The Adirondack Scenic Railroad will mark their 20th anniversary during this first weekend in September, 2012. In celebrating the occasion, Thendara Station will host a massive railfan event on Saturday, September 1st and Sunday, September 2nd starting at 11am daily.
The two day, family friendly celebration will have over half a dozen locomotives from companies such as EMD and ALCO, private rail cars, snow plows, classic freight cars and other railroad maintenance equipment. Guests are welcome to tour the cars and locomotives, sit at the controls and even try their hand at operating the locomotive simulator. Caboose hops will be available throughout the day featuring New York Central’s 705 and a historic caboose from the Boston & Maine Railroad. » Continue Reading.
For more than 125 years, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the largest producer of printed topographic maps, has portrayed the complex geography of the nation. Prior to 2009, USGS topographic maps were created using traditional cartographic methods and printed using the lithographic printing process.
Now the USGS National Geospatial Program is nearing completion of the conversion of these these historical printed topographic quadrangles to an electronic format (GeoPDF). The scanning and processing effort serves the dual purpose of creating a master catalog and digital archive copies of the irreplaceable collection of topographic maps in the USGS Reston Map Library, as well as making the maps available for viewing and download online. » Continue Reading.
Many famous ships can be linked in one way or another to Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain in northern Clinton County. There was the Philadelphia under Benedict Arnold’s command in the Battle of Valcour, and the Saratoga under Thomas Macdonough, hero of the Battle of Plattsburgh. There were steamers, like the Vermont, the Chateaugay, and the Ticonderoga. And as noted here in the past, Plattsburgh also owns an unusual link to the largest seagoing vessel of its time, the Titanic.
But there is yet another tied not only to Plattsburgh, but to the entire Champlain Valley, and from Whitehall to Albany as well. And like the Titanic, its name became synonymous with disaster. » Continue Reading.
ADK Action will hold an information session and discussion from 5 to 7:30 p.m. this Thursday, July 12 at the Old Forge Library, 220 Crosby Blvd. ADK Action was founded in the Tri-Lakes area as a non-partisan organization in 2007. Membership is open to both seasonal and full-time Adirondack residents.
“The issues we tackle are politically neutral, but we believe they are of great importance to the future of the Adirondacks,” said Dave Wolff, the organization’s chair. “Some are economic, such as consistent property assessments, universal access to high-speed broadband, and more shared services among the many government jurisdictions of the Park. Some are environmental, such as water quality and salt pollution. We try to focus our limited resources where we can make a difference and, most importantly, we try to take action and make things happen.” » Continue Reading.
Charlotte Smith of St. Lawrence County was a women’s rights activist with few equals. From the 1870s through the turn of the century, she was among the most famous and visible women in America, battling endlessly for anything and everything that might improve the status of women. No matter what the issue―unemployment, unfair treatment in hiring, deadbeat dads, the plight of single mothers―Charlotte was on the front lines, fearlessly facing down politicians at all levels.
In the 1890s, she also staked out some positions that appeared difficult to defend, but Smith’s single-mindedness gave her the impetus to continue. The bane of women in America held her attention for years, but in modern times, it’s unlikely that any of us would guess its identity based on Charlotte’s description. » Continue Reading.
A June 14 decision by the federal Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) Director of Proceedings awarding common carrier status to the Saratoga and North Creek Railway (SNCR), owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings, for freight operations on the 30-mile Tahawus industrial rail spur was appealed June 25 to the full Board by Charles C. Morrison, Project Coordinator for the Adirondack Committee, Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club and Samuel H. Sage, President and Senior Scientist of the Atlantic States Legal Foundation (ASLF). » Continue Reading.
News comes this week that the Saratoga & North Creek Railroad (Iowa Pacific Holdings) has gotten federal go-ahead to extend commercial rail uses to and from the former mine at Tahawus, Newcomb. I extend the company and the towns through which the spur line passes a thumbs-up and good luck, not just for its rail rehabilitation and future commercial success, but for its educational success.
