Freight to roll down North Creek tracks soon

TahawusSatelliteSaratoga & North Creek Railway connected to Tahawus mine

December 3, 2012

North Creek — Freight trains should be rolling along the Saratoga & North Creek (SNC) Railway tracks within the next two months, according to railroad officials.

It would be the first active freight train here in 23 years.

The Sanford Branch purchase alone cost $1.5 million. The SNC bought the 30-mile line between North Creek and the Tahawus mine from NL Industries (formerly known as National Lead Company). This is the railway’s road to riches, so to speak. It leads to North River, home of the Barton Mines garnet processing plant, and to the old titanium mine at Tahawus, where tailings and granite are ready to be shipped out of the Adirondacks and put to industrial use.

To show Barton executives a good-faith effort, the SNC ran an “inspection” train from North Creek to North River on Aug. 8. In late October, the railway ran the first train all the way to Tahawus since the last freight train rolled along these tracks on Nov. 17, 1989.

While it doesn’t own the rail line anymore, National Lead still owns the Tahawus mine, and most of the freight shipped out of there will be aggregates for construction.

There is currently a market for high-friction granite in the hurricane-ravaged sections of the Northeast.

There are also about 100 million tons of Tahawus tailings, rock leftover from the ore-extraction process. And one of the SNC’s clients wishes to get the iron out of those tailings.

Iron mines were first established at Tahawus and the nearby village of Adirondac in the early 19th century, but there was an impurity in the orebed: ilmenite, which when processed becomes titanium dioxide. When the mine at Tahawus was re-established in 1942, the mining company was extracting ilmenite for titanium dioxide for use in industrial applications such as paint for World War II.

The SNC is currently working on marketing efforts for its 2013 summer season. They will be re-creating the D&H’s Summer Paradise marketing campaign, creating packages for travelers that will include rail service, hospitality at places such as the Copperfield Inn, and family entertainment at attractions such as the Lake George Steamboat Company.