NORTH CREEK - Executives of the railroad company seeking to operate the Warren County railway in the southern Adirondacks confirmed it may also buy a 20-mile stretch of track extending into Hamilton and Essex counties.
Iowa Pacific Holdings, seeking to be Warren County's railroad operator, has pledged to operate ski trains connecting to the Capital Region, New York City and Vermont, as well as scenic train trips complete with dome cars and upscale dining excursions.
Promising to establish regular freight service deep into the Adirondacks, the company has garnered the support of a significant portion of county supervisors.
Iowa Pacific president Ed Ellis said if the company is granted the Warren County contract it will also seek 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.
Ellis said the company is interested in preserving the North Creek-Newcomb stretch for both freight opportunities and scenic excursions. The extension 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 Kronos would sell the line and is currently negotiating a price.
The rail line is currently leased by the Essex County Industrial Development Authority and off the tax rolls. IDA executive co-director Jody Olcott said she is currently unaware of any deal in the works.
Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe saidIowa Pacific's proposal - which includes commuter service to and from Corinth and Saratoga Springs plus connector service to the Capital Region, Manhattan and Vermont - is very attractive.
The Warren County board just recently cut 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 talks between the two companies are underway.
But he cautioned nothing concrete has been hammered out.
"We have no immediate plans," McAndrews said. "But we would like to see the tracks preserved because they might accommodate potential future products."
McAndrews noted the garnet mine is currently trying to develop a market for its tailings and other byproducts of its operation.
Iowa Pacific currently operates 11 freight and commuter railroads in the American Midwest and Southwest as well as in Europe.
Adirondack Journal's Thom Randall contributed to this report.