That said, the State of New York, by failing to hold public hearings to share information and hear opinion about the complicated issues behind re-extending the line from North Creek to Newcomb, failed its responsibilities for the Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest analysis by Billy Martin, a senior at Paul Smith’s College in the Natural Resource Management and Policy program who is interested in the economic and environmental sustainability of the Adirondack Park.
Adirondack history has been shaped by contention over how to manage the region’s resources. Maintaining this historical trend, contention over the use of a state-owned rail corridor between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake has led to another divide among residents. The Adirondack Recreational Trails Advocacy (ARTA) and the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) represent opposing poles on the issue, each with seemingly equal support from residents of the Tri-Lakes Region. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest commentary by John Danis of the organization YESeleven, a grass roots citizens group in favor of upgrading Route 11 to rural expressway standards as set forth in the 2002 “Northern Tier Transportation Study” and opposed to the “I-98” (Rooftop Highway) project. Copies of the 2002 and 2008 transportation studies are available at their website.
“I-98”. There is no plan, no route, no funding. According to Wikipedia there is no federal designation of it as a current or future interstate highway project. The name, ‘I-98’ is fiction except in the minds of its proponents who created it as an advertising and promotion gimmick. Yet, here we go again with the “I-98” crowd doubling down on yet another propaganda campaign of resolutions from towns and villages in St. Lawrence County to once again try to create the illusion that everyone is in favor of this really bad idea. » Continue Reading.
The Annual SNIRT (Snow/Dirt) ATV Rally will be held as planned on Saturday in Lewis County, despite efforts by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Council to rein in the event’s widely publicized excesses.
In a letter to Lewis County Board of Legislators, the Adirondack Council protested their refusal to conduct an environmental review before the event and the opening of roads leading into the the Southwest part of the Adirondack Park in Lewis County (the Eastern side of the Tug Hill Plateau) to ATVs. “The Adirondack Council reiterates that it does not wish for the SNIRT Run to come to an end,” the Council’s letter also says. “However, unless Lewis County officials make a serious effort to mitigate the event’s extreme environmental impacts, and to crack down on the illegal activity, we will be forced to consider legal action. You may recall that the Council recently won a lawsuit against Lewis County for its failure to complete a formal environmental review for ATV trails on county-owned land.” » Continue Reading.
I enjoy all kinds of stories, and true “Oops!” moments are among them. Like the time my dad, always a do-it-yourselfer (and a good one), was working on the house, and with hammer in hand, instinctively tried to shoo away a nuisance bee. An empty hand would have worked much better. Or when a friend of mine, a nice guy who didn’t always think things through, made the surprise announcement that he had bought a jeep from a buddy. I knew he couldn’t afford it, but he loved the open-air concept of the Wrangler.
As it turned out, during the tryout phase, he decided to cut some old trees for firewood, and yes, he managed to drop a tree on the jeep. You break it, you bought it. I’ve collected a few North Country Oops! stories over the years. Here are some involving dynamite, leaving behind few injuries, but plenty of red faces.
In 1911, during construction of the Morristown Road in St. Lawrence County, workmen accidentally disrupted Ogdensburg’s phone service, which was handled by eighteen pairs of wires. As the unexpected consequence of a blast, only one pair of wires remained intact.
Dynamite was a tool of the trade for construction workers and farmers (stump removal was a common usage). After a day’s work in February 1923, Patrick Dalton and Harley Plumley of Hampton (near Whitehall) tossed some newspapers into the stove to build a fire. Moments later, Dalton had a compound leg fracture and Plumley was badly cut, courtesy of shrapnel from the shattered stove. They had forgotten that the newspapers contained dynamite.
In 1929, a Canton motorist was halted by a man who came to the sudden realization that danger was at hand. While excavating to install a gas tank, rock was encountered, and dynamite was the routine method of removal. Apparently it was not so routine to notify the public.
As the car stopped before his raised hand, an explosion sent debris flying skyward. Dirt and stones rained down on the vehicle, punctuated by the resounding crash of a large rock planting itself in the car’s hood. The company agreed to pay for repairs.
