Pete Snyder secures the first wooden tie Nov. 5 at the Tupper Lake train station during an event to launch the “On Track to Saranac” campaign.
Dozens of railroad supporters joined the Next Stop! Tupper Lake group at the depot Saturday, Nov. 5 to replace the first wooden tie under the tracks to Saranac Lake.
The group — which rebuilt the train station several years ago on the site of the old depot — launched its “On Track to Saranac” campaign with a “First Tie Down” photo opportunity, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, family-friendly activities, and an opportunity to climb aboard the Adirondack Scenic Railroad’s train as it stopped in Tupper Lake on the way to Thendara for the winter.
Standing in front of the train, Next Stop! Tupper Lake chairman Dan McClelland told onlookers that the “On Track to Saranac” campaign will take about three years to raise money and restore the tracks between Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake, where the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society (ARPS) operates a seasonal tourist excursion to Lake Placid.
“So we’ll have train traffic between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake,” McClelland said.
Within three to four years, the group hopes to have an Adirondack Scenic Railroad conductor shout, “Next stop! Tupper Lake.”
“And it’s going to be a great day,” McClelland said.
Officials from the group’s partner organizations were given a chance to say a few comments before the “tie down.” The first speaker was ARPS President Bill Branson.
“Bill has put ARPS back on solid financial ground, and it’s a successful business model right now,” McClelland said.
Branson addressed recent criticism in the media from members of the newly formed Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA), who favor tearing up the 34 miles of tracks between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid to build a recreation trail.
“This thing’s going to happen in spite of what you read in the paper from time to time, which is annoying to all of us,” Branson said. “The facts speak for themselves.”
Members of ARTA have complained that the state should stop subsidizing a railroad operation that continually loses money.
“Our organization receives no subsidies from anybody. Let’s be real clear about that,” Branson said. “Anything that we get from the state is reimbursement from the work we do for them.”
Branson said the Adirondack Scenic Railroad is actually making money.
“Not only are we profitable, but we are profitable at a level that many businesses would envy,” Branson said.
Moreover, the state Department of Transportation, which owns the railroad right of way, has no plans to tear up the tracks.
“There is no state organization that is interested in seeing these tracks disappear,” Branson said. “They are not going to limit possibilities for future generations ... The state is fully behind our plan. If they had the money now, this job would already be done.”
North Country Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Garry Douglas spoke in support of the “On Track to Saranac” campaign.
“Walt Disney said, ‘People spend money where and when they feel good.’ Don’t trains make people feel good?” Douglas said. “This train is going to make people feel even better about the Adirondacks. They already feel good about the natural beauty and the abundance of trails and the ways to enjoy the Adirondacks.”
To show the organization’s support, the Chamber donated $5,000 toward the “On Track to Saranac” effort.
“I said I will never retire until the day this train stops with a load of people from Lake Placid to this station, and the North Country Chamber is fully on board to make this happen,” Douglas said.
Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) Executive Director Kate Fish told the crowd that her group has already helped secure grants to help build a recreation path next to the tracks between Lake Placid and Ray Brook and continues to be a supporter of the railroad.
“We see this rail line as being one of the key components of an innovative and powerful future for all the communities along the track, including, and perhaps especially, Tupper Lake,” Fish said.
She also called ARTA’s proposal to tear up the tracks “very, very, very short-sighted.”
New York Assemblywoman Janet Duprey gave a brief speech before cutting the red ribbon with a large pair of gold-painted scissors. She had secured a member line item in the state budget to help pay for some of the landscaping at the train station.
“I’m very proud to play a very small role in the development of this rail station,” Duprey said.
Pete Snyder, who runs the ARPS operation between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, reiterated his support for extending the Adirondack Scenic Railroad excursion from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake.
“I’ve been saying it for years, we gotta do what we gotta do, and today is a wonderful example of doing,” Snyder said. “The station here, what’s been accomplished is something that most communities frankly would envy. They let other people do it, but you folks in Tupper Lake have done it all yourselves. You’ve made it happen. And I think everybody in my organization, and certainly around here, knows that when people from Tupper Lake get behind something, it gets done.”
Next Stop! Tupper Lake favors restoring the tracks to Saranac Lake as well as building a recreation path next to trails. The “On Track to Saranac” logo prominently features the words, “RAILS and TRAILS.” To learn more about the campaign, visit www.nextstoptupperlake.org.