why the traveling public is increasingly using the rail option. It does not qualify him in any substantive way as knowledgeable in what it takes to run a railroad or guide economic development.

    Casting aspersions on the extraordinary performance of the ASR during the past 25 years as only a scenic railroad is a red herring that attempts to diminish what could and would be achieved with a complete implementation of the NYS policy developed in 1996. Sure Mr. Goodwin was a participant in that effort by learned people from a wide variety of disciplines … what needs to be recalled is that in all the deliberations and public consultations the policy option adopted was rails AND trails. It is long past time that NYS fully implement that policy that continues to be supported by the traveling public and NYS taxpayers.

    During most of the past few years of the debate on the future of the Remsen – Lake Placid rail transportation corridor, Mr. Goodwin and others in the rip ‘em up crowd have tried to make the case of either / or, that is rail or trail. Statistics have been used that are misleading and in some instances downright false, especially the economic benefit projections of how many new people would visit the tri-lakes area if only there was a rail trail. The better option is not an either / or, it is to have both rails and trails.

    The ASR has prepared and submitted to NYS agencies viable operating plans to use the entire rail transportation corridor owned by NYS taxpayers to benefit all the communities in and along the corridor. NYS employees in the Department of Environmental Conservation have stated they are not required to take these carefully considered and prepared plans into account. Rail supporters have consistently supported the development of a trail network to complement rail services and further diversify the recreation opportunities for residents and visitors all along the corridor. Both options are in the best interest of the region and would support, in a more substantive way together, the tourism based economy that has evolved in the Adirondacks.

    It is most unfortunate that Mr. Goodwin and those of his colleagues in the rip ‘em up cabal continue to be unwilling to support what common sense dictates is the better option to support economic development along the entire rail transportation corridor … rails and trails.

    • Chip Ordway says:

      As has been shown time and time again, Tony likes to slant the facts to sway them towards his own agenda. Everytime he is shown he is wrong, he comes up with different reasons why he was “in err”. His contradictory spews have just gotten old, and his attempts at playing dumb, naive, and innocent in such discussions becomes comical after awhile, because Tony is *not* dumb or naive.

      Slanting your story to work your agenda. It’s the ARTA™ way!

      • Boreas says:

        “As has been shown time and time again, Tony likes to slant the facts to sway them towards his own agenda.”

        Fact-slanting on all sides of this issue (and there are more than two!) is a given. If one doesn’t “slant the facts”, one doesn’t have an opinion. Anyone arguing a point is going to use the facts that support their opinion. Any reader of this forum needs to realize this. Perhaps the editors should preface such articles with “Opinion” to make this clear.

        • Chip Ordway says:

          Again, you are not wrong, but often enough facts have been presented to debunk the “ARTA facts” using published data, but yet the same rhetoric keeps getting pushed with their own studies, some of which are built on speculation and some which were actually funded by their own members. I’m not even going to bring up examples simply because I (and others) have done so over and over again. There is only so much yelling at a wall one can do before it gets old.

        • adkDreamer says:

          @Boreas. You say “Anyone arguing a point is going to use the facts that support their opinion”.

          Except for you. I’m somewhat surprised you haven’t been campaigning for a “License to Post”, but then again you wouldn’t support that argument with facts either.

  17. Pete Swanson says:

    Mr Goodwin,

    If this rail corridor could ever be operated like the Cuyahoga Scenic in eastern Ohio, transporting hikers and bikers to different points along the line daily, it would be a gold mine plain and simple. There are already tens of thousands of miles of hiking trails in the Adirondacks, please leave this potential rail corridor alone and go hike somewhere else!

    Pete Swanson

  18. Todd Eastman says:

    “I want an old school plank road!”

    “They were the original ground transportation corridors!”

    “Tourists will love riding in ox drawn carts until their kidneys bleed!”

    That’s what RR people sound like to me…

  19. George Eckerdt says:

    This is not an article, at best it is a letter to the editor. Shame on your presentation.

    • John Warren says:

      It literally says that this is Tony’s opinion in the title. Also, the word “article” doesn’t mean what you think it means.

      John Warren

    • Hope says:

      No different than any “article” written by Larry Roth.

      • Larry Roth says:

        Careful Hope – you may be insulting Tony!

        Mr. Goodwin has done a good job of cherry-picking facts and structuring his arguments to produce the answer he wants. Try this one for example:

        “Rail supporters question whether those benefits are greater than the benefits of a fully restored railroad that would supposedly bring greater economic benefits by transporting more visitors to the area.”

        This isn’t just about transporting more visitors to the area, or attracting them (since a recreational trail isn’t transportation, despite what NY is trying to claim). It’s also about how those visitors get to the area, and all of the costs. There are more economic benefits than Mr. Goodwin will admit.

        Mr. Goodwin ignores the climate change side of the costs. 25% of the greenhouse gases produced in the US come from transportation – putting more people and goods on trains instead of highways would be an effective way of cutting those emissions.

        It’s probably too late to save the kind of winters that used to produce predictable snowmobiling, but if you really care about the Adirondacks, the last thing you should be doing is leaving people with no choice but to drive and/or fly – unless your ultimate goal is to put everyone on bicycles all the time.

        A study just published in Nature estimates that the US is currently losing $250 billion a year from the economic damages from greenhouse gas emissions. That is one reason why groups like the Sierra Club are taking a serious look at the cost of ripping out rail lines.

        If you want to market to green travel tourism and the generation that is increasingly inclined to forgo owning a car, then promoting the railroad is a better bet.

        You might also look at demographics. America is getting older. There will be more and more people who would rather take a train than squeeze into a cramped airline seat, or spend hours behind the wheel of a car – or squeeze into spandex to pedal through the woods when they can ride in comfort and appreciate the scenery at their leisure.

        Your obsession with trail-only options means giving up entire categories of visitors and ignoring the real costs of roads and planes over rails. It raises serious questions about what kind of stewardship the state is practicing under the current administration. Rails with trails would be better than either alone in any case – so why are you so determined to limit the potential of the region for the benefit of a few?

  20. Scott Thompson says:

    Don’t ya think there could be a reason why the rails have been dormant since the 60’s, not restored since sections in the early 50″s. Freight warehousing disappearing in the 40’s and 50’s fuel depots gone in the 60’s and 70’s. State and environmental groups buying all the timber lands . The railroad available for basically anyone who would run it, but no one would. Even the Olympics would not jump start it with over $14 million spent. Reality check.

    • James Falcsik says:

      Scott, part of the problem which created rail service decline in the 1960’s and 1970’s was the railroad itself. Today shortline railroads are robust and growing because of the customer-centered service they provide. You mention warehousing and fuel depots are gone, but in reality, these are making a comeback. Look at this link; This terminal in New Stanton is quite busy.

      • Scott Thompson says:

        Definitely looks like a great facility, but may be more appropriate for Utica or Selkirk. Possibly somewhere along the Northway, but these days operations like Stewarts or FastTrac will create or partner for the most efficient ways to do those things. I don’t know their businesses, but I know ours.

      • Scott Thompson says:

        Some truth there. Unions required “Firemen” on diesels and three men on a Budd car. Inflated retirements and more. Then, kind of like the Post Office, by the time rate increases are approved the costs have already eaten up the profits and nothing gets better.

        • Larry Roth says:

          You might also factor in the billions of dollars spent building out the highways at the expense of the rails, lobbying by the highway and trucking industries, and the expansion of air travel.

          Since the 50’s and 60’s, everything that competes with rails gets huge public subsidies – while railroads are expected to survive on what is leftover.

          You can look at the rest of the world to see what a difference public investment in rails can make. China is investing in a huge high-speed and conventional rail system – and a rail trade route (The New Silk Road) that reaches all the way to Europe. The Netherlands run their electrified rail network on wind power. Even Taiwan has a high speed rail line – and regular rail service as well, along with heritage lines.

          America has become the country of “can’t do” these days.

  21. Chip Ordway says:

    I agree with everything you say.

    Now in reply:

    Your point about random snapshots can also be thrown right back at the trail crowd, as it is well documented that one of their board members has a queer sort of enjoyment in snapping pictures of empty parking lots and proclaiming that “no one rides the train”. He even has a helper on the south end of the line to do the same thing, which is even MORE absurd as the trains and railbikes have been doing quite nicely from *legitimate* photos from multiple *legitimate* sources. Your valid point is just as much valid to McCulley and his minions as it is to the rail crowd in this respect.

    As for the trail point as has been said ad infinitum:. The rail crowd is not against a trail as so much it is against the sacrifice of the rails. Rails With Trails has been the goal from day one, but the agenda of the ARTA board members (some of which are indeed already posting here) is that the combination is impossible. It’s a proven lie, and they are wrong, but as long as it keeps pushing towards their end goal of destroying the railroad, then it’s anything goes with what they choose to publish, no matter how factually lacking.

    As has been seen to anyone following this whole idiocy from the start, the trail crowd (particularly the sledding faction), has been rampant in their harsh battle against anyone who disagrees with them.

    Case in point: One fine gentleman by the name of Christopher Lapierre of Wilmington took the time to look me up on Facebook and send me a quick greeting of “F**k you and your train you brainless c**ksucker”. I guess Christopher thought it would be right to disguise his name, so his cleverness of signing it “Chris Lapier” made it reeeeeally hard for me to figure out where it originated. (And yes, I’ve still got the screenshot to prove it).

    After all is said and done, a person can believe whatever they want, but when it comes to the trail ‘advocates’ and their supporters, they make it pretty clear sometimes when wondering who is out to preserve and who is out to destroy.

  22. Richard L Daly says:

    Tony seems to have put the (final?) nail into the rail. Un-sustainable is the key word. Public/Taxpayer funds can only stretch so far and there are many consensus-supported areas that need the money. The ONCE-a-day each-way Montreal-Manhattan Amtrak run is not reliable enough to support that variation to access Lake Placid. Even Switzerland has devolved from monopoly direct govt-owned/operated rail. Their Fed. govt. owns/operates SBB intercity trains but has privatized the ‘scenic’ lines to private/for-profit operators seeking the tourist trade Subsidized bus-routes have supplanted discontinued rail-lines, as populations have shifted. . Likewise, in Germany: the DB is now a publicly-traded company with Fed. govt. holding largest share.It operates long-distance intercity and international trains. Suburban trains are now owned and operated by the States, providing weekday commuter & weekend leisure runs.It can never be “ALL-Aboard” as long as viable, affordable alternatives abound.

  23. Mark Fridén says:

    Mr. Goodwin does make some good points in his piece, but he seems overly preoccupied with times and distances. I, for one, would personally take the train from Utica to Lake Placid just for the experience of traveling through the Adirondacks via rail. My opinion is that many who would make this trip would also not be concerned with the length of time it takes to get from Utica to lake Placid either.

    There is another link in this chain that Mr. Goodwin does not seem to know about. Presently in the works is the “Grasse River Rail Road Trail Initiative”, which is promoting a hike-bike route along the 15 mile right of way from Childwold Station on the ASR to Cranberry Lake. This initiative has been spearheaded by Peter Dunham, a university professor from Ohio who has a camp at Cranberry Lake. He has already presented the proposal to the DEC, and they are more than enthusiastic about it, due in no small part to the fact the rails were taken up a half a century ago by the successor to the Emporium Forestry Company, who built the railroad 100 years ago. The private property owners along the right of way are all on board with this project, too. There will be some repair work required in a few places, but, overall, the route is very much bikeable already. Over $20,000 has been raised so far to help fund the project, and donations are coming in all the time.

    Local organizers in Cranberry Lake envision the possibility of mountain bike or hiking enthusiasts taking the ASR to Childwold Station, disembarking there, and then making their way to Cranberry Lake, where this is a large, well-equipped State Campground, a huge lake, and the nearby Five Ponds Wilderness. But even if the ASR does not operate between Utica and Lake Placid, this project IS going through, and we are very optimistic about the level of visitors the trail will get.

    I am on the Steering Committee of the Grasse River Rail Road Initiative.

    • Hope says:

      Well if the Train still comes to Tupper Lake, as is the plan of the 2016 UMP, then you may be able to do it as planned. The train does not need to go to Lake Placid for your initiative. All is good that there will be a rail trail from Childwold, most likely following some of the existing snowmobile trails which are already there. More trails, the merrier.

    • Scott Thompson says:

      I hope the improved accessibility to Cranberry will support more winter services in the area, Snowmobilers love the “Loop” up the tracks ( when they can) over to Cranberry, Harrisville, Star Lake and down C8. Our business in Beaver River really picks up when the Loops are available.

