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Old 02-23-2013, 08:29 AM   #1
Uncle Alvah
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Adirondack Railroad

First, let me say that I am not looking to cause any arguing here, I'm just asking for information!
It's difficult to keep current with events in the Adirondacks from way down here, and, now that I'm on this forum, I'm soliciting for a "nutshell" synopsis of what is going on with the Adirondack Railroad as regards extending regular service north beyond Big Moose station. Apparently there are folks all in favor of this, and another group who want the rails removed to facilitate hiking and biking along that corridor.

Is that correct, or anything near correct?
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Old 02-23-2013, 09:02 AM   #2
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Yes Some want a scenic railroad while others want to make the rail bed an all season trail. Lots of lies from both sides. Kind of funny in a way.
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Old 02-23-2013, 09:18 AM   #3
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Thanks!
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Old 02-23-2013, 02:03 PM   #4
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Actually the rail removal folks are advocating for a multi-use trail which is a euphemism for a snowmobile trail. Of course it could be used for hiking and bicycling.
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Old 03-16-2013, 11:20 PM   #5
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Its used as an snowmobile trail now.
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Old 03-18-2013, 11:01 AM   #6
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it could be used for hiking and bicycling.
There is an old "reclaimed" railbed down here that I hiked a couple times, but its "boring" as can be. Too flat and, obviously not laid out for sights or to visit ponds or anything. Two-three times on it was all I could take. I'll take a "dedicated" hiking trail anyday, personally.
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Old 07-10-2014, 06:23 PM   #7
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Here's the latest development on this saga. The Thendara>Tupper segment for rail and the Tupper>Placid segment for cycling is a brand new idea introduced into the mix.
http://www.adirondackalmanack.com/20...pper-lake.html
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Old 07-10-2014, 07:52 PM   #8
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I recall reading somewhere that often when rail lines were put in, it required the use of eminent domain or some other legal hurdle. Not that the actual legal principle involved is important (or maybe it is), but in some cases the easement/takeover for use by the State specifically for use as a rail. If the lines are removed, I read, in some cases depending on the deed, etc... the land would revert back to the original owners. I am sure all the legal eagles have looked into this. Could one imagine the clusterf___ if they removed the rail lines and then the property owners barred public use (which would be their right if the land in question actually did revert back.)
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Old 07-11-2014, 10:25 AM   #9
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The line is currently used as a snowmobile trail but the ridable season would be extended if the rails weren't there. Any objects under snow encourage melt, metal rails especially, so the tracks need quite a bit more snowpack before they can be safely groomed and ridden. And if you've ever hit a switch when there's marginal snow cover...

Not only are there all kinds of deed issues, but in some cases where the RR made cuts and fills these must be reverted back to original contours. Not sure if that would be the case here, but there's a lot that goes into conversion, it's not just "rip up the tracks and lay down crushed stone". I found this document enlightening if you want to know about common hurdles and strategies of rail to trail advocates -- it's actually from the R2T side so it's not likely the problems are exaggerated.

In answer to the OP: there is merit and obfuscation on both sides. There have been many other rail to trail projects across the country, and at least some can legitimately be called successes. However, I'm not aware of any that are remotely comparable because of the unique nature of land management and community structure in the Adirondacks -- if anyone else does, I'd love to look into it.
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Old 05-31-2015, 06:31 AM   #10
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I can't speak for the entire section of rail between Thendara and Tupper Lake, but the rail north of Horseshoe Pond is in deplorable condition and I can't fathom how much money it would take to put it in a condition to handle rail cars once again. A high proportion of the ties are rotted to the point that the spikes can be lifted out by hand and many of the metal supports that the rail sits on aren't even touching the rail and/or have missing spikes. Considering the use it would get if rail service was restored, I believe the cost/benefit ratio would be deplorable. I surely don't want any of my tax dollars poured into restoring rail service. That being said, I don't want to see it turned into a foot trail either, for selfish reasons having to do with some property interests near the tracks.
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Old 05-31-2015, 02:46 PM   #11
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I can't speak for the entire section of rail between Thendara and Tupper Lake, but the rail north of Horseshoe Pond is in deplorable condition and I can't fathom how much money it would take to put it in a condition to handle rail cars once again. A high proportion of the ties are rotted to the point that the spikes can be lifted out by hand and many of the metal supports that the rail sits on aren't even touching the rail and/or have missing spikes.
That's been my experience as well, even south of Horseshoe. This photo is from just south of Hitchins Pond. The light colored ties with metal on the ends look like relatively recent replacements, and the rest are basically doing nothing. It would cost a fortune just to get the track up to the condition where it could handle trains going 30mph, and then who wants to spend 6 hours going from Utica to Lake Placid except as a one-time novelty trip just to see it?