In 1929, another North Country road gang was embarrassed, but to a far greater extent than the Morristown crew. Work was being done on the “Pok-O-Moonshine Road” in Essex County, the main connector between Montreal and New York City. The lines of communications, owned by AT&T, followed the same path as the highway. An errant dynamite blast disabled the entire system.
One of the region’s largest explosions occurred in Lyon Mountain in late 1883 (reported in one of my earlier books, Lyon Mountain: The Tragedy of a Mining Town). Even at that early stage, the iron mines used more than 300 pounds of dynamite per day. For safety, it was kept frozen. Each day, a new supply was thawed in the powderhouse and prepared for use.
On that particular morning, catastrophe struck when the bottom of the stove fell out and live embers scattered around the room, igniting some fuses. The attendant, realizing an explosion was imminent, managed to run outside, where he was thrown to the ground by the tremendous concussion that followed.
As described in local newspapers, it “shook the whole mountainside, swaying the houses to and fro, throwing open doors, rattling dishes, and producing all the other effects of a first-class earthquake. At Upper Chateaugay Lake, four miles distant, the effect was equally great, dishes being actually shaken from the shelves in some of the residences.”
Near the (former) powderhouse, there was heavy damage to the huge train trestle, rail cars, several buildings, and mining equipment. Dozens of windows were blown out as well. The ignition of 350 pounds of dynamite scattered heavy debris for a great distance and left nothing but a crater where the powderhouse once stood. Incredibly, none of the men working nearby were injured.
As I said in the book, it was a big year for the mines, and “1883 in Lyon Mountain ended with a bang.”
Photo: 1899 Advertisement for dynamite in the Plattsburgh Sentinel.
Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 20 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
New York State keeps detailed motor vehicle accident statistics, compiling them year-to-year and county-by-county. Those data as well as the aggregate state figures compiled since 2001 are available online at safeNY.gov. The standards for data collecting and reporting have remained consistent since 2003, the year New York lowered the blood alcohol content standard for drunk driving, and the year the Glens Falls Post-Star initiated its policy on publishing names of teenagers busted for drinking. Data in the following comparison are derived from police-reported accidents—collisions resulting in fatalities, personal injury or property damage. These records are more uniform within each region and over time than DWI ticketing, for example (another standard measure), which varies regionally and seasonally, skewed by periodic local crack-downs, check points, etc.
To get a sense of how the Glens Falls region’s statistics for underage drivers involved in alcohol-related accidents stacked up against the average statistics across New York, we set the number of alcohol-related-accident drivers aged twenty and younger both regionally and statewide against the number of alcohol-related-accident drivers from all age groups and compared the resulting percentages. A consistent drop in the regional percentage against the statewide percentage would suggest that the campaign was influencing underage drinking trends favorably.
The Results While eight years of data form no solid basis for statistical analysis, the regional numbers—despite countervailing swings in the middle years of the range—seem to track overall with the statewide norms (even to the point of convergence with state figures in 2009 and 2010, the most recent years evaluated). While this may not be enough of a statistical sample to determine failure of the Post-Star’s policy and overall campaign, there is nothing here to encourage their advocates, either.
Not surprisingly Post-Star editors have not brought statistical analysis to bear on their policy of shaming teenage drinkers. Nor have they cited the statistics in their periodic recommitment to the campaign. If anything they seem to be spurred onward by their own often overheated editorial rhetoric on the subject: “Underage drinking is dangerous and if you don’t believe me, I will show you the headstones.”
Ken Tingley publicly declared his own immeasurable standard for continuing the crusade:
“If there is one young person who learns the lesson, if there is one young person who gets grounded for life for embarrassing their parents, if there is one young person who pauses to consider whether to accept a beer at the next party because they don’t want to see their name in the newspaper, then it is worth it.”
There is little doubt, given the power and range of the Post-Star’s editorial voice, that the shaming policy and Mr. Tingley’s angry bluster have successfully reached any number of kids (and/or their parents). On the same token, given the contrary nature of so many adolescents, can anyone doubt that as many kids may have reacted (sadly) predictably to Mr. Tingley’s bullying and ignored the grim statistics, or worse, headed defiantly in the opposite direction?