  24. James Falcsik says:

    Tony Goodwin, ARTA, and other trail boosters have tried to make the case against the R-LP railroad corridor as a transportation asset by reducing the use or demand to local population need or comparing cost and time factors to those traveling by car.

    The small population base in the region Tony cites is equally bad for speculating about trail use, since nearly all rail trails referenced in their commissioned impact studies are used mostly by local residents; there is zero economic impact from local users. In addition, the Camoin EIS commissioned by NYS agency Empire State Development for Alternate 7 determined the impact from snowmobile users would be the same in all three scenarios reviewed; rail only, trail only and rail-with-trail, depending completely on new out-of-state sled registrations.

    When it comes to travelers and visitors, the trail boosters and Tony totally ignore the potential of high-end heritage rail vacation travelers, who do so in large part for the value of the journey. Consider the Rocky Mountaineer, which is a luxury vacation train that runs in western Canada. Here is their statement on the first page of their web site: “Within the unique world of rail travel, Rocky Mountaineer is so much more than just a train. It’s the key to unlocking a hidden world of unparalleled beauty as you carve through otherwise inaccessible terrain in the Canadian Rockies. And your job aboard our all-dome fleet? To indulge in the most luxurious journey you’ve ever experienced. It’s a tall order, but you’re moving in the right direction.”

    The Adirondacks could have this kind of vacation traveler, a new source of tourism revenue, if the railroad corridor is preserved and NYS upgrades the line for the entire length.

  25. Kenneth J. Casler says:

    Good article! The debate goes on and on and on. Meanwhile as I navigate the “rails” with my trusty dog I find myself wishing that the rails were gone and I would not have to worry about tripping over the cross ties and taking a spill, or my snowmobile would glide effortlessly over the terrain without damage to an expensive machine or maybe I could just ride my bike without my teeth chattering in my head. Oh, and I would gladly visit some of the local businesses along the way. Just saying. Thanks!

  26. Henrietta Jordan says:

    Excellent analysis, Tony. Thanks.

  27. Wanakena Dave says:

    Tony Godwin’s contribution provides many of the reasoned (and some would say compelling) arguments against re-establishing passenger rail service between Utica and Lake Placid. Others in their comments have added salient points, for example that the train trip from Florida to Lake Placid would be more expensive and much longer than flying into Platsburgh and renting a car. Following are a few additional points in the discussion:
    a. Until the mid 20th cent. The fastest, most convenient, and for many locations the only transit into the Adirondacks was the train. No more. With vastly improved primary and secondary routes, the car has become the fastest, most convenient, and for many locations the only transportation mode. I don’t love cars in the mountains. Could we dream of a widely used Euro-style rail network with frequent enough service to effectively serve the travelling public as well as hikers and bikers moving between locations? Yes. But that’s not going to happen. The history of rail service vs car travel all over the country tells a clear story on this point.
    b. When travelers reach the Adirondacks many want to move to other points: to the Ampersand trailhead for the hike to the top and its spectacular view; or to Racquette River outfitters in Tupper lake to pick up a canoe, and then on to the Bog River Flow put-in for a paddle into Lows Lake. The only way to get to almost any of these trailheads and put-ins is by car. No train or bus will ever take you there.
    c. There already is train service between NYC/Albany and Lake Placid, via a dedicated shuttle between Westport Station and Placid, once a day. One could ask, if there were a greater demand for non-car service into the Adirondacks, wouldn’t there be a more extensive schedule of trains and shuttles?
    d. @ Mark Fridén: You made a perhaps unintentional point when you said you would ride the train just for the experience. James Falcsik speaks of “high-end heritage rail vacation travelers” who might take such a rail line, for the experience, once. These one-time rail enthusiasts add up to few passengers and a very sparse schedule. As for the Grass River Railroad right-of way- trail project, imagine this: if the Utica-Tupper rail rehabilitation does not go through, then eventually the line will be converted to a trail. You will be able to ride your bike from Cranberry Lake through Conifer to Tupper Lake, then on to Saranac and Lake Placid – a long distance off-road route through the heart of the Adirondacks, with multiday hikers and bikers staying overnight and eating out.

    • James Falcsik says:

      Wanakena Dave wrote:” – a long distance off-road route through the heart of the Adirondacks, with multiday hikers and bikers staying overnight and eating out.”

      That sounds good, but the data on actual users of existing trails does not verify your assumption. Long distance trails used as examples by the trail advocacy have only a small percentage of primary-purpose overnight visitors. Consider the Erie Canal trail at only 2.5% of these visitors. The Virginia Creeper Trail is only 4%. Of fifteen (15) trails surveyed by New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, Planning Bureau, released in February 2016, only 2% of respondents reported an overnight stay, and of that 2% only three (3) out of ten (10) made commercial lodging arrangements. That small persentage is not likely to generate much in the way of regional economics.

  28. Bernard Logan says:

    I live in the Rochester area and have visited Lake Placid for many years. For me, this is a 4 1/2 hour drive……meaning that I must invest a minimum of 3 days to make this trip worthwhile.
    From my perspective, if Governor Cuomo wants to promote tourism, then this a SMALL price to pay to enjoy one of NYS and America’s greatest treasures!!!
    There’d be nothing more pleasurable for me, than to spend the “extra” time leisurely enjoying the beauty that is the Adirondacks!!!!!

  29. Paul says:

    The real debate is one over a rail trail or a full line scenic RR, not a transportation RR. The full line scenic RR has yet to be tested. And it probably never will be. The transportation one is not one that I think would be sustainable either.

  30. Ben says:

    At this point leave the tracks & JUST COVER THEM UP. Leave it as a rail corridor & JUST COVER THEM UP, ALL THE WAY TO BIG MOOSE STATION. Beat the rail folks at their own game. Tracks remained, they were just COVERED UP! Blacktop all the way from Lake Placid to Big Moose Station.

  31. adirondackjoe says:

    ‘ can’t we all just get along ? ‘ Rodney King.

  32. John powers says:

    Rode the scenic from LP to Saranac Lake. Down in the trees all the way. I love trees but it was just trees alongside of the tracks. Kids liked it. Unless the stretch being discussed is a lot different it would be a disappointment.

    • James Bullard says:

      That trip would be all in the trees on a bike or snowmobile too and you’d be busy riding/driving so you wouldn’t even see that much of the trees. Anyway, I rode that train several years ago both ways and I remember more than trees.

      • Phil Brown says:

        Actually you can see a lot more from a bike than you can from an enclosed rail car.

        • Larry Roth says:

          Have you ever ridden on an open car, as some rail lines have? Come down to Kingston and ride the Catskill Mountain Railroad or go to Arkville for a ride on the Delaware & Ulster Railroad.

          Have you ridden a rail bike? You don’t have to worry about steering or running over ruts, bumps, etc. or avoiding other people. You’re free to enjoy the scenery in a way you never can on a bike – unless you’re the person in back on a two-seater.

          And you should try the ride in a Dome car that gets you up where you can really see. Again – go to Arkville, or ride Amtrak which has a dome car on the Montreal run for the next few weeks. Whatever the sins of Iowa Pacific (and they were egregious), their dome car was a spectacular way to see the upper Hudson River.

          If you’ve never done it, you don’t know what you’re missing.

  33. Keith Gorgas says:

    No cost vs return analysis has ever been done for rail with trail, as per the 1996 UMP, currently the “law of the land”. The synergistic value of both restored rail service with tourist trains, and a side by side (where possible) recreational trail should be readily obvious to all but the most prejudiced minds. I think it’s common knowledge that the big money behind removing the rails is focused on creating the Bob Marshall Wilderness area, where man is an intruder. Those who endorse the Rewilding Project want to see a giant swath for animal migration and reproduction. One need look no further than the Adirondack Almanack to find reference to it.

    Some people believe this will save the earth.
    Removing the rails is not something that can ever be reversed. If the rails are removed , the northern Adirondacks are forever severed from any potential connection to the nation’s green mass transit system. To my mind, that is extremely shortsighted, environmentally, economically, and socially. It means turning a blind eye towards worldwide transportation trends. It means trucking goods via much less environmentally friendly means. It means greater subsidies to the automobile and airplane industries. It means more young people dying for oil around the world. It means a higher carbon foot print, more green house gasses, and more heavy metals being rained down on the Adirondacks.

    • James Bullard says:

      I totally agree. CSX used to run TV ads that touted their relative energy efficiency. A train can haul a ton of goods 471 miles on one gallon of fuel. That is 3½ times more efficient than a semi-trailer truck. We should be expanding our use of railroads, not tearing up tracks.

      • Curt Austin says:

        That is not in dispute. Focus on what is: that there is any reasonable prospect for significant freight traffic on this corridor. Not just any prospect, not just any traffic – reasonable and significant. Tell us what is likely to change that will alter the status quo in existence since 1950.

        High fuel costs might seem a possibility, as it has since 1973 – so, no, that won’t be persuasive. (Anyway, check out the Tesla Semi.) I can’t think of any other change on the horizon. No change, no freight traffic.

        • Paul says:

          Since you are tearing up one of a very few pieces of this type of industrial infrastructure in Adirondack park and replacing it with a trail (to be added to all the other trails in the region), I would suggest that you be certain that if in the future if you wanted to use this for some other type of transportation – like an electric light rail, or some other yet to be discovered type of transport that could run on a corridor like that, you could put it all back together.

          My guess is once these tracks are gone they are never coming back.

          Look at how quickly a big wide dirt logging road disappears over time up here in the woods. You have to be prepared financially for lots of work especially if you don’t want to use herbicides like the RR probably does to maintain the corridor. .

          • Curt Austin says:

            Electric light rail? There’s not enough passengers to justify bus service. That’s the sort of thing you put between big cities.

            You can’t maintain a trail without herbicides? This is a form of the specious “a trail is a crazy idea” argument. It works only for those in denial about the thousands of rail trails in existence.

            It’s an excellent guess that if the tracks are removed, they will never be put back in. I’m always surprised to hear that argument, since the obvious reason is that there will never be justification.

  34. Curt Austin says:

    This is an argument between those who accept the post-1950 reality of this sort of railroad corridor, and those overwhelmed by nostalgia. Reasoned empiricism versus desperate hopes of resurrection. Observation versus delusion.

    I rode a train just last week, from Rensselaer to Croton-Harmon. Wonderful ride. I understand why that’s still a good corridor for a railroad, but that Utica-to-Lake Placid is not. It’s obvious. As far as I know, you can’t even take a bus from Utica to Lake Placid, which would be faster and cheaper.

    By the way, I took the train to pick up my new Tesla in Mt. Kisco. Look into that future…

    • Keith Gorgas says:

      Curt, first of all, congratulations on your purchase of a Tesla. Let me just take a minute to respond to your two comments. First of all, over the past twenty years, passenger rail use in the US has gone up over 80%. This trend is seen, not only in urban and suburban areas, but also in rural locations. More miles of track have been laid in the US than at any time since WW2. Amtrak each year sets new records for passenger transportation. One of the major factors is that young people coming of age now are much more inclined to care about their carbon footprint. They chose not to own a car, but rely on inter modal mass transportation for both business and recreational use. Likewise, foreign travelers are used to mass transit… when they come to the US they tend to visit destinations reachable by mass transit. Vermont and other states are showing the way with restored passenger rail. Beyond that, back in the 1950s, an average of 21 hopper car loads a day left the Gabriels siding full of potatoes during the harvest season. So what? Ralph Childs has invested heavily in rebuilding potato farming to Gabriels over the past couple of years. Tupper Lake’s commercial opportunities have diminished substantially since the trains stopped running. We probably will never see full scaled logging return to the Adks, due to regulations, but there is a lot of demand for forest products that could be met by operations within the Adks. Going back to tourists, those who worked to preserve the RR during the 1970s and 80s envisioned the RR as a means to conduct tourists through the wildest parts of the park “in a bubble”. They could see and be introduced to the wild beauty without much of a footprint. Recreational users could arrive and leave remote areas without the need for a car, and a parking space. Rail tourism is very strong in the US (and around the world) and shows no trend downward in the foreseeable future.

      • Curt Austin says:

        Your paragraph is too long! I’ll break it up for you:

        “Curt, first of all, congratulations on your purchase of a Tesla. Let me just take a minute to respond to your two comments.

        “First of all, over the past twenty years, passenger rail use in the US has gone up over 80%. This trend is seen, not only in urban and suburban areas, but also in rural locations. More miles of track have been laid in the US than at any time since WW2. Amtrak each year sets new records for passenger transportation.

