In 2010, Warren County Supervisors — frustrated with the lack of success of their existing railroad — solicited proposals nationwide for ideas to develop it with an eye of boosting the county’s tourism.
That November, a top executive of Iowa Pacific Holdings appeared before the board and told of an ambitious plan to boost passenger traffic through aggressive advertising, negotiating passenger connections to Albany and New York City, providing gracious dome cars, and making a massive investment into the railroad’s infrastructure.
A most important element of their plan — development of rail freight service into the Adirondacks — was then portrayed as a mere footnote.
And despite wranglings with environmentalists, who dragged the railway through a long federal approval process, Iowa Pacific was successful in gaining access to the rails on the 30-mile Tahawus Line. They plan to haul tailings from National Lead Industries’ Tahawus mine and garnet products from Barton Mines in North River to markets downstate.
After a track upgrade project was completed, the 6-mile rail line between North Creek and North River officially opened Aug. 8 for freight service.
At the ribbon-cutting event, Iowa Pacific President Ed Ellis noted that the railway sold 60,000 tickets during its first year, and he predicted that the passenger traffic would be increasing by 20 to 25 percent in its second full year of operation.
Saratoga & North Creek Railway officials have said they plan to partner with other rail carriers to bring the area’s bounty of minerals to market, and freight could begin moving within a year.
We at Denton Publications laud Iowa Pacific executives for their vision, local supervisors for their lobbying effort, and our state and federal representatives for listening and responding.
The benefits of resuming rail freight traffic into the southern Adirondacks go far beyond the cleanup of mine tailings and the 20 jobs that would initially be created.
First, the railway’s extension bolsters the finances of the enterprise, helping it to flourish, which in turn boosts both passenger and freight traffic.
Already, the several hundred extra tourists riding the train to North Creek per day in the summer has meant a dozen or so new enterprises opening up in town, representing dozens of new jobs.
Next, the railway’s extension represents a step toward a sustainable future for residents of the southern Adirondacks, which can be accomplished by tapping the natural resources of the region — primarily wood products and minerals, both of which are becoming ever more valuable.
Not only would harvesting and transporting these raw materials to market create hundreds of local jobs, but small industries would likely spring up to create products that are in demand and multiply the economic benefits.
Thirdly, rehabilitation of the railroad infrastructure provides opportunity for a vital, efficient passenger service to be extended into the Adirondacks, while fuel prices continue to rise.
It’s not just a matter of boosting the tourist trade, which is now a mainstay for the rural Adirondacks, and is likely to grow substantially — it’s far more.
Some area citizens, and Iowa Pacific executives, have talked of how, with government support, the railway could become an affordable, convenient venue-of-choice for those commuting to work in Albany.
Affordable train service would allow a wide range of workers to pursue their urban employment while their families are raised in the Adirondacks, with its outstanding quality of life.
Such developments would revitalize area communities, devastated in recent decades by the exodus of citizens who have moved away to find good-paying jobs.
The cultural richness of life in the Adirondacks could reach new heights, as well.
We commend all those who have taken steps to facilitate the railway’s development, and we support further actions toward providing a sustainable economy; affordable, ecological public transportation; and judicious economic development.
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