The lack of movement of the underage drunk driving numbers against the backdrop of statewide figures suggests, at the very least, that some neutralizing backlash may be at work here.
The Broader Picture One of the more troubling aspects of the Post-Star policy is its selective and asymmetric targeting of underage drinkers for the sake of reducing the deaths of young people in motor vehicle accidents.
In 2010 alcohol was the primary cause of 30.5% of all motor vehicle fatalities throughout all upstate counties across all age groups. Speed, by comparison, was the primary cause of 29.2%. The statistics in the three counties served by the Post-Star were quite different: In Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties alcohol was responsible for 20.6% of motor vehicle fatalities, claiming seven lives, while speeding was responsible for 35.3% of motor vehicle fatalities claiming twelve lives. Moreover, in 2010 speed caused 439 injuries across the three counties (31.9%), while alcohol caused only 174 (11.3%).
When you add to that the fact that teenagers are far less likely to drive drunk (accounting for 9.3% of all drivers in alcohol-related accidents statewide) and far more likely to speed (accounting for 22% of all speeding-caused accidents statewide), the math becomes clear: speeding—and not drinking—is by far the deadliest behavior by drivers young and old on our roadways. It comes as no surprise that the Post-Star is devoting none of its diminishing resources to publishing the names of speeders in an effort to embarrass them and their families in a misguided effort—no matter how well-intentioned—to alter their behavior.
Two final thoughts on this subject This challenge to (and argument against) the Post-Star’s policy of publishing names of teenagers fined for drinking should not be interpreted in any way as condoning the behavior. While it may be a rite of passage—as even Ken Tingley concedes—it remains reckless as it ever was. When combined with driving it has abundant potential to be life-destroying. The sole concern of this post is that the approach undertaken nine years ago by the editor of the Post-Star to combat the issue may simply have made matters worse.
The Post-Star is in many respects a fine newspaper. It is, to be sure, a troubled newspaper belonging to a troubled corporation in a troubled industry in a weak economy. The last thing the editors and publisher of the paper should be doing at this stage is alienating its future readers and subscribers in a way that from any angle looks like a double standard. The Post-Star needs to descend from the bully pulpit and get back to its number one responsibility to the community: reporting news.
Ken Tingley is back in his bully pulpit. Two Sundays ago in his weekly column, the Editor of the Post-Star defended his newspaper’s policy of publishing the names of teenagers ticketed for violating underage drinking laws. In blunt and patronizing language, the crusading editor took on a recent South Glens Falls High graduate who had dared to leave a comment on the Post-Star‘s Facebook page objecting to the policy:
Mr. Mumblo was probably playing video games and reading comics when we reported the death of 17-year-old Jason Daniels in Warrensburg on May 18, 2003, and four months later, the death of 19-year-old Adam Baker, also in Warrensburg. The policy was best described in a harsh editorial that ran on June 12, 2011, nearly eight years into the campaign:
Underage drinkers get their names in the paper. We publish the names of all kids arrested for consuming alcohol. We hope the embarrassment factor helps serve as a deterrent to parents and their kids. Not only does the kid’s name go in the paper, it goes on our website. And the Internet is permanent. So whatever they get caught doing today will follow them the rest of their lives.
From this it is hard to tell if the editorial board is angrier at the kids or their parents. The editorial proceeds to insult the children it hopes to protect:
Kids fib… Kids are lightweights… Kids are reckless… Kids are terrible drivers.
The final line of the editorial—A dead child is gone forever—reveals that the true target of the editorial (and the policy for that matter) is the parents; the humiliation of the children is merely a baseball bat to the gut to get their parents to pay closer attention.
Some History On June 15, 2003, as New York State prepared to drop the DWI blood alcohol content standard from .1 to .08 percent, and after a succession of fatal underage drunk driving accidents in the region surrounding Glens Falls, Ken Tingley wrote a column outlining the Post-Star‘s policy on reporting crimes:
Here is what are (sic) policies are now:
• We don’t use the name of the child under age 16 charged with any offense – even if it is a felony – but we include the age, sex and town of residence. One exception: We will publish the name of any minor who is being prosecuted as an adult.