        “One of the major factors is that young people coming of age now are much more inclined to care about their carbon footprint. They chose not to own a car, but rely on inter modal mass transportation for both business and recreational use. Likewise, foreign travelers are used to mass transit… when they come to the US they tend to visit destinations reachable by mass transit.

        “Vermont and other states are showing the way with restored passenger rail. Beyond that, back in the 1950s, an average of 21 hopper car loads a day left the Gabriels siding full of potatoes during the harvest season. So what? Ralph Childs has invested heavily in rebuilding potato farming to Gabriels over the past couple of years.

        “Tupper Lake’s commercial opportunities have diminished substantially since the trains stopped running. We probably will never see full scaled logging return to the Adks, due to regulations, but there is a lot of demand for forest products that could be met by operations within the Adks.

        “Going back to tourists, those who worked to preserve the RR during the 1970s and 80s envisioned the RR as a means to conduct tourists through the wildest parts of the park “in a bubble”. They could see and be introduced to the wild beauty without much of a footprint. Recreational users could arrive and leave remote areas without the need for a car, and a parking space. Rail tourism is very strong in the US (and around the world) and shows no trend downward in the foreseeable future.”

        Whew, lot’s easier to read now. Here’s one counter example with equal plausibility (I have others): Millennials want to rent self-driving electric cars to visit the Adirondacks, not oil-burning trains.

  35. Scott Thompson says:

    Good point, but a small train can weigh over 200 tons so you need a lot of freight to be more efficient and then you still need to get it to where it is going!

  36. Wayno17 says:

    If Lake Placid were ever to make a serious bid to host a third Olympics it would seem that rail service would be vital. I realize this may be unlikely but the possibility of sharing an Olympiad with another city (Montreal, Syracuse, Albany, NYC) seems like it could be viable. The costs are high now but seeing as Beijing was the only bidder for the last one awarded it could force costs down and then who knows??? Once a rail line is removed it will likely never be reinstalled so all of the ramifications need to be considered.

  37. Tony Goodwin says:

    With now (Wed. evening) 89 comments in, I will try and provide a summary response to those comments.

    My biggest impression is that none of the pro-rail responders offered any good reasons why there would be a daily trainload to ride from Utica to Lake Placid. Likewise, no pro-rail supporter even mentioned the demise of the Saratoga & North Creek and why that experience didn’t apply to an even longer ride than Saratoga to North Creek. The rest of the comments were mostly recycled statements about why the trail would not bring the anticipated benefits or why there is still a possibility for a rail with trail.
    Larry Roth said the attraction would be like “leisurely river cruises” but is there a daily trainload looking for that experience? Roth later tried to equate the possibility for “high end” tours to the Rocky Mountaineer. There is no comparison as that is a multi-day trip through some of the most spectacular scenery in North America on rails already maintained for frequent long-distance freight traffic. Mark Friden said he would take it “for the experience” but never likely ride it again. As I said, there would be quite a few who would ride this route once, but likely only a very few would ride it again just to get to Lake Placid.
    Others questioned how the trail would be maintained, but about 2,000 other rail trails have somehow been maintained with a combination of private donations and municipal funding because of the benefits to that municipality. On a recent ride on the St. Johnsbury and Lamoille County railtrail we encountered a tractor mowing the sides of the trail. The tractor was well within the limits of St. Johnsbury, but the operator said this was a “donation from the Town of Danville” – the next town up the trail.
    Chip Ordway, can you please specify what facts I have gotten wrong. And please don’t forget that the UMP amendment devoted 15 pages to explaining in detail why a parallel trail was just not feasible.
    James Falcsik, the Virginia Creeper and Pine Creek railtrails are also in fairly remote locations. Both attract many visitors from outside their area. I have no idea how you found the statistic that only 4% of the users of the Virginia Creeper were visitors. The letter to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise from the Vice-mayor of Damascus, population 813, states that there are seven bike rental/shuttle services in Damascus and that 15% of the towns total tax revenue comes from their meals and lodging tax. Check out the letter at this link:
    Keith Gorgas, the 80% increase in rail passengers nationwide must include urban mass transit, which has been booming in recent years. That increase apparently has not spread to Amtrak’s “Adirondack” as NYS must still provide a 50% subsidy to keep Amtrak running this service. The Brightline in Florida is a wonderful private rail passenger initiative in an area with severe traffic congestion, but here’s what Jim Wrinn, “Trains” magazine editor, had to say about that on page 4 of the June 2018 issue: While celebrating that success, he stated, “Such a concept won’t work everywhere, but in regions where millions of Americans live, work, and play; and in corridors where trains can seamlessly connect to other modes of transportation, it will happen.” None of these conditions apply between Utica and Lake Placid.
    Thanks to the proposed amendment regarding travel corridors, this corridor will be preserved for whatever future transportation might be viable on this route.
    Finally, this railroad would not be able to play a significant part in any future Olympic transportation scheme. The 1980 resurrection only transported about 5,000 of the credibly estimated 450,000 who came through Lake Placid during those two weeks. To serve significantly more than 5,000 riders, the railroad would have to be significantly upgraded with multiple additional sidings, CTC, and PTC to be able to remain fluid with the number of trains in and out required to transport a significant number of visitors/spectators. And for what it’s worth, the IOC has reduced the requirements for hosting a Winter Olympics so that other cities like Calgary, Innsbruck, and Vancouver have shown an interest in now bidding for the 2026 games.

    • Chip Ordway says:

      No, Tony. You have done this every…single…time. you get something wrong, you’re called out on it, and then the next time you ask “what did I get wrong?”. There are plenty of instances where you have been refreshed after asking “where was I wrong?”, and I am not wasting my time again rehashing the same links and examples. You’re not stupid, Tony, so stop playing the “who, me?” game. It’s getting kinda old now.

      • James Falcsik says:

        To Chip’s point, when Tony is presented with facts opposing his speculative scenario he does not acknowledge it; none of the ARTA leadership does this. They are silent.

        In this forum response from Tony he misrepresented my comment on the 4% VCT data. I stated …“primary-purpose overnight visitors. Consider the Erie Canal trail at only 2.5% of these visitors. The Virginia Creeper Trail is only 4%…” By comparison, Tony stated ..” I have no idea how you found the statistic that only 4% of the users of the Virginia Creeper were visitors.”

        Tony left out the key context and phrase of “primary-purpose, overnight visitors”. I posted the link where this is found, as I have several times throughout this debate. To date, Tony nor any other ARTA officer or director has ever acknowledged the preposterous Beamish exaggeration of 100K VCT PPOV or the 150K PPOV for the Pine Creek Trail.

        Tony also frequently states the railroad operator, ASR, is completely responsible for corridor development, citing the 1996 UMP language. Well here it is: “PRIVATE ENTERPRISE WILL BE PROVIDED THE OPPORTUNITY TO DEVELOP TOURIST EXCURSION, PASSENGER, AND FREIGHT RAIL SERVICES ALONG THE ENTIRE LENGTH OF THE CORRIDOR. RAIL DEVELOPMENT WILL LARGELY DEPEND UPON PRIVATELY SECURED FUNDING SOURCES BECAUSE, ALTHOUGH THERE ARE POTENTIAL PUBLIC SOURCES, GOVERNMENT FUNDING AVAILABILITY CAN NOT BE GUARANTEED.” Private enterprise is not exclusively ASR, although Tony crafts his opinions on this as through it read “The Adirondack Scenic Railroad will be provided the opportunity…”

        Tony can make up any scenario to create facts that he wants in order to render opinion against the ASR and the Remsen-Lake Placid Railroad Corridor and its business model. NYS has to invest public funds in the subject corridor to maintain a railroad or a recreational trail either way for it to be “sustainable”. The marketing of the tourist railroad or a recreational trail will need to be extensive and constant to attract visitors either way. Just look at the Strasburg Railroad and its 340K+ annual visitors and how many times they have to refresh their product (as a Trains subscriber Tony would have recently read about this). It is the same for any retail store attracting customers.

  38. James Falcsik says:

    Mr. Goodwin, in the past few weeks the circle of ARTA authors that routinely disparage the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and the effort to preserve the rail corridor seem to have been revived. Since this opinion piece is a rehash of what you have been saying for years, it must have been your turn.

    The Virginia Creeper Trail data of 4% primary-purpose, overnight users is directly out of their own economic impact statement ARTA and the Rail Trail Conservancy referenced in the study ARTA paid for. I am surprised you don’t recognize it:

    Page 9: “Nonlocal overnight users make up about 9 percent of all trips,
    while primary purpose overnight visitors account for only about 4 percent of
    person-trips. The latter being a pivotal group in determining the economic
    impact that the VCT has on the area’s economy.”

    Don’t look too close Tony; the ARTA/RTC study mysteriously increased a few of the numbers of the VCT data charts found in that reference link.

    Tony, tell me you don’t remember this overnight claim for the VCT was the basis for Dick Beamish needing to make a retraction in the ADE on his statement that the VCT had 100K overnight visitors? The text of this study also mentions that local users are also included as primary purpose visitors, which is described as one of the common metrics most likely to be used to skew the outcome of an economic impact study.

    Don’t pay attention to any of the EIS produced by the trail advocacy. Instead look at tax revenue, personal income data and property values in trail towns that have been around for a long time. Use sites like Citi-Data which is broad-based demographics that is not hand picked for a biased impact study, like the one ARTA paid Karl Knoch and the RTC to produce. A repaired and upgraded rail corridor has just as much potential to positively impact the communities it would serve as the proposed rail trail.

    Rail trails are mostly used by local people much like a city park is used. I don’t find fault with this, as I am a local user of rail trails close to my home. However, very often the economic stimulus to a region from a rail trail is exaggerated by the trail advocacy in order to keep a steady supply of tax dollars flowing for trail projects.

    • Big Burly says:

      Mr. Falcsik, the recent resurgence of writings from the rip ’em up cabal likely is directly related to an effort to influence the coterie around the Governor and staff and commissioners at the APA. The APA has 2 items about the corridor to make a decision about: 1) the redefinition of what is transportation in a rail transportation corridor in the DAKs, and 2) a flawed final draft unit management plan for the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest . The redefinition effort, lauded by Mr. Goodwin during public hearings on the matter is opposed by a significant majority of those who sent in thoughtful, well reasoned written statements in effect supporting rails AND trails. The final draft UMP, prepared by a cross section of expert staff including DEC personnel, deliberately diminishes the R-LP rail transportation corridor that is contained within the territory of the UMP as well as describing an amendment to the UMP for the corridor that has been ruled illegal by the NYS Supreme Court.

      The preponderance of the comments to this article display the common sense approach of rails AND trails. It is time that NYS fulfills the policy recommended in 1996 and makes the needed investments in rails and trails — that will end the enmity and divisiveness that is the consequence of the neglect to date.

  39. James Bullard says:

    Tony, That article fails to mention that the Virginia Creeper Trail runs parallel to the Appalachian Trail (the 1st National Scenic Trail) and is sometimes used as an alternative to the section of the AT that is immediately North of Damascus. The AT runs smack through the middle of Damascus, VA. The Creeper Trail runs from Abington through Damascus to Mt. Rogers where it reconnects with the AT. The number of hikers on the AT has been steadily growing in recent decades. In 2017 nearly 4K attempted a Northbound thru-hike (end-to-end in one season) and nearly 500 attempted a Southbound thru. Virtually every one of those that get that far stop in Damascus for resupply and/or a day off for R&R. That is only the thru-hikers. Innumerable others are on the AT at any time doing sections or just day-hikes. I have seen estimates of as high as a million people per year hiking some part of the AT. Most of the hostel and shuttle business in Damascus is associated with the AT. To top it off Damascus hosts “Trail Days” every year, an annual gathering of past, current and wannabe AT hikers. In 2017 Trail Days drew somewhere between 15 and 20 thousand hikers. I strongly suspect that the Virginia Creeper traffic is greatly inflated by its proximity to the AT and comparing it to a Tupper Lake to Lake Placid trail is wildly optimistic. What parallel attraction do you see attracting bikers, hikers and XC skiers to the Tupper/LP rail trail that aren’t already using it? To my mind this is really all about giving snowmobilers an opportunity to use the route when the snow cover is insufficent to cover the rails. They already use it when there is more snow.

  40. James Bullard says:

    RE The Pine Creek Trail: I wasn’t familiar with that one but a quick bit of research finds that it is within 2-4 hours of Scranton, Allentown, Harrisburg and Philadelphia. And they don’t allow snowmobiles (or any other motorized transport).

