Category Archives: Adirondacks

Amtrak statewide ridership dips in NY State

ALBANY Times-Union

On the eve of massive track repair work at Penn Station in New York City, Amtrak’s upstate ridership is struggling to grow.

For passenger rail advocates such as Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers, that’s troubling.

“It is a cause for concern,” Becker said. “While ridership in the Hudson Valley has grown modestly, ridership across upstate New York and on the Adirondack has dropped.”

Becker cites a number of possible reasons for the decline.

“One is lower gas prices,” he said. They’re down about $1.25 per gallon in the Capital Region compared to the summer of 2014, according to figures from GasBuddy.com.

But Amtrak’s own difficulties may also have contributed.

It had to cancel one daily train for a number of days last summer west of the Capital Region while CSX worked on the tracks.

“Last summer was not a stellar period for on-time performance,” Becker added.

It has been nine years since Congress approved the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which shifted more of the cost of passenger rail operations to the states.

New York has continued to use the existing passenger cars, many of which are now 40 years old. Its specially built dual-mode locomotives that can operate on diesel or electric power have seen several breakdowns this spring, stranding hundreds of passengers.

For passenger rail advocates such as Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers, that’s troubling.

“It is a cause for concern,” Becker said. “While ridership in the Hudson Valley has grown modestly, ridership across upstate New York and on the Adirondack has dropped.”

It had to cancel one daily train for a number of days last summer west of the Capital Region while CSX worked on the tracks.

A recommendation by some state Department of Transportation officials to replace the locomotives wasn’t included in the most recent state budget.
The state,meanwhile, has a vested interest in seeing higher passenger revenues, because they reduce the amount it must pay Amtrak to operate the trains.

Nationwide, Amtrak saw record ridership last year, carrying 31.3 million passengers. But statewide, ridership fell nearly 4.7 percent to 1.7 million, according to a recent presentation to the Empire State Passengers Association.

About half of those — 855,000 — began or ended their trips at the Albany-Rensselaer train station, one of Amtrak’s busiest.

Many factors can contribute to a decrease in ridership levels including gas prices, construction and service reliability and we continue to evaluate ways to mitigate these impacts and highlight Amtrak’s many passenger amenities and value proposition,” Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert said. “Amtrak ridership overall remains strong, with a record 31.3 million passengers in Fiscal Year 2016, marking the sixth consecutive year Amtrak has carried more than 30 million customers.”

EDITORS NOTE: Is the upstate operation “pure” AMTRAK or dependant on the State too? How about borrowing rolling stock and dual diesel- electric locomotives from other NY State agencies (like Metro-North)?

The Trail people want the tracks gone; they’ll rip ’em out themselves!

More cool stuff on the section of the Adirodack Railroad that Governor Cuomo stuck his nose into.

Some of the Trail Advocates have actually said they would start tearing up the tracks as soon as the trains stopped running last Fall. And one of the trail planning groups even suggested that individuals actually go and do that.

Can you imagine the disaster that would create for the professional rail removers the State would contract. I can see a bunch of people rush to the nearest piece of track and start tearing it out. Then after a few minutes, realize that tearing out rails is actually hard work and just drop everything where it is, and leave little gaps here and there where rails are missing or thrown off to the side.

The Judge immediately put in place a Ceast and Desist Order, which he should, so nothing can be done by either side. So the State can not contract with anyone to come in and start ripping up rails. As to any individuals who would try to do that, they would be in violation of the Court Order.

I have no idea if anyone anywhere along the line has gone in and tore out anything. The Railroad is not inspecting or doing any maintenance to the tracks between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid this year, so I have no idea what might have been done to any sections of track since the Railroad ran the last train out in early November. I don’t know if anyone is checking that section of track. Probably no one is.

Unfortunately for the Trail Advocates, I personally believe they have been sold a bill of goods, and are gullible enough to fall for it, by the Anti-Rail people, who actually only want the rails