NEWCOMB - The president of the railroad company seeking to operate its trains in the southern Adirondacks confirmed Dec. 8 it may also buy a 20-mile stretch of track extending into Hamilton and Essex counties.
Iowa Pacific Holdings is currently seeking to be Warren County's rail operator and has garnered the support of a significant portion of county supervisors.
And Iowa Pacific president Ed Ellis told WNBZ that if the company is granted the Warren County contract it will also look to buy the privately held northern stretch of track that extends as far north as Tahawus.
"We heard that it was available and we have a previous relationship with NL Industries, so I inquired and they offered it to us and we let Warren County know," he said. "Until we're selected as the operator, it really doesn't mean anything because we obviously don't have any interest in it unless we are the operator."
Ellis said the company is interested in preserving the North Creek-Newcomb stretch. He noted it could offer future freight opportunities. It would allow Iowa Pacific to run its freight trains to the doorstep of Barton Mines in North River.
The northern line has been unused for 20 years and is currently owned by a subsidiary of NL Industries - Kronos Worldwide. Iowa Pacific has already confirmed that Kronos would sell the line and is currently negotiating an asking price.
The line is currently leased by the Essex County Industrial Development Authority and off the tax roles.
IDA co-Executive Director Jody Olcott said she is currently unaware of any deal in the works.
Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe recently told WNBZ that Iowa Pacific's proposal - which includes commuter service to and from Corinth - is very attractive.
The Warren County board just recently cut all ties with its former sightseeing train operator, the Upper Hudson River Railroad.
Ellis said he has been in contact with Barton Mines and the discussions about freight service have begun.
"I can't really say that we have a firm plan for it other than we believe it ought to be preserved. We have spoken with Barton Mine," he said. "If we were going to load product, they would want to load it at their facility in North Creek, which is adjacent to the line."
Barton Mines spokesman Jim McAndrews confirmed that talks between the two companies are under way.
But he cautioned that nothing concrete has been hammered out.
"We have no immediate plans," McAndrews said. "But we would like to see the tracks preserved because it might accommodate potential future products."
McAndrews noted that the garnet mine is currently trying to develop a market for its tailings and other byproducts of its operation.
Iowa Pacific currently operates numerous freight and commuter railroads, largely in the American Midwest and Southwest.