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Old 05-31-2015, 11:22 PM   #12
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What a great trail for ATV's!
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Old 06-03-2015, 10:32 PM   #13
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Yep, the ties cost a pretty penny to replace, to keep the line passable they space them out. The volunteers work very hard to complete the work, when money comes in, they buy as many ties as they can and run them in, later they will add more, they have rules figured out as to how far apart and how fast/heavy they can travel. THey are using the income from the areas that are currently being supported by passengers to fund it and the renovation of the cars and engines you see parked at Thendara and other places.

I've been along the length from Thendara to Lila, it wasn't a pretty stretch except for a very few spaced "windows". It follows a flat grade and avoids anything too interesting, mostly low-lying forest that you can't see father then 50 yards on either side. Frankly, as a road, it would invite the wrong sort of users IMHO. At Nehasane station we removed 4 large garbage bags of recent beer cans… apparently the snowmobilers found them too heavy, after they emptied them , to go to the trouble of taking them back out. THis is the sort of people they try and discourage by making significant length trails to water edge from parking lots. The longer the trail, the less riff raff.

Once the trains are gone, so will the bridges. They will simply cost way too much and present way too dangerous an obstacle and invite lawsuits. They will degrade all by themselves, or wash out. etc. Also the funding for the trail is figured from the rails being scraped for $$$, however I believe they are still the property of the railroad- why would't they want the cash of steel they own? YOu tax dollars will go to upkeep a boring road nobody will ever re-visit. I can think of a million more interesting places to hike/bike or snowmobile.

I think an expanded use of the trains is much more interesting, where they drop people off and they paddle, peddle or hike back on much more interesting routes.… or visa versa, they hike paddle or peddle out, and get picked up. Or supplies dropped off, etc. etc. People who are disabled can get out there or too old.

Same thing was touted for the Erie (barge) Canal, "tourists will boat they said!" People I know who have gone there talk about a deep green hallway where you can't see out above the 20' banks, they never go back- its a big long bore that costs a fortune in gas to get anywhere. ANY lake is more interesting Go though a lock once and it looses its appeal. It is much the same basic situation for the railroad, a little better perhaps. It isn't any inter-contenential railroad like the one that goes through Canada, or the orient express.

Finally, the reason it should very carefully considered is that once the railroad is gone, it's gone. I think there is plenty of opportunities for hiking trails and bike trails and roads through the park that this one narrow ribbon should be carefully conserved as a railroad for what a railroad can uniquely offer. DIrect your energy and attention elsewhere.. there are 100's of trails and bridges and lean-tos to repair in places that are 1000 percent prettier!
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Old 06-11-2015, 04:42 PM   #14
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http://nynow.org/post/dec-and-dot-pr...l-trail-debate
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Old 06-12-2015, 08:37 AM   #15
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Times-Union Article

http://www.timesunion.com/news/artic...in-6322649.php

I believe the article has a link to the DEC plan.
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Old 06-12-2015, 08:38 AM   #16
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That seems kind of odd (unless the tracks from Tupper to Saranac are that much worse than the rest) since the Saranac-Placid section is already in use.
Also - if they were going to run all the way from Utica up, it would seem that Lake Placid (and even Saranac) would be as much, or more, popular destinations than Tupper Lake?
Or one could see all three being combined into a longer trip (ie. travel Utica to LP, then back in pieces stopping at the other towns for a day or two to access their attractions).
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Old 06-15-2015, 12:40 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Uncle Alvah View Post
First, let me say that I am not looking to cause any arguing here, I'm just asking for information!
It's difficult to keep current with events in the Adirondacks from way down here, and, now that I'm on this forum, I'm soliciting for a "nutshell" synopsis of what is going on with the Adirondack Railroad as regards extending regular service north beyond Big Moose station. Apparently there are folks all in favor of this, and another group who want the rails removed to facilitate hiking and biking along that corridor.