  41. Paul says:

    A full fledged tourist train running to some very remote and scenic locations has never been attempted. Only running trains at the ends, and the SL to Placid end is admittedly boring. I am surprised at how many people have actually ridden the train given that fact. The southern end where it finally goes in a ways to some scenic areas apparently is doing quite well as far as riders. Isn’t that correct? How popular would the real deal be? I guess we will never know. Sure the Durango and Silverton RR goes through some amazing scenery for the West. This one could go through some that is amazing scenery (different but still amazing) for the East. Especially for one so close to such a huge market.

    • ben says:

      If you are assuming the southern end of the ASR is doing well, you need a few facts:

      (1): They failed to pay their polar express licensing fee for last year ($90K)
      (2): They failed to pay their 1/3 cost for the Town of Webb Shuttle Service this year ($10K), causing the Town to cancel the service,
      (2): They just went back to the Town of Webb & asked them to foot a bill of $4K a month to pay for a bus shuttle service of ASR choosing, so the ASR can transport their limited riders into the town for their short sightseeing.

      SO no they are not doing well!

      • Paul says:

        Probably need to be connected to the more scenic parts of the RR farther north to be successful. It’s all speculation in both camps. This dead horse needs no more beating. People need to be patient and see how the court rules then go from there. Corridor isn’t going anywhere soon and towns have survived w/o this trail for some time now.

      • Big Burly says:

        @ ben says … the information you posted about ASR is TOTALLY false. The license fees for the 2017 season have been paid in full — there would be no ability to purchase materials and prepare for the 2018 season if that was not the case; the licensor for the Polar Express experience is quite strict about this. ASR is offering this special event again this year.

        The issues with the Old Forge shuttle have been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties and arose from apparent misunderstandings. ASR is contributing an equal share to the operating costs that benefit rail passengers and the community of Old Forge and its merchants alike.

        • ben says:

          Of course ASR had to pay the polar express license fee, if they expected to use it again this year. As far as the other two issues. I can only report what I know the town of Webb states. They cancelled their shuttle on 1 Oct, because the ASR didn’t pay their 1/3 of the bill, and then the idiots at ASR went back to the town & wanted money to pay for their fall buses. Pay their own bills themselves.

          • Chip Ordway says:

            So first you say “They failed to pay their polar express licensing fee for last year ($90K)”, and then two posts down you say “Of course ASR had to pay the polar express license fee, if they expected to use it again this year.” Seriously…if you’re going to choose to bash, then at least get your story straight before you do it!

            I guess you can’t make up your mind, eh? Kinda like which name to post under, right? Don’t wanna post all of McCulley’s overused talking points under your *own* name?

    • Scott Thompson says:

      Just realized the train has been gone almost as long as it was here.

  42. Tony Goodwin says:

    Still no statements clearly identifying who would occupy a daily trainload from Utica to Lake Placid. If it’s supposed to be “river cruises” or “high-end rail excursions”, the the entire ASR business plan would have to be thrown out and replaced with one showing that such operations could pay for themselves.

    There are a lot of statistics in the Virginia Creeper study cited by James Falcsik, but the conclusion was a total economic impact of $1.59 million per year. That study, however, derived from research done in 2002-03, or 15 years after the trail opened. The benefits as reported by the vice-mayor of Damascus are far more current. And one of the bike rental/shuttle services reports having as many as 200 bikes rented out at once. No one bikes the Appalachian Trail.

    • James Falcsik says:

      Tony, straight up: is the 4% PPOV I quoted correct? Yes or No? That is still the impact report linked on the VCT web site today.

      A $1.59 million annual VCT impact compares how to the most recent (2016) rail venue impact of ASR and Rail Explorers?

      The letter from the Vice-Mayor of Damascus, VA, straight up: was his letter printed in the ADE solicited by Dick Beamish, not long after Dick and his wife visited the trail?

      No matter how many bike shops are listed for Damascus, VA, a location that is the junction of SEVEN (7) trails, why is their population stagnant, their housing and income data below the rest of VA if the VCT is providing such an economic boom?

    • Larry Roth says:

      Let’s unpack this a little, okay?

      Your contention that the entire ASR business plan would have to be thrown out is a meaningless objection – plans get updated and changed all the time. There’s nothing that says what the ASR is doing currently rules out high-end rail excursions – or that ASR has to be the only one to do them. Multiple users, right?

      There are still no statements clearly identifying who would be the “wallets on wheels” that ARTA claims would appear for a trail – or that they would refuse to show up for a rail and trail system.

      The railroad must always ‘pay for itself’ but all the trail has to do is make money for some people – which doesn’t mean it gets back to pay for the trail. The taxpayers are getting to cough up money to benefit someone else at their expense by that logic.

      The Virginia Creeper study doesn’t count because it was done after the trail had 15 years to establish itself? We should believe the trail’s impact in only the last few years matters – whatever that is? So how many years would we have to wait before we could tell whether or not ripping out the tracks for a trail would be worth it?

      The $1.59 million a year claim doesn’t tell us how that would compare to rail only or more important, rail with trail.

      And again, you fail to address the reports that the vast majority of trail users are local, so the alleged tourism benefits are marginal at best.

      If you want to sell a trail as being primarily for the benefit of local people, that’s fine. Let them agree to pay for it on that basis. If you are going to claim it will be a magnet for millions of dollars in tourism – when it won’t – that’s an entirely different matter.

      There is one consistent theme in your arguments Mr. Goodwin – you never have anything good to say about the railroad. Rail supporters will cheerfully admit that trails can do good things – just not good enough to justifying tearing out the only rail line that reaches Lake Placid. Rail with trail is still the best use of the corridor.

    • James Bullard says:

      No, no one bikes *on* the AT but when 15-20K people are in town for AT trail days I’m sure quite a few spend some of that time biking the VC and I’ve read journals of hikers who bike the VC on days off from hiking.
      I’m curious about that $1.59M economic impact. How do they isolate those who bike the VC from all the others staying in hostels, B&Bs, eating in restaurants, shopping, etc.? Or is that the total impact of all trail tourism?

      • James Falcsik says:

        They cannot isolate the different venues. That is one of the problems with economic impact studies that are paid for by the trail or bike advocacy. That is why the term primary purpose visitor is crucial in determining how much a trail contributes to a regional economy.

        If you look closely at the Damascus area there are seven named trails that intersect closely in that area. In addition, Damascus is the gateway to the Mount Rogers National Recreation area. Eleven names bike trails are identified with Damascus, most being for mountain biking. Tony quotes 200 bikes out for rental…but how many were dedicated exclusively to the VCT, as Tony and ARTA would have everyone believe?

        Here is an article about how to identify poorly executed impact studies with the most common metrics that are manipulated by the commissioning group to obtain a predetermined outcome:

        Again, the best measure of economic impact is not tourism agency reports or advocacy commissioned studies. Regional personal income, tax revenues, and property values are the better measures. I am collecting tax data on trail towns along the GAP now through Open Records requests. In more than 30 years there has only been at most two new lodging establishments in the premier trail town of West Newton, PA. There is only one presently. The most hotel rental tax collected to date is less than $7K for an entire year. That is much less than the local tourism agency doles out for trail-related promotion and stimulus in that town. The GAP claim to generate $50M in economic stimulus, every year, is questionable.

    • Keith Gorgas says:

      Tony, I don’t have inside info as to the RR’s plans and strategy. I have carefully read and re-read the Stone Consulting report on their web site, as I have the Camoin Ass. report commissioned by the founders of ARTA. I don’t know that the plan is for daily train service from Utica to Lake Placid, at least to begin with. My hunch in that they would commence with weekend and holiday trains. What I do know from researching the thoughts that went into preserving the RR back in the 1970s and 80s. It was acknowledged that a regular train service would not be self sufficient to keep itself rolling and prospering. That’s where the idea of tourist trains, dinner trains, etc, came in. From what I’ve read it was understood that there would be places long the ROW that a recreational trail would not be feasible and alternative trails would have to be developed.

      I would note that a transportation corridor is larger, by definition, than just the right of way. It includes land that can be see from the right of way.

  43. Larry Roth says:


    Did you just hear this from someone, or do you have a definite source to document this? I ask because there is a long history of claims about the railroad that ‘everyone knows’ that just ain’t so, and ditto for the trails.

    James Falcsik has documented that the claims for trail visitor numbers, overnight stays, and economic gains are pretty much suspect. ARTA is in denial over ASR ridership – and never mentions the Rail Explorers if they can help it.

    So where did you get your numbers from?

  44. Tony Goodwin says:

    Please define “this” in your first sentence. I have said before that i am a rail fan – just not a fan of this railroad. I have frequently said that the “Adirondack” service should continue and would be the best way for passengers to travel by rail to the Adirondacks. And the scenery along Lake Champlain is wonderful.

    O.K., if you insist on the 4% figure i will agree that it is one that comes from the 2004 study that says there were 112,366 annual person-trips and only 5,725 were from Primary Purpose Overnight Visitors (PPOV). That works out to 5%, but not a significant difference. The study also says that a majority of trail users surveyed (63% vs 57%) were from outside the area. Seems that 4% has a big impact.

    I agree that both sides have presented the “rosiest” figures to support their respective causes, but what seems very clear is that communities such as Damascus, Abington, and closer to home Danville, VT have embraced rail trails as economic driver as well as providing a recreational outlet for local residents. You say that we would have to wait many years to see whether a trail is better. Likewise, only after the State has spent at least $20 million ($13 million is the estimate to Tupper, plus another $7 million likely needed Tupper to Saranac Lake) to rehab the rails will we learn that only a few will want to take that ride.

    • Chip Ordway says:

      And what you constantly fail to admit is that not *one* of those trails came from a railroad right-of-way that was literally a working railroad. They all came from ROW’s that were in various states of abandonment.

      Case in point….Dick Beamish just recently trying to extol the virtues of the trail that runs on the old St. Johnsbury & Lamoille County ROW in Vermont, but darn it all if he didn’t get some facts in error. A correction was in order, and since I figured you wouldn’t do it, I took the liberty. Let’s walk down memory lane, shall we? Click the link for some reading:

    • James Falcsik says:

      Well, we are picking away at it. Tony wrote: “The study also says that a majority of trail users surveyed (63% vs 57%) were from outside the area. Seems that 4% has a big impact.”

      The 2004 study also states local visitors are counted as primary purpose visitors, but that is not acceptable if their daily spend is included in the economic numbers. Do you agree most EIS are about legitimizing a position (i.e. rail trail conversion) rather than finding the truth?

      Now the tougher question Tony; if your math determines 5% and you essentially agree I properly quoted the VCT data, how do you explain the ARTA–RTC impact survey from 2012 that references the same VCT data on PPOV as 33%??

      One more: why did ARTA’s Dick Beamish claim 100K overnight visitors for the VCT and 150K overnight visitors for the Pine Creek Trail? Twice–13 months apart– in two different newspapers?

  45. Todd Eastman says:

    100+ comments sounding the same as every other time this comes up in a article…

    … show me the financial stats that support the RR.


  46. James Perfield says:

    Extend the rails to Tupper Lake and make the rail right of way to Placid a recreational trail. A win-win in my book. Otherwise spend the rest of your life fighting over it in court.

    • James Bullard says:

      Or… upgrade the rails to LP so that trains can come all the way and build a trail for bikers/snowmobilers from LP to Tupper. It doesn’t have to parallel the tracks. According to many advocates of ripping up the rails, that route is boring anyway. Give the bikers & snowmobile crowd something more stimulating.

  47. Hope says:

    The bottom line is this. The railroad can’t run without major subsidies. The constant complaint is that airports and highways get them but rr’s get nada. “It’s not fair!” says the RR enthusiasts, we deserve the same. Well subsides are determined by the need and necessity’s that are desired by the majority of people, businesses and doled out by politicians who make decisions based on their constituents desires. For over 20 years you have been clamoring for more funds and for NYS to up the ante without much success and very little political support. Well NYS has not seen fit to subsidize a tourist train/hobby Railroad to the tune of millions of dollars and ASR did not attempt to even develop a business plan until ARTA came along with a very well developed plan for an underused NYS asset that would be not only beneficial to the communities along the corridor but to other communities that are not. These other far flung communities such as Star Lake, Wanakena, Colton, Newcomb, etc. would not gain any benefit from train travel through the corridor but have a lot to gain by hooking up the community trail systems to the Travel Corridor. NYS set funds aside to appease both sides and to build both rail and trail but nope, RR folks would rather have nothing instead. The political will for side by side is not there because it’s not feasible, environmentally or economically. Which has been repeated as naseum.