• We don’t use the name of the child age 16, 17 and 18 if they are only charged with misdemeanors or violations, but we include their age, sex and town of residence.
• We do use the name of minors age 16, 17 and 18 if they are charged with felonies.
• We do use the name of anyone 19 or older charged with any offense if the crime is deemed newsworthy because of unusual or interesting circumstances.
• We’ve also left it up to the discretion of the editor to print the name of a minor if major crimes or unusual circumstances are involved.
The column concluded with hints of transition:
With the recent debate over underage drinking in our communities, we debated recently whether it might do some good to start listing the names of teens arrested for underage drinking. We currently do not print those names unless there is a felony charge.One of our editors suggested that we should print the name of all teens arrested, that the embarrassment of arrest might be an appropriate deterrent for a young person, that it might even bring a weightier meaning to some parents who don’t seem to take the issue that seriously.It is something we will probably be looking at in the future.
The future arrived less than five weeks later when the Post-Star published the names and ages of six minors from Corinth who were charged with “the noncriminal violation of possession of alcohol by someone under 21.” The policy has remained in effect ever since.
According to data compiled by New York State, in 2003 the number of underage drivers involved in alcohol-related accidents in Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties stood at 19. The number rose to 25 the following year and dropped to 17 in 2004. In both 2005 and 2006 the number of underage drunk drivers involved in accidents shot up to 42 and has been declining steadily toward the 2004 level since. 2010 is the latest year for which the state has compiled statistics.
In June 2008 after another cluster of alcohol-related traffic fatalities involving minors, the Post-Star ran an exasperated editorial under the headline “Message is not getting through.” It began:
We give up.
No one seems to be listening anyway.
Sanctimonious and preachy? Out of touch with reality? OK, we concede. You’re right. Underage drinking is a rite of passage. A tradition. We all did it as kids. There’s nothing that can be done to stop it. Kids are gonna do what kids are gonna do.So have it your way.
Naturally, the editorial does not give up and charges once more unto the breach to deliver the message. It ends with a poignant appeal to the reader not to let the newspaper abandon the crusade.
By this point, nearly five years along, the policy of outing teenagers charged with non-criminal alcohol violations —despite the absence of any evidence that it was doing any good— was so conflated with the broader cause of stopping underage DWI as to be inseparable. For all practical purposes, under guard of the sharp hyperbole of the Post-Star’s editorial position, unquestionable.
Local historian Milda Burns, popular for costumed presentations stuffed with intriguing and often amusing details, will launch the John Thurman Historical Society’s 2012 speaker series with her program “Old Ski Train to North Creek.”
Burns, who grew up in North River the daughter of Finch Pruyn’s River Superintendent Jack Donohue, remembers well the D & H trains of the 1930s which brought weekend skiers to North Creek Depot. From there local families picked them up and shuttled them to boarding houses and homes with spare rooms, and ferried them to the new Ski Bowl for the novel “ride up, slide down” experience. By one estimate, sometimes there were almost as many skiers as there were residents in the whole town. This past winter Burns was on hand to greet passengers riding the inaugural run of the new ski train operated by Saratoga and North Creek Railway.
The public is invited to attend this free program 7 pm, Tuesday, April 3rd at the Thurman Town Hall; refreshments will be served.
For more information, call Joan Harris, 623-2007. Thurman Town Hall is located at 311 Athol Road, Athol, just six miles from the Warrensburg Health Center via NYS route 418 and Athol Road.
On a recent drive in Clinton County, I was reminded of a story told to me by my grandfather, James Lagree. Jim was a Churubusco farmer, but he also worked other jobs, including road construction. We both loved fishing, and in my pre-teen years, he took me to all his secret places, including Bradley Pond near Lyon Mountain. As it turned out, he had worked on construction of the Bradley Pond Road.