Is that correct, or anything near correct?
Are we discussing the Adirondack SCENIC Railroad, that runs from SLK to LP? Are they one in the same?
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Old 06-16-2015, 10:30 AM   #18
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Are we discussing the Adirondack SCENIC Railroad, that runs from SLK to LP? Are they one in the same?
Yes, that's just a part of it. They also run trains out around Old Forge, and then there is a large section of track in between that is barely useable (they do take the trains over it 2x/year to get to/from the Saranac Lake/LP section, but without passengers and very slowly), which is what they are looking at restoring vs. making trails from.
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Old 06-17-2015, 12:23 PM   #19
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The tracks between Big Moose and Saranac Lake are in deplorable condition and it would take a lot of money to bring them up to a standard good enough to support revenue traffic. The tracks between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid are in good repair and see revenue service in season. The reason to tear up the tracks has been articulated by the town leadership, especially in North Elba, as economic: the right-of-way is owned by the public, but has fallen far short of providing any revenue to the towns through which it passes. The argument has been crafted in such a way that there has been a pie-in-the-sky belief developed in the money which will be generated by hordes of cyclists, hikers, and snowmobilers who will use the recreational trail created by the converted road bed. Hikers and bikers, of course, are not noted to be big spenders and basing revenue projections on people in this category is tenuous. The fact remains, however, that the train ridership between Placid and Saranac Lake does not significantly benefit the towns, in part because there is little “dwell time” in the communities for the train riders. The proposal offered is a clear political gesture: pacify the “bookend towns” of Placid and Saranac Lake by encouraging the removal of the rails all of the way to Tupper, ensuring that service will permanently end and that construction of a multi-use trail can be facilitated.
Retaining the Utica to Big Moose portion, on the other hand, has a demonstrated benefit to Old Forge, and fixing the stretch to Tupper has a high potential for economic viability to the towns, I believe. Savvy marketing by Adirondack Scenic could encourage an overnight trip all of the way to Tupper, with bus service from the Depot to the Wild Center. Motel “packages” could be developed, all to the benefit of the town. Currently, the lake cruises on Fourth Lake and on Raquette Lake could be integrated into a Utica-based excursion. The biggest obstacle is ridership: few people do repeat trips, and short hops are best for young families. Longer trips are better-suited for the retirees who ply the Thruway into the Adirondacks from Ohio, Indiana, and other mid-distance locations. They are also the group which thrives on tourist railroads. Similar possibilities also exist for Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, but can never happen if the rails are torn up north of Tupper.
But, to please the short-sighted, the bicyclists and hikers who buy Power Bars will be encouraged to pump countless dollars into convenience stores between Tupper and Placid. For me, I would prefer to take my Hornbeck on the train and launch on the Bog River, or Clear Pond, or Lake Lila, or Beaver River… …
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Old 06-18-2015, 01:44 AM   #20
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The argument has been crafted in such a way that there has been a pie-in-the-sky belief developed in the money which will be generated by hordes of cyclists, hikers, and snowmobilers who will use the recreational trail created by the converted road bed. Hikers and bikers, of course, are not noted to be big spenders and basing revenue projections on people in this category is tenuous. ... But, to please the short-sighted, the bicyclists and hikers who buy Power Bars will be encouraged to pump countless dollars into convenience stores between Tupper and Placid. For me, I would prefer to take my Hornbeck on the train and launch on the Bog River, or Clear Pond, or Lake Lila, or Beaver River…
I agree that the user projections for the rail trail seem pretty optimistic. But the rail trail demographic is quite different from the average backpacker. A hiker may well drive straight to and from the trailhead with maybe a stop at a restaurant (or Stewarts) on the way home. I've certainly done a trip like that many times. On the other hand, a rail trail user is more likely to be a family who will be staying at a hotel in town, eating at restaurants, stopping for ice cream... In short, money-spending tourists.

Hard core cyclists (the type who buy energy bars) aren't all that interested in a rail trail because they're either mountain bikers who want singletrack, or road cyclists who want, well, roads.

I am a bit confused by why you're denigrating cyclists as non-spenders though. Have you spent any time in Placid in the summer and seen the number of cyclists in the area, especially out along the Ironman course and on River Rd? I'd bet all my money they're not all hiking in to state land at the end of their ride for free camping, or cooking pasta they brought from home. These are people riding bikes costing a couple thousand dollars, they're usually not accused of being cheap. The Lake Placid Pub sells a cycling jersey and charges $85 for it!

The railroad sounds interesting, especially since I live in the Utica area, but the proposals were calling for refurbishing the rails to support trains up to a maximum of 30mph. That means a rail trip would realistically take 6 hours each way with stops. I can drive there in 3!
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