LAKE GEORGE - Train whistles will continue to blow in the North Country if the Warren County Board of supervisors choose to accept one of the two proposals to their RFP presented recently.
The first was made by Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC of Chicago. He stood behind a $100 million company that operates eight railroads both nationally and internationally.
Don Kress, president of Codorus Creek Railway of Pennsylvania made the second presentation and offered years of experience with plans for funding to an operation in Warren County off the ground.
If chosen, one of these operators would take over for the Upper Hudson River Railroad, who has been operating the tourist train in North Warren County for the past 12 years.
Ellis told supervisors Iowa Pacific Holdings can make money by operating a railroad on the current line. He said a connection to Saratoga Springs for freight, passenger and tourist travel are necessary. He said such freight opportunities exist in companies like Barton Mines in Johnsburg, but did not reveal other specific names.
Freight train traffic is going to increase in the coming years as the government imposes new regulations on trucking companies, and restoring freight train service on the line will generate new jobs, Ellis said.
After extensive budgeting, the company will present a plan that would conduct railroad maintenance at its own cost.
"Our goal is for the railway not to cost Warren County a dime, but to be a benefit," Ellis said.
Ellis also proposed a ski train plan that would connect Saratoga Springs to North Creek and Gore Mountain using popular, full-length "dome cars" with see-through roofs.
Codorus Creek Railway proposed three passenger trains a day between Saratoga Springs and North Creek, as well as tourist trains.
"I know how to move people, and I know how to move people well," said Kress.
County leaders plan to research each company and schedule follow-up meetings. Most, however, were impressed with Iowa Pacific.
"If they can deliver what they say they can deliver, it could be great for Warren County," said Dan Stec, Queensbury Supervisor.
Johnsburg Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed was encouraged by the opportunities presented by Iowa Pacific's plan.
"The tourist train has always been neat, but to see a proposal with that kind of depth is exciting," he said.
He acknowledged the benefits for tourists, residents and schools.
"The possibilities are endless" he said. "Someone could board a train in North Creek in the morning and be in Manhattan that afternoon. That provides a lot of opportunity as well as an avenue for Gore Mountain to become a monster ski center in the east."
Local residents and business owners alike hope the train will continue to benefit the local and regional economy.
"The train has a huge economic impact on this region," said Gore Mountain Region Chamber of Commerce president Dave Bulmer. "It is important that we work together to push the county to make a decision as quickly as possible."
The train attracts thousands of visitors to the Gore Mountain Region yearly and has spurred such annual events as Race the Train, Ales on Rails, visits from Thomas the Tank Engine and many others. Warren County estimates that the Thomas event alone provides a $840,000 economic impact to the region.
"Train traffic is extremely important to this and the surrounding communities," said Joel Beaudin, owner of the Copperfield Inn in North Creek. "We need it to enhance our businesses, our town an our county as a whole."
No date was set for a follow-up meeting on the subject, but county leaders maintain they are on schedule with their end of the year deadline.