    • Chip Ordway says:

      Other things that have been repeated “As naseum” [sic].

      “THE TRACKS ARE COMING UP BY (insert your own date here).”
      “things are progressing for the Adirondack Rail Trail”
      “Great weekend ahead! We coulda been riding the trail!”
      “He’s from out of town and has no say in this”

      Enough, Hope. The idea that you’re trying to play innocent and say that NYS tried to “appease” both sides means that you and your little merry band of ARTA-ites would have been happy with the half and half situation, and you love claiming it, even though you never once gave up the rally cry of “All the way to Remsen”. Stop it. No one buys it from you anymore. You’re claiming that ASR had nothing going on until ARTA came along? Wow. That is one heck of a pat on your own back, for sure.

      You continue to bark and whine about people from out of town who are against your lovely trail idea and say that they have no input on the subject, yet you have some very vocal supporters from way out of the Blue Line yourself. When are you going to finally break down and explain your double standard?

      And once again. You looooove to cry out about NY “subsidizing” the railroad….yet you still haven’t told us where one penny of the money to build and maintain your trail will come from. If you’ve done as much planning as you claim you have all of these years, then you should be able to pull up your own numbers instantly, and don’t say “Well, show us the RR numbers”, simply because I (and others you have used that line with) are not with the RR, but you ARE with the trail organization, so once and for all–put up or simply shut up.

      THAT is the “bottom line”

      • Hope says:

        Sorry ARTA, the organization, was very pleased to support the gov.’s initiative. Personally, that being me, myself and I, also supported the gov’s initiative because “I” believe that the Trail from Tupper to Lake Placid would be so popular that people would then push hard to go to Old Forge. I still do. Now if train proved to be more popular and demand was there, I had no problems putting the tracks back. It’s time to try something else.

        As far as ASR business plan development, I know folks that are closely involved with the ASR. They are the ones who indicated to me that ARTA kicked ASR I into high gear to develop their current plan of operations.

        Subsides are funds from govt and private sources that are given out to projects and endeavors deemed worthy of the funds. The Rail Trail has been deemed worthy by NYS, local govt and private foundations to be worthy of the investment. Gov. Cuomo set aside funds already and other grants and moneys will become available upon application and approval.
        I am not a part of the government consortium that is designing, planning and budgeting the trail so I cannot answer any questions that you may have on exact costs and projections. That answer will come when the bids are in.

        • Chip Ordway says:

          “The Rail Trail has been deemed worthy by NYS, local govt and private foundations.

          The original plan for the trail was also deemed illegal in a court of law, even prompting one of your fellow ARTA board members to claim that Judge Main was a judge that was “noted for not following the law thats why they judge shopped it to Franklin County.” (Quote from Jim McCulley, ARTA board member).

          Funny how you never seem to acknowledge THOSE facts.


        • Larry Roth says:

          To repeat some of what I said to Tony,

          We are not saying the trail is a bad thing – we are saying it is not good enough by itself to justify ripping out the tracks. That’s a significant difference. It’s why we keep saying the 1996 plan for rail with trail is still the best use of the corridor. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, although that’s the only way you will talk about it.

          Your trail will never pay for itself, so objections that the rails MUST pay for themselves is obtuse to say the least. You have embraced public subsidies for trails, so your objections against comparable investment in public rail infrastructure are inherently contradictory.

          Your statement that the trail in the Tri-Lakes would be so popular sidesteps the question of popular for whom? If it’s all about bringing in tourism dollars, how does that square with the reality that most trails like this are used by local people, not tourists, and that the claimed economic benefits are not supported by property value increases, what happens to the tax base, or job development? (James Falcsik has documented this.)

          And don’t even bother to make unsupportable claims about how much private businesses will benefit from public investment in the trail while denying a non-profit the right to also benefit from public investment. You can’t have it both ways.

          We know thousands of visitors are willing to spend their money to ride the trains – and the rail bikes. ARTA tells us no one in the Tri-Lakes rides the train, so it’s all money coming into the local economy from outside. We know a ‘free’ trail will never bring in any money directly – but it will be a permanent drain on taxpayers. Those who might benefit from it financially will be paying nowhere near their share of those costs.

          The arguments you and ARTA make are always “Heads I win, tails you lose.” It’s no wonder you are unable to put up an honest defense of them. Your primary goal remains what it has always been: get rid of the rails no matter what it does to the region.

    • James Falcsik says:

      Hope, your bottom line has some errors and omissions that has been part of the ARTA spin for years.

      First, the ASR is not “subsidized”; they provide a maintenance service they are paid for. In what context is it “major”? How much money is “major”??

      There is a value that NYS pays ASR to provide the maintenance service, but you never include the value in economic benefit to NYS that ASR has returned. You prefer to focus only on individual communities that you name. You never mention the DEC was supposed to build additional connector trails as part of the 1996 UMP that diminish the importance of the R-LP corridor as a snowmobile trail.

      Even using the most conservative number for ridership for ASR over the last 20 years, and DIVIDING by TWO as your group likes to do, New York State is still way ahead in terms of return on their tax money spent maintaining the railroad corridor. Just using those low round numbers with the Essex County Tourism Bureau basic tourism multipliers ($85 per tourist x 1.5 multiplier) the ASR operations have contributed almost $64 million in benefit to NYS. That is well above your undefined claim of “millions”, and even if it was the unsubstantiated $20M as I have seen posted by your group, NYS is winning with ASR. Keep in mind my example numbers here are lower than the actual. The other truth you never mention is the DEC had to keep Rail Explorers rail bike venue numbers out of their impact study for Alternate 7 to provide the economic result they wanted.

      You are in the home renovations and real estate business. It is obvious that you are hoping for inflated property values and perhaps more construction in the small towns you mention from a rail trail. That would be good for you but superficial and negligible to the region and NYS in the proper context. Your gain will be someone else’s loss.

      • Hope says:

        I want to see the towns grow, not stagnate or diminish. I listen to the folks who are actually interested in living here, whether they are current residents trying to stay or new folks coming in. Overwhelmingly they are interested in recreation opportunities that are safe and accessible and promote a healthy lifestyle. No one, and I mean absolutely not one of the folks that I’ve worked with over the last ten years has indicated they were interested in restoration of train service. Their main interest is connectivity to the internet, beautiful scenery and active recreational opportunities. We still need more work on the internet and recreational opportunities but scenery we’ve got nailed.

        • James Falcsik says:

          Based on how SL is marketed, there is no hint of a lack of recreation areas:

          “The heart of Saranac Lake is filled with unique shops, art galleries, restaurants for any palate, and plenty of attractions. Take a ride on the Adirondack Carousel while sitting on local fauna like “Bug Eye” the Blackfly and other Adirondack friends. Check out one of the many area museums for a lesson in history, art and culture. There’s also plenty of nightlife spots where you can find live music and local craft beers.”

          “The area is loaded with hiking trails and canoe routes, plus outfitters to help you gear up for any adventure. You can spot the local wildlife, downhill ski at Mount Pisgah, and cross-country ski at Dewey Mountain Recreation Center. Golfers and cyclists will also find plenty of enjoyment here. Throughout the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest, there are 12 lean-tos you can camp in.”

          “It’s home to the Saranac Lake 6er hiking challenge which has Ultra and Winter variants. In the winter, the village hosts an annual Winter Carnival where you’ll find an ice palace made of ice blocks harvested right from the lake.”

  48. Tony Goodwin says:

    James, Larry, Chip, et. al;

    So far about all you have done is spin your wheels by repeating all your supposed reasons why the trail is a bad idea. Lets operate the sander, stop the wheel slip, and explain why the train to Big Moose is now down to only 10 annual not-so-sold-out runs when the first few runs were sold out. Seems like a new trip appeals to just a select few, but once they have ridden it they don’t come back for a second and third time. Please explain why this won’t also happen here. That is the basic question I posed in my original article, but none of you have even begun to answer it.

    No more responses until I see a reasoned explanation why a 140-mile run will be sustainable when a 70-mile run isn’t.

    • James Bullard says:

      I’ve been to Big Moose Station. It is almost 8 miles out of Eagle Bay in the middle of nowhere. The RR station is a restaurant. I didn’t eat there but I concede it is a long RR ride for a meal. Other than that you need a car to get to anything from Big Moose. So, it isn’t surprising to me that it has proved to be a less than popular end of the line destination. What surprises me is that ARTA supporters think it is comparable to Saranac Lake and Lake Placid which are popular destinations.

      • Hope says:

        8 miles on a rail trail is an easy ride to enjoy a meal or a snack on any day of the week.

        • James Bullard says:

          You really didn’t read my comment, did you? The railroad tour ended at Big Moose, not 8 miles away and the road between Eagle Bay and Big Moose isn’t part of the proposed rail trail, it is a narrow winding paved town/county road with cars.

          My point was that saying people wouldn’t go 140 miles on the RR to Saranac Lake & Lake Placid because the 70 mile ride that ends at Big Moose was a flop is ridiculous. As James Falcsik points out (below) you need something for them to go to. Granted the people in Eagle Bay can ride their bikes to the old RR station restaurant but that has nothing whatever to do with the rail trail proposal. They can already do it on the existing road.

          • Hope says:

            People could take the train from Thendara to Big Moose for lunch. Short excursion. Still didn’t work. Rail bikes may be a better fit if the tracks stay. The kayak/ rail trip also seemed to work. The operative word here is active recreation is in more demand than passive.
            Lake Placid is packed to the rafters this weekend because of active participation in fall foliage endeavors: hiking, biking and racing. Train not required. Another space to recreate is.

            • Larry Roth says:

              The last time I was up in Lake Placid for the fall foliage, the trains were still running. It was a cold, wet day – but the trains were full, and the rail bikes were busy. Not so much the trails.

              The rails give the region something unique; hiking, biking, and racing can be done in a lot of other places. The trains don’t depend on having good weather – or snow – to draw tourists.

              Lake Placid doesn’t need more space to recreate – it needs to make better use of what it has. If you’re packed to the rafters, it’s because people have no way to get there except by car. Parking is taking up far more space than the rails; traffic is clogging the trail heads.

              And nobody is going to ride their bike 140 miles just to get up to Lake Placid for the weekend.

              • Hope says:

                They will drive up with their bikes or rent them there. I just drove over to VT and NH with my bike for a few days. Dropped several $$$ on food and lodging. Lots of folks over here with bikes from all over the country and Canada. It’s mid week and lots of people still around. Sat next to a German couple at breakfast. They are driving a rental car, heaven forbid. Enables them to stop and take photos anywhere they can.

                • Larry Roth says:

                  Funny thing is, you can still do all that and have the trains too, for the people who don’t want to drive a car for hours just to ride a bike. Rails and trails.

                  I was just down in Kingston for the rail ride CMRR operates. There were people from NJ, VA, VT, TX, MA, MD, CT, RI, as well as NY – and a tour bus full of people from the Midwest. This was on Columbus Day weekend. Hundreds of people showed up to ride the train over the three days.

                  On Labor Day weekend, I’d stopped at the parking lot for the south shore Ashokan trail – a paved and level road with spectacular views. There were 24 cars while I was there – walkers and cyclists – but only four plates were from out of state. Going by license plate brackets, most of the NY people using the trail were locals.

                  Draw your own conclusions.

                  • Hope says:

                    Location, Location, Location and you don’t have any idea if those NY plates were rental or NY residents from Buffalo. Still tourists. But also great for the local user as well.

                    • Larry Roth says:

                      Rental cars don’t usually have stickers all over them – but that’s besides the point.

                      Neither your observations or mine count as a scientific survey – they’re anecdotal evidence. You saw what you saw; I’m telling you what I saw.

                      What is to the point is that what I saw is in line with the NYS trail user survey that found the overwhelming percentage of trail users were local. What’s also to the point is that both CMRR and ASR have ticket sale data that show they draw a much higher percentage of visitors along with the locals in their ridership.

                      No one denies a trail would be great for local users – but to claim it would be swarmed with visitors and their tourism dollars is purely speculation at this point, and the evidence does not support it. If you want to make everyone happy, rails with trails is the way to go, because local users aren’t enough to justify pulling the rails for a trail.

                      Speaking of which, if the ARTA parking lot stalkers want to do a thorough job, they should go down to Utica and look at the parking lots there, as well as the people who transfer from Amtrak to the ASR.

