Chicago investor Sam Zell (through his Equity Group Investments and Chai Trust) has taken a controlling stake in the parent company of Saratoga and North Creek Railroad. Zell, who owned the Chicago Tribune when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, bought an 80 percent stake in Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings. The founders of Iowa Pacific will retain the other 20 percent of the company, which operates 10 short-line railroads including Saratoga and North Creek. Iowa Pacific was founded in 2001 by several former managers at Amtrak and Metra, which operates Chicago’s commuter rail service. All of the company’s managers will remain in place. The local railroad’s general manager stated that “Nothing’s going to change.”
Saratoga and North Creek, which operates passenger trains between Saratoga Springs and North Creek, and freight trains between Saratoga Springs and Tahawus, also runs snow trains in the winter months and the Polar Express during the Christmas holiday period. The railroad is looking at expanding service to the Albany-Rensselaer train station. While it connects with Amtrak’s Adirondack services at Saratoga, the Rensselaer station has far more Amtrak service. Saratoga & North Creek Railway is looking into the feasibility of extending passenger train service to Rensselaer to better serve passengers aiming to head north. The railroad company is hiring a consultant to look into whether there is a demand for train service that would run from the Rensselaer rail station to Saratoga Springs.
SNCRR trains could potentially pick up passengers in Rensselaer. Those taking trains to the station in Rensselaer who want to get to SNCRR’s station in Saratoga Springs have often had to take a bus or car to Saratoga because there is limited connecting train service via Amtrak.
“The goal is to connect North Creek with the Albany area for passenger service,” said Wayne Lamothe, Warren County’s planner.
There was no timetable released for the potential service change. The possible connection was viewed as particularly enticing for the winter Snow Train to North Creek and Gore Mountain Ski Center because it would allow skiers to take a train directly from New York City to North Creek.
Warren County and the town of Corinth own the rails from North Creek to Saratoga Springs, and SNCRR leases them from the municipalities.