The conversation that day drifted to other roads, and that’s when he told me the story of a truck losing its brakes on Dannemora Mountain. It was hilarious the way he told it (he was great with jokes and embellishments), but I recently learned just how true the story was. If you’ve ever driven east over the mountain, you’re familiar with one of the steepest roads and most dramatic speed changes in the Adirondacks. For the sake of all the strictly law-abiding drivers out there, yes, the change is technically no different from many others: a main highway (in this case, Rt. 374) enters a village, where the speed limit drops immediately to 30 mph.
But the difference is this: after a couple of curves during the brisk, mile-and-a-half descent, a final, steep, straight incline ends abruptly at the village limits. The road suddenly flattens, and perhaps not everyone has decelerated to 30 mph by that point. Add snow or ice, and you’ve got hellish road conditions.
But weather wasn’t a factor in two of the most famous incidents linked to that section of highway. One of them occurred in September 1930, when nationally renowned driver Ralph Hepburn visited the region.
Inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998, Hepburn won motorcycling championships and set records during a superb career, and then turned to automobiles. Many more records fell to his skills, and fifteen times he competed in the Indianapolis 500, never winning, but finishing second twice.
As the automobile industry flourished, racing champions were hired to promote and demonstrate the capabilities of different brands. Hepburn was employed by Studebaker in that capacity, and while touring New York State in 1930, he briefly set up headquarters at the dealership in Plattsburgh.
His highest-profile publicity stunt locally was a speedy climb up Dannemora Mountain, accompanied by two newspapermen. Despite the curves, he reached the summit while maintaining the astonishing speed of 50 mph. That was more than eighty years ago, when cars were in their infancy, and I can guarantee, I’ve been stuck going up that grade behind cars that were going much slower.
And consider this: when Hepburn did it, the road surface was composed of dirt and gravel, hardly conducive to high speeds and good traction.
Hepburn made a second run that day, carrying six passengers (some of them on the running boards, which must have been quite the rush). Carrying nearly 1300 pounds, the Studebaker crested the mountain at 41 mph. It was typical of Hepburn’s flare for the dramatic.
After the Dannemora exhibition, he continued promoting and racing for many years. Hepburn died doing what he loved (he was killed during qualifying practice for the 1948 Indy 500, a race he is famed for having led in three different decades―1925, 1937, and 1946).
The second famous incident on that notorious section of Dannemora highway occurred in October 1939. It began when a produce truck, driven by William Coryea of Malone, suffered brake failure while heading down the mountain. The road had been rebuilt with concrete several years earlier, which meant better tire grip and a smoother ride. To a freewheeling vehicle without brakes, it also meant greater velocity.
When Coryea reached the base of the mountain road, his speed was estimated at 60 mph. With the weight of 150 bushels of carrots on board, the truck was sure to coast for some distance. Stopping it would not be easy.
Racing through the village could have been disastrous, and Coryea had little time to think. After about three-tenths of a mile, near the gates of Dannemora Prison, he solidly sideswiped a moving car, and then another, sending carrots flying into the streets.
But the truck slowed only a little, and people were in danger. Coryea then hit a bread truck and two more parked cars. Bread products and carrots scattered everywhere while vehicles bounced aside, but still the truck kept rolling.
Finally, it slowed enough for Coryea to whip sharply onto a side street, where he drove the truck into a brick wall at the back of Lafountain’s store. The reason, as he later told police, was to avoid hitting any more vehicles. It’s amazing that through it all, there were no injuries.
I don’t know if my grandfather actually witnessed the aftermath, and although he was quite the storyteller, it doesn’t seem like he embellished it much after all. The crushed cars, with food scattered everywhere, and nobody hurt, were actually elements of the true story. Unlike many other Dannemora accidents on that stretch of highway, it thankfully lacked tragedy, and has been looked back upon with at least some amusement.
Photos: Ralph Hepburn (courtesy wikipedia); the maps shows Rt. 374 entering at the upper right and plunging into the village on the far left. Clinton Prison is at the bottom left.
Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
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