                      P.S. I was reviewing my notes, and found there were also license plates from places like FL, IA, and WA to ride with CMRR. A year ago I was at the Delaware & Ulster over in Arkville, and they had riders who had come from Canada – a tour bus full of them. CMRR had a tour bus the same weekend filled with visitors from Taiwan. I have yet to see a tour bus at at rail trail parking lot.

                    • James Falcsik says:

                      Looking at out of state license plates does come close to determining if the drivers are primary purpose trail visitors. If their purpose was to be “leaf peepers” as is common in the northeast at this time of year, you can’t contribute their visit to the trail economy. “Casuals” and “time switchers” are also frequently miscounted or included in recreation impact studies when they should not be.

    • James Falcsik says:

      Tony: Fair enough; I’ll do my best to speculate on what may provide increased ridership for the rail corridor. But I won’t hold my breath believing it will be enough to reduce your bias against it.

      First, NYS needs to invest in (improve) the railroad corridor. Second, a long term contract (years) needs to be executed. Third, NYS would continue to maintain the railroad plant.

      I don’t see a commuter market working for this corridor; to your point the population base is too small. As a tourist railroad for the longer travel it will be all about marketing. Coordination with established attractions and lodging businesses can provide options and package deals to include travel and lodging. You need more than the railroad operator working on this equation. Both business entities need to find benefit to accessing each others customer base. There are luxury bus trips that depart from every mall parking lot in my area for remote destinations; the same kind of marketing effort can apply to the railroad, and a bus could be included on each end. Keith can comment on this.

      The local events and theme trains need to provide interesting but cheap entertainment to attract local repeat customers. ASR does this now. Long distance travelers want quality and value, so upscale accommodations is the target market. As for Amtrak and cross platform transfers, in the same manner Amtrak would need to provide a dedicated train or some kind of schedule change make this work, and that would not occur unless exceptional marketing creates the demand. For now, rather than worry about Amtrak, I would suggest ASR invest in a couple sleeper cars and a few dining cars and hire service attendants, obtain a liquor license, and obtain a killer chef.

      The limits placed on roadway and access improvements to the AP are causing problems now on crowed roadways and visits to the High Peaks area, according to what I read. What will this be like down the road (no pun intended)? Marketing with a plan to reduce this overcrowding should include the railroad corridor, and this would come from a regional agency.

      Your questions on how you fill a train on a regular basis to justify the railroad investment can also be asked of you with trail patronage. Where will the nonlocal users come from? Trail users coming by car will make the overcrowding and limited access problems worse.

      Believe it or not, I personally chartered a handful of excursion trains out of a local museum train station back in 1999, 2000 and 2001. The excursion train operator, the Laurel Highlands Railroad, ran a small steam locomotive that had historical ties to our area, and he secured a five year contract to operate between Youngwood and Mt. Pleasant, PA. on weekends and holidays. The excursion train did not operate in the winter. Generally, the operation was successful for LHR, with a steady flow of riders, but the biggest challenge was finding cooperation between the communities in learning to host a tourist attraction. A constant list of events and special features kept the rides interesting for the local market. We did have many repeat customers for the event rides, especially when the events were children oriented.

      I marketed “rare mileage” excursions and chartered the trains running on branch lines that had not seen passenger trains in 60 to 70 years. They were very successful, drawing riders from many different states. The railroad operator continued this a few years after I sold my business enterprise.

      For the R-LP railroad corridor you are looking for a timetable and a body count and I can’t give you one. If you want to know how to fill a train it is a combination of service and marketing.

    • Chip Ordway says:

      Wow…train terminology….looks like that 50-year subscription has paid off!

      Again, Tony….you seem to have either forgotten or completely glossed over that I have had this very argument with you, and went on a full description on how the line could be operated in the style of North Conway: A multitude of different options for rides, including some longer ones reserved purely for special events, etc. I am not going into it again, because I *know* you’ve read it before.

      We *HAVE* begun to answer your questions. We began, and we finished….numerous times. Yet you still refuse to listen.

      Drink. Rinse. Repeat.

      • Tony Goodwin says:

        James Falcsik did actually try to answer my basic questions. What he proposed requires significant structural, physical, operational and financial changes to either or both ASR and Amtrak. Specifically, ASR would have to offer significantly more services and do more promotion of its theme trains. ASR would also have to convince hotel owners that it was worth their while to offer discounted rates to train travelers to make a train ride and stay package attractive. He also suggested investing in sleeper cars to offer that service. Most of the above would require significantly more money – money ASR doesn’t appear to have.

        The idea that Amtrak would change their whole schedule on the basis of more riders to Utica seems like a total non-starter. To tap the biggest markets, Amtrak would have to schedule a train that left NYC about 4:30 AM. Who would ride that?

        ASR’s most popular theme trains originate in Utica and never make it to the Adirondack Rail Corridor. ASR also has theme train out of Thendara that appear to be self-sustaining. ARTA’s opposed rail trail would not end either of these operations.

        The rare mileage and other special trains that James Falcsik references are clearly one-time or at least very intermittent events. Great if there are tracks already in place, but the State shouldn’t have to spend tens of millions on track rehab for just a few of these occasional trains.

        Falcsik concludes with this quote: “For the R-LP railroad corridor you are looking for a timetable and a body count and I can’t give you one. If you want to know how to fill a train it is a combination of service and marketing.” I really don’t think that combination of ‘services and marketing” exists on this railroad.

        • James Falcsik says:

          Tony, it seems I was absolutely correct with my first sentence.

          I see no reason why NYS cannot offer ASR a longer term contract or lease for providing rail service and maintenance. This would be an essential element to any business partnership that ASR would make with any lodging businesses or third party to provide upscale service arrangements, regardless of travel length.

          As an example. the Pullman Co. did not just build sleeper cars for the railroads; they were the owners and operators of them for overnight accommodations in intercity travel on the major railroads. The porters that provided excellent service were Pullman employees, not railroad employees. My point here is only to illustrate ASR would not necessarily have to provide the capital to purchase and operate this kind of service. ASR only has to operate the trains if they choose. Third party investors could be involved to provide upscale service if there was a reasonable time to earn a return on their investment.

          The NYS 30-day permit system is probably the most notable item that has prevented commercial development of the rail corridor, second only to track condition preventing full line use.

    • Larry Roth says:

      There you go again Tony, lying about what we are saying.

      We are not saying the trail is a bad thing – we are saying it is not good enough by itself to justify ripping out the tracks. That’s a significant difference. It’s why we keep saying the 1996 plan for rail with trail is still the best use of the corridor.

      Your trail will never pay for itself, so your objections that the rails MUST pay for themselves is obtuse to say the least. You have embraced public subsidies for trails, so your objections against comparable investment in public rail infrastructure are inherently contradictory.

      And don’t even bother to make unsupportable claims about how much local businesses will benefit from public investment in the trail while denying a non-profit the right to also benefit from public investment. You can’t have it both ways.

      Tony, the arguments you and ARTA make are always “Heads I win, tails you lose.” It’s no wonder you are unable to put up an honest defense of them.

  49. Warren Pease says:

    This is dragging on a bit too long

  50. Warren Pease says:

    This is dragging on a bit too long.

  51. Larry Roth says:

    There’s been a lot of nonsense spouted here about how railroads are done, and how we have chosen to live without rail service without acknowledging how we got here, and why so many towns are in trouble, trouble magic solutions like trails won’t fix.

    “The Real Reason Your Downtown Died

    …The choices we are able to make on how we will get around today (will we drive, walk, take the bus or train?) were impacted heavily on June 29, 1956, the day that President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway and Defense Act, legislation funding a trust to build over 47,000 miles of highways nationwide. This large public works commitment funneled over $70 billion to build roads with only one percent — less than $1 billion — going to sustain neglected rail lines.

    This bias in American transportation funding favoring automobiles and trucks over public transit was due in large part to the increasingly powerful role of the lobbying of automobile manufacturers. In 1943, the American Road Builders Association funded primarily by General Motors, became one of the largest lobbying groups in the country advocating for massive highway construction. Indeed, Lucius Clay, a board director of General Motors, actually chaired the committee appointed by Eisenhower to shape the 1956 Interstate Highway legislation. ”

    There’s quite a bit more here:

    While the article looks at the effect on big cities, it has also impacted smaller communities. Everything turns on cars, like it or not, and that dependency is not good. We’re not going to give them up, but we need alternatives so we can have choices. Ripping out tracks for a trail is a vote for total dependence on highways to move goods and people.

    We are where we are today because of a whole series of decisions and investments that are now proving to be unsustainable. Building trails will not fix the problems created by distorted transportation policies. Killing railroads will not fix anything – and will make the problems worse. The short-sightedness of trail advocates who can’t see past their own interests is all too common these days, unfortunately.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Thanks for your unending responses…

      … they clearly reflect the shallow arguments held by RR buffs for this line. If you want a frigging RR here, generate the $$$ to fix it up, ensure operation for a decade at a minimum, and provide a plan to make it function for another 50 years…

      Saying it would be fun for tourists to ride is weak sauce.

      I have seen nothing supporting your position that would help with the planners or financial folks.

      • Larry Roth says:

        You obviously couldn’t be bothered to read the article, which means you have no real argument here.

        “…generate the $$$ to fix it up, ensure operation for a decade at a minimum, and provide a plan to make it function for another 50 years…”

        The point I was making – and you couldn’t be bothered to address – is that is exactly what we do all the time for roads and highway bridges, and no one has a problem with that.

        The rail corridor is public infrastructure and should get the same level of investment. We need what the rails can do – it’s not 1956 any more and the world has changed. There are more people, oil is not cheap any more, the planet is heating up, and those highways are wearing out.

        The Adirondacks can be ahead of the game if rail service is restored, because the old assumptions no longer apply. This isn’t about the past – this is about the future.

      • James Falcsik says:

        Todd says “..generate the money to fix it up…”

        If ASR or another person or group raises the funds to “fix it up” I would say they should start by buying the corridor from NYS.

        Should we apply your same logic to the trail? If you want a trail how about if ARTA raises the funds to “fix it up”, but all private money; no federal or state funding to do so?

      • Keith Gorgas says:

        Todd, the concept you propose makes sense, except here…I’m sure you are aware that NY State has only given the RR 30 day leases on use of the rails, which seems designed to make it absolutely impossible to attract private or corporate investment in the railroad…. Who in their right mind would ever make a substantial long term investment in something that could only renew their lease 30 days at a time? Ir has become quite obvious that the NY DEC is a horrible steward of all things historic or functional. Like any bureaucratic entity, they are self serving. They see and manage assets by what will increase the budget and sphere of influence of their department. Allowing the DEC, rather than the DOT to manage the future of the travel corridor will likely have the same result as putting Debar Lodge in the DEC’s hands. Because their commissioners are beholden to pseudo environmentalist groups who have pushed their nomination, they are incapable of anything more than myopically corralling public assets into recreational uses that are compatible with the services they are familiar with managing.

        A case in point: it has been circulated that once the rails are destroyed and a very expensive taxpayer funded trail is built, the DEC plans to offer shuttle bus service between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid, again at taxpayers’ expense, because most people, at least with families would not want to make what amounts to a 68 mile round trip.. The DEC has no logistical expertise to manage that, but it will probably provide a lucrative contract for some company that contributes to Mr. Cuomo’s pay to play program. Presently the DEC is making forays into the transportation field with shuttle buses to the popular climbing destinations in the High Peaks, when what we really need is an integrated cohesive mass transit network in the North Country..

        Seems to me that saying a trail would be fun for tourists is also “weak sauce”.

        Nobody really has mentioned in this discussion that the DEC has falsely represented that it owns the underlying land throughout the right of way throughout this whole planning process.If the rails are removed, it will cost many millions of dollars more than is recognized to secure easements through about 50 parcels of private land between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake. During the hearing part of the process, the DEC claimed on their website that they had taken ownership of the land via eminent domain. There is no record of that ever occurring, and the handful of deeds along the ROW that I’ve seen clearly allow for an easement for “railroad and associated business”. The State did at one time announce to the municipalities that it was taking the land, but never provided just compensation for the land taken or perfected the deeds. The cost of all these things will land in the taxpayers’ laps and ultimately the cost of destroying the railroad and removing it to construct yet another recreational trail will be more than double the cost of restoring rail service and building in and out side by side trails along the ROW.

        Rails with trails is a win win for all New Yorkers.

