A train operated by Saratoga North Creek Railway pulls into Thurman Station during summer 2013.
The Saratoga-North Creek Railway is all but reinventing its service, as it plans to establish day trips between Thurman and North Creek aimed primarily at Lake George visitors, slash prices for short trips between local stations, and offer discounts for seniors, youth, students and families.
The railway’s new General Manager Justin Gonyo announced these changes to Warren County supervisors Monday Nov. 25. He also talked of pending contracts the railway is negotiating to haul high-grade stone products out of Tahawus, to be delivered to Long Island.
The trips out of the Thurman station, two per weekend day, would begin July 4 and extend through Labor Day, Gonyo said. One run would feature an immediate return trip, and the other would provide a two-and-a-half hour layover so passengers could enjoy lunch and some shopping. Gonyo said that the railway executives were hopeful they could entice 10,000 visitors to Lake George to take the trip in 2014, considering that Lake George hosts up to 80,000 visitors in a weekend. The Thurman-North Creek run would also be held during selected fall weekends. The fare would be $18 per adult with discounts for families.
Gonyo added that the Thurman station, now an enclosed platform, will be outfitted like a traditional train station, featuring various passenger amenities as well as a ticket counter. Such changes would go hand-in-hand with the station being federally certified as a Crew Reporting Point, he said. He added that railway officials were considering ways of drawing more people to the Thurman and Hadley stations, perhaps hosting artisans at work.
“Both these stations will be open for business,” he said.
Thurman Supervisor Evelyn Wood said she was happy to hear that the local rail station would be outfitted and that many hundreds of people that probably had never been to Thurman would now be visiting, even if momentarily.
"This new service and the station upgrades will be a very night nice attribute to our town, and with all our very inniovative event organizers in town, i know they’ll find a way to make this a very positive development for the community," she said.
The premier event organizer in Thurman is Perky Granger. As President of Thurman Station Association, she’s been promoting local train travel and Thurman tourism for years. Last year, she helped organize the Wilderness Heritage Showcase, which featured 40 artisans, naturalists, crafters and historians at the Thurman Station for a public event to celebrate the area's traditional culture.
Monday, she applauded the railway’s new plans.
“We’ve thought about these possibilities for decades, and with these changes, we will now have motivation to make things work,” she said.
Also, the railroad will also be offering far lower rates for its short local trips, to encourage area residents to ride the trains to move within Warren County, The railway will be split into three zones, and travel within those zones will cost one-third of the price of traveling the full length of the railway, Gonyo said. Since the railway was launched passengers had to pay full price regardless of where they got on or off the trains
“This is to increase use of the stations and give a discount to area residents,” he said.
The railway’s Snow Train will be running again this year, offering various new discounts, including a “Hall Pass” ticket for five runs from Saratoga to North Creek at a cost of $99 for adults and $59 for youth. The firm plans to market the deal to students at Skidmore and other colleges in the region.
He said the railway is now negotiating freight contracts with nine different companies with the idea of moving stone and gravel products downstate. he estimated the railway would be moving 500,000 tons of aggregate the first year — that’s 5,000 carloads — and 1.5 million tons in the following two years. He noted that the Tahawus stone products might be used to rebuild the runways of JFK International Airport. He noted that Tahawus aggregate was harder and a higher grade than the other materials now available downstate.
Gonyo also noted that the railway’s Polar Express run through December had already sold 19,000 tickets, ahead of sales last year.
Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson hailed Gonyo’s news.
“These changes are great for the county and it’s communities — and for everybody.”