  52. Pete says:

    The ASR supporters may quibble over some of the details of Tony’s article, but his argument is essentially correct. The railroad has not been an attractive option for either regular passenger or freight operation over the last 60 years. If it was commercially sustainable and profitable, there would be a real railroad company interested in doing it. There is no reason to expect anything would change in the foreseeable future. At best a long slow train ride to Lake Placid is a one-time tourist novelty. There will not be enough volume to support it. It will end up to be the same fiasco as las the SNCRR. Almost everyone directly impacted by the rail or trail decision says they want a trail. This is not because that are philosophically anti-train (who doesn’t love trains?) or are fanatic snowobilers. The towns know the huge economic benefit they get from snowmobiling. It is a fact, not a projection. If there were no rail, it would easily double the amount of days the ‘trail’ is rideable. In the ‘off season’ I think it is much more likely that the typical outdoor enthusiast who comes to the Adirondacks would drive to one of the towns or various road-accessible crossings in between and mountain bike or hike if it were possible rather than going to Old Forge, Tupper, or LP and paying for a train ticket. The corridor would make a fantastic relatively easy long-distance 100% off-road mountain or hybrid bike trail. I don’t see myself ever riding the train. But a mountain bike ride to Beaver River Station or Horseshoe Lake would definitely be on my to-do list.

    • Larry Roth says:

      Your facts are not exactly as solid as you would like them to appear.

      Who says there are no other operators interested in the line? So long as the state limits operating permits to short term, only allows seasonal use, and refuses to invest in the line, they are going to discourage interest. That doesn’t mean it isn’t out there.

      Everybody wants trails instead of rails? Not so. Talk to the businesses around the station in Saranac Lake. Ask the Hotel Saranac if they wouldn’t like to see rail travel packages bringing them customers. Imagine them hosting a convention with a travel connection via Amtrak to ASR to Saranac Lake.


      Ask the outfitters in Old Forge who are renting out boats and bicycles to people who ride the train to use them. For that matter, ask the people who are riding the trains to the rail bikes and vice versa.

      Even the SNCRR fiasco has not stopped Essex and Warren Counties from continuing to keep the line there. Essex County is opposing New York State’s attempts to have the Tahawus line declared abandoned by the STB. Warren County is also not ready to throw in the towel.

      You can have your off-road biking experiences even now – and the if the state would ever carry out the 1996 plan you could have even more. Take the train to the trails and vice versa – and you wouldn’t have to worry about driving or leaving your car unattended at some trail head.

      Maybe you can’t ever see yourself riding the train – but there are others who do and will.

    • James Falcsik says:

      Pete, I call BS on your claim if the tracks are removed the sleds number of days would be double. There is no other region in NYS that listed double the number of snowmobile days over the Adirondack region, and as far as I know, there is no other region that depends on snow being deep enough to cover railroad tracks.

      Snowmobiling and the economic benefit it provides is well known, but it will not materially change, tracks or no tracks on the R-LP corridor. The only way to make a bigger impact for NYS is to increase the out of state sled registrations. Since year after year this is usually about 15% of all registrations the corridor issue is diminished.

  53. Tony Goodwin says:

    Larry, I totally agree that the creation of the Interstate Highway System played a major factor in the demise of railroads; but no one is about to rip those highways up. By the end of the 19th Century, the rail system had grown to the point that nearly every town of any size had rail service. When the competition was horse and wagon, rail was the most efficient and economical way to move goods and people. That all changed with the invention of the automobile and subsequent highway improvements. The Interstate highways were the final blow. Then, long after it should have happened, the railroads were deregulated and they were able to more easily rationalize their route systems, retaining those routes where rail was still the most efficient and economical way to move goods and people.

    Along the way, a movement started to convert these abandoned rail corridors to recreational trails. Soon there was the system of rail banking, so that today thousands of miles of railroad right of way have been preserved if and until that time when the corridor is again needed for rail service. Many railroads with potentially useful rights-of-way were unfortunately abandoned too early to be saved in this manner. The Rutland Railroad’s line to Ogdensburg (former Ogdensburg and Lake Champlain) is one that comes to mind.

    Since it is state-owned, the Adirondack Rail Corridor doesn’t precisely fit into the rail banking scheme, but the intent is the same – preserve the right-of-way for a time when rail service would again be clearly the better way to transport goods and people. Meanwhile, any government-funded investment in improved rail service should go to existing service to make that service better and therefore attract more riders. I’ve said before that improving track, curvature, and signaling along Lake Champlain could go a long way to making that an even more attractive alternative for travel in and out of the Adirondacks. And what about a second train that originated early in the morning at Plattsburgh for an early afternoon arrival in NYC.

    Government money should not at this time be spent to rehab what for the foreseeable will be mostly a 140-mile seasonal tourist train.

    And with that, I am done as far as this debate goes. And perhaps we did end on some note of agreement.

    • Larry Roth says:

      A point Tony is that operating railroads purely for profit also has to be factored against the other side of the issue: the public good.

      Railroads were regulated so heavily for so long because operating them purely on the basis of making money for their owners led to serious abuses of monopoly power. Deregulation wasn’t practical until the construction of the highway system (and later the airways) made alternatives to the rails available. But it’s no longer the 1950’s.

      The problem now is that the pendulum has swung too far. Once upon a time the public interest favored supporting alternatives to rail – that tail is now wagging the dog. Railroads can take traffic off of those highways, move people safely, and reduce greenhouse gases and our dependence on fossil fuels. That is where the public good now lies, and that is what government should be supporting.

      No, nobody is going to rip up the highways – but that doesn’t mean we can’t invest in rail.

      Thank you for at least acknowledging that rail trails are supposed to preserve corridors for the return of railroads – but why is it that day is always somewhere down the road and it’s never the the right time? Why is it that the money could be always be better spent elsewhere – and not in a region that needs investment? Why is there always unlimited money for trails – and none for rails?

      Chicken and egg – IF the government won’t invest in the 140 mile rail corridor, won’t stop limiting service to seasonal operation, and won’t allow for more than short term leases, how exactly is it supposed to ever become more than a seasonal tourist line?

      It’s the 21st century now. The situation has changed.

      The Borders Railway in Scotland shows what can happen when rails return after being removed decades earlier. It revitalized the region – and they want more.

      “A group representing small firms in south east Scotland has said it has “little doubt” of the economic benefits of extending the Borders Railway. It comes after a recent independent study found the line was attracting new workers, homeowners and tourists.

      The Federation of Small Businesses said those conclusions came as no surprise to regular users of the route. It said the line was a “gift for local events” and had provided a massive boost for visitor numbers.

      FSB senior development manager for the east of Scotland Gordon Henderson said the reopening of the line had come about due to grassroots campaigning.

      “This is great encouragement for those in Fife campaigning for the Levenmouth rail link,” he said.

      He added that the impact on local events in the Borders was clear to see.”

  54. Larry Roth says:

    Let’s drop the endless discussions for a moment about whether or not the railroad can pay for itself or how great a trail would be, and look at something else.

    A quarter of all greenhouse gases in the US come from transportation. Rail is the most energy-efficient means of moving goods and people. If you want to cut carbon emissions, start investing in rail. Rail can do even better than it does now.

    The Dutch run their electrified rail system on 100% wind power. Alstom is building train sets that run on hydrogen fuel cells – no greenhouse gas emissions. America could start turning things around with a public-private partnership that would remake transportation in the US – and energy too. (See )

    New York State could have a head start on making the changes we must make by fully restoring and upgrading the rail corridor all the way to Lake Placid, and investing in rail elsewhere around the state. There’s no time to waste.

    By 2040 we will be facing major climate effects. Every day we delay will make them worse. (NY Times: )

    For those who say the cost of doing this is too high, we’re already paying for it. The social cost of carbon is already costing the US $250 billion a year. (Nature – Country-level social cost of carbon. )

    The cost of giving up the railroad has just gotten higher.

  55. ben says:

    Yawn, the State just needs to get going one way or the other. RIP THE RAILS OUT!

  56. Jim S. says:

    I would love to see the bike trail connect Lake Placid to the Erie canal bike trail. That would create the best bike trail system in the country. Unfortunately the Choo-Choo boys will never give up.

  57. Scott Thompson says:

    From a business with the Back Door on the RR, would the train keep running after color if it went to LP? They are DONE Utica to Big Moose, yet I’m sure there would be bikes and hikes until the weather gets too bad and then the Snowmobiles would start WEEKS earlier.
    Just Say’in.

  58. Larry Roth says:

    Well that’s a key point, isn’t it? Would anyone take trains down to Croton-Harmon from Albany if that’s where rail service ended and you couldn’t continue to New York City?

    Lake Placid is the big destination on the line at the northern end, the one that would draw traffic with the restoration of full service. If there’s enough demand all the way to the end of the line, that supports all of the rest of the service in between Utica and Lake Placid.

    That is why anti-rail people are so determined to keep the trains from reaching Lake Placid – because their goal is to get rid of the tracks all the way down to Thendara – and beyond if they can pull it off. They want to keep the economic potential of the line crippled, so ARTA spokesmen like Mr. Goodwin can keep making the same discredited arguments.

    Hiking, biking – that can be done if the state ever gets around to fulfilling the 1996 plan and builds the supporting trails around the rails. As for starting snowmobiling weeks earlier, good luck with that.

    You need snow for that – and removing the rails won’t make it snow. In case you haven’t noticed, the latest news is that climate is getting worse even faster than had been predicted. The Adirondacks could end up with the worst case scenario – no trains and no snow.

    Anyone whose business model depends on consistent winter weather from this point on is gambling against the odds. Save the rails – you’re going to need them badly, and sooner than you think.

  59. ben says:

    Simple solution. Shut everything down on the line, let them rot in place & then in a few years, build a trail. And when I say shut it down I mean it all. NO MORE TRAINS north of Remsen. If the ASR cannot get on board with the state, then they should not profit from using a state asset.

    • Keith R Gorgas says:

      Ben, that’s a simple solution? For what? What does that do for communities like Saranac Lake, with roughly half its downtown stores vacant? And now 39 jobs gone. leaving with the ASR and Rail Explorers. What does that do with the millions of dollars the State has already invested in renovating the rail infrastructure? What does it do with countless hours volunteers have put into the right of way aInd rebuilding the stations?

      The 1996 UMP was the fruit of 53 sober minded people representing a varied rainbow of interests. They took into account legal aspects, historical concerns, social issues, environmental and recreational concerns. They came up with a plan that took all these things into account, and it got off to a good start…. a very good start. Then Governor Pataki issued another $8 million to continue the work through to Tupper Lake, but for what ever reason, that was diverted elsewhere.

      Who or what would be served by just allowing nature to reclaim the right of ways? That would be a gross injustice to the people of New York. As Judge Main ruled, the plan concocted by ARTA and essentially rubber stamped by Governor Andrew “Pay to Play” Cuomo, was not based on logic or reason. The numbers just don’t add up. The plan was indeed arbitrary and capricious. As the Judge noted, the was no compelling or logical reason to adopt the plan. If you doubt me, read the prologue to his ruling. Trails with rails is a win/win for all New Yorkers.

      • ben says:

        It does NOTHING for them or you, but it does put a end to this folly of a rail line. You cannot pay your bills on time, you continue to want the Town of Webb to bail you out,. Time to end this folly. Now the snowmobile community can continue to use the corridor in the winter because unlike you, we CONTINUE to work with the state & we pay our bills on time.

        • Keith R Gorgas says:

          Wow, you must know more about me than I know myself… ok. Have a nice day. 🙂

          • ben says:

            This is a moot argument. Either a trail will run north of Tupper Lake or nothing will. At this point, it should all be shut down, north of Remsen! It the ASR cannot work with the state to implement Option 7, then they shouldn’t benefit one bit!

            • James Falcsik says:

              On the contrary, there is nothing about the Judge Main ruling that would prevent NYS from proceeding with the plans and funds appropriated to rebuild the railroad from Remsen to Tupper Lake. Only the trail plan has been vacated.

              Perhaps when you say “shut down” you are including no winter sled use while the stalemate continues.

              • ben says:

                And that would be a NO, because the snowmobile community isn’t the one pissing the state off right now. That would be your little train a’holes. And no, nothing should be running to Tupper Lake until the trail issue north of Tupper Lake is resolved. The ASR SHOULD NOT BENEFIT at all from Option 7, until it is a total deal!. No trail, NO TRAIN

                • Chip Ordway says:

                  So eloquent. You’re a model member of the sledding community.

                • Larry Roth says:

                  No trail, no trains or rail bikes – and increasingly no snow. The tri-fecta of losing in the tri-lakes.

                  The dog in the manger attitude of the trail crowd is getting worse.

                  The 1996 plan is still the best option for everyone.

            • Chip Ordway says:

              “Alternative 7” is dead. Literally and legally dead. You’re gonna have to accept that.

              • ben says:

                Give it a few more years & the railroad will be dead too, if you CANNOT pay your bills on time. The State may just decide to pull the plug on you! Alternative 7 is not “legally dead” as you say, it’s just being adjusted to address the Judges issues. In my opinion the railroad should be “legally dead” until a final decision is made by the state on the entire trail issue. You should not continue to benefit while the trail community hangs in limbo!

                • James Falcsik says:

                  @Ben (AKA David)…”trail community hangs in limbo”…What drama there must be David, er “Ben”. The NYS DEC states the following about trails in the Adirondacks:

                  “The more than 2,300 miles of trails on the Adirondack Forest Preserve provide hikes of various distances, levels of challenge and types of scenery. All trails are available for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and some trails are available for biking or horseback riding.”

                  One railroad Ben. And you can still ride your sled regardless; unless the trees start growing up through the ties and then you will get your wish. Nobody will use it.

                  How is the state going to adjust for all those parcels of land that may be easements only? Perhaps they will raise your sled registration fees to buy them from the owners.

                  • Ben says:

                    If the tress start growing up, the clubs that maintain the trail will work with the DEC to cut them down. See the snowmobile community works with the state & the DEC to maintain their trails, while ASRs bilks the state out of the money! Kill the rails, build the trails!

                    • Larry Roth says:

                      Yeah – we all saw how well that snowmobile expertise copes with culverts and beavers. DEC didn’t exactly come out of that looking great either. The snowmobilers do a wonderful job cleaning up after themselves in the spring too.

  60. jack smith says:

    I believe that the majority of the people that come to Lake Placid, or Tupper are going to drive. People want the convenience of having their car when they arrive to travel around town and to nearby destination.

    I believe that one opportunity for the rail is to make available pedal cars that could carry people and their gear to a destination and be removed from the track so that hikers, fisherman, hunters and campers could leave Old Forge and stop and camp at any spot along the rail. And at the end of their stay they could hop back on the rail and head home. This would make many remote wilderness areas accessible to many people.

    Traffic could be controlled by one way directions by odd even days.

    I would definitely go on one of these trips, but not ride the train to get to Placid or Tupper.

    • SCOTT S THOMPSON says:

      This would be fun, but how much fun when you have to lift off 5 times……a mile to let riders play thru. Then the bike and snowmobile issue. We have seen new trail issues with wild scenic rivers, closed property, wilderness! This is a ready made solution that will never be a needed railroad again.

    • Larry Roth says:

      The majority of people that come to Lake Placid will drive – because they will have no other choice except to fly in if the tracks are pulled. This is about giving them a choice again.

      Mr. Thompson’s faith that the railroad will never be needed again is touching – but incorrect. The need is going to be imposed by circumstances he and New York State are both ignoring.

  61. Keith Gorgas says:

    While I’m a pretty strong supporter of restored rail service with a side by side ( where possible) recreational trail, I’m not a “railroader” or “rail hobbyist”. I do know the difference between a steam locomotive and a diesel, but that’s about as far as my knowledge goes.

    I do think the Adirondack Scenic Railroad has done a pretty poor job of selling itself to the public and presenting its vision for the future. ARTA has done a much better job of that, perhaps in part because the people who run the railroad have been engaged in doing just that.Their forte is keeping the trains rolling and marketing their product to people who want to use it, while the founders of ARTA include at least one professional public relations person, and another whose vast wealth has purchased him a lot of influence in both politics and the news industry.

    Support for the railroad comes from business people in Saranac Lake, and people involved in economics, historical preservation, and environmental organizations who understand that developing green transportation is essential to national survival., The Sierra Club, and Adirondack Wild have expressed their support for revived rail service. ANCA has. About 350 people, mostly local Saranac Lake folks, showed up on short notice for a rally to save the rails. The NY State Historic Preservation people have note the railroad as one of the most important historic assets to preserve in NY.

    I understand that some of the principals in the RR’s business are under a gag order and can not speak on the subject at present, but the ASR could do a much better job of presenting its case to new agencies and civic leaders. Obviously, some news outlets, particularly those who are beneficiaries of significant financial input from one of ARTA”s founders, have been frustratingly biased in their reporting of the issue.

    Still, the railroad, in my opinion, could do itself a great service by laying out its long term goals and the facts driving them in a way that the average Adirondacker could see the potential benefit to the communities of Northern NY. I think the railroad has relied too heavily on its supporters to make its case, and people have a right to expect it to make its own case.

  62. Dale Jeffers says:

    Is ORDA profitable and therefore sustainable?

  63. Leo Maloney says:

    Another impressive sounding, but in fact distorted picture of the potential of the railroad and its possible service to sportsmen. A typical meanie-greenie view. He ignores how few people would actually use a multi-million flat trail (these are rarely used now) and how to justify the expense so locals can walk their dogs! Tearing up the tracks and putting in this useless trail would send a clear signal that sportsmen and their money are NOT WELCOME in the Tri Lakes area.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Thanks for your opinion and assumptions…

      … fins on cars are making a comeback too… ?

    • Hope says:

      Well I spoke to several sportsman who can’t wait to ride the trail and already have their bikes outfitted to carry their equipment and trailer their radissons into remote ponds. Even bike manufactures are making camo colored bikes, and game trailers to tow behind their bikes. In the last 2 weeks I personally know 5 sportsmen who have purchased the new fat bikes specifically to ride into their hunting and fishing camps.
      Seriously I don’t know one hunter who’s looking for a train into the woods.

      • Larry Roth says:

        Nothing would stop them from doing any of that with rail with trail. In fact it might be even better if they could take the train with their gear to a drop off point closer to their ultimate destination. They could spend more time where they want to be and less time slogging back and forth. If they’d rather not ride the train, fine – but at least they’d have that choice.

        And who doesn’t like to have more choices? It’s a shame ARTA is so determined to limit everyone to their agenda. Rail with trail – everybody wins.

  64. James Bullard says:

    Not even one of the hunters I know has expressed any desire to ride their bike towing a canoe. They all prefer ATVs. Several people I know have ridden the train and/or rail bikes, enjoyed the experience and given the chance would do it again.

    I expect both your and my casual observations are equally meaningless taken in themselves. They simply reflect the circles we run in and both are too small a sample to be relevant.

    In the end, the option that gets the support of the court, the state and the majority of local businesses plus perhaps some investors is what will happen and the success of that option will depend heavily on how well it is marketed and promoted. Personally, I would enjoy the train but I have zero desire to ride my bike from Lake Placid to Remsen or even to Tupper Lake. I’m pretty sure that without marketing it will be an economic bust no matter what option prevails.

  65. James Bullard says:

    You miss my point. The group you know is still statistically irrelevant to the prospects of economic sustainability of the trail. 1) Not a big or diverse enough sample. 2) Since they are all older people their projected use of the trail is time limited. “Several” hunters over the age of sixty are not a basis for long-term planning as in the next 40-50 years or more.

    • Larry Roth says:

      Good point about the time frame – especially since the latest reports give us only 12 years to start turning things around before climate change really starts to hit home.

      We need to start reducing carbon emissions as much as possible ASAP – and investing in real Railroad upgrades with better track and equipment will be a big step in the right direction.

      Rail trails are not going to save the planet.

  66. Bruce Feld says:

    What a negative outlook Tony Goodwin presents. His vision is very short-sighted. There are examples of successful long run tourist trains all across the country and Canada. He is trying to promote his sky agenda and turn a blind eye to the blend of natural forest assets that couch the historic train line within them. Rails WITH trails can and should co-exist without the trail bullies trying to Elbo out those who love rail travel and history.

    • Boreas says:


      I don’t believe there is strong personal, public, or organized opposition to rail+trail. The opposition to rail+trail is primarily from the state and existing environmental and Forest Preserve law through the corridor. But if THIS administration can’t figure out a way to bypass existing environmental/Forest Preserve regulations to enable necessary side-by-side expansion through wetlands, I doubt any administration will. The issue isn’t going to be decided here, but rather in Albany.

      • Larry Roth says:

        Boreas, I believe you may be misstating the situation when you say the law is the barrier to rail + trail. The 1996 plan was tested in court; the state plan to throw it out failed on multiple grounds.

        Anyone looking at these comments can see there is a strong personal and organized opposition to rail + trail whereas the public favors it.

        But you are right about the problem being in Albany.

  67. ben says:

    If you believe the public favors it, put it on the ballot at the next election & see which way the wind blows! Till then no rails any further north.

  68. Eric Berger says:

    By his resume, it is clear Tony Goodwin has no experience with railroads or transportation. This entire article is full of surmise and speculation, with few facts to support his contentions. The truth is that recreational trails are nice for locals, but attract very few tourists, since there are similar trails popping up EVERYWHERE, in every state. What you would lose by converting this line to a trail are the thousands of tourists who come for the pure enjoyment of a train ride to a cool destination. I travel all over the country for such experiences, as do thousands of others. If a steam engine were operated on the line, it would attract international visitors as well as domestic. Last summer, I flew to L.A. for the purpose of taking a train from LA to Seattle, then flew home from Seattle. The only reason I was willing to get on a cramped, miserable airliner was to get to an enjoyable train ride up the coast. I’ve driven hundreds of miles by car, just to get to a long train ride through woodland scenery, and for no other reason. Tony Goodwin clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he makes some of the assertions in his opinion piece, and publishing such misleading falsities does a disservice to local residents pondering this issue without all the facts. While it is true that such a line might not be able to operate profitably, it is also true that it could. A trail will absolutely cost taxpayers money and can never make a profit, and the claim it would attract more visitors than a train is laughable.

  69. ben says:

    Simple truth is this: The STATE owns the land or almost all of the land the corridor sits on & is working to buy what ever it doesn’t own. The rail folks have pointed out they only get 30 day permits to operate. That ought to tell them right there the state doesn’t have a LONG TERM interest in their survival. The state rewrote the SLMP & is or will be getting it signed very soon. That will redefine what the travel corridor can be. The state intends to build a trail, either the rail folks can get on board with the state or at best they can try to hold onto what they get to use now. The snowmobile community has use of the corridor in the winter & THAT IS NOT going to change. It’s just a question of either removing the rails or not removing the rails. If we go back to the 1996 UMP, there is NO REASON to believe anything different will happen than what already happens now. The state doesn’t need to invest another dime into rehabbing the tracks, just cover them up. Will it cost more than tearing them up, who knows, but you take the argument about ripping the rails out away from the rail folks!

    • JohnL says:

      OMG. Did someone really open this can of worms again? WHY? Is this topic on some kind of 6 month recurring schedule? Again I ask…..WHY?

  70. Sean Kennedy says:

    Hi Mr. Goodwin,

    I recently read this article and used excerpts from it in a letter to the NY DEC in favor of a multi-use trail as opposed to the State’s plan to rehabilitate the rails from Big Moose to Tupper Lake. The projected cost of nearly 32 million dollars is a remarkable tax payer investment. If I were a DEC panel member charged with deciding the fate of the railroad be I would have found your article to be disturbing in the face of the ASR’s position. How was your position received our at the state level? Is the ASR’s political machine so strong that it’s goals are realized in spite of what appears to be a cleat loser to all but a select few? As a member of the NY snowmobile community, the C7 corridor promises to be a profound connecting trail that would allow season wide access to trail systems to our north, something you are already well aware of. Have you insights on how better to challenge the DEC and the ASR? I have to believe the hiking, biking and snowmobile communities outnumber the ASR and their supporters.

    • Keith Gorgas says:

      Hi Sean, I’m curious why you have to believe that hiking, biking, and snowmobile communities outnumber supporters of restored rail service with a side by side recreational trail in the ROW? A rail supporter filed a FOIL request with the State to get statistics on how public comment ran a few years ago. It was about 70,000 in favor of restored rail with accompanying trail, as per the 1996 UMP, compared to 15,000 in favor of ripping up the rails to have only a recreational trail. By the way, you don’t have to accept this, but according my own calculations ( I’ve worked in trail building, studied Civil Engineering, attended the US Navy Seabees road building school, and ran a profitable general contracting business for 27 years before I became disabled) I believe the final cost to NY Taxpayers of ripping up the rails and building a 10ft wide stone dust trail from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake will wind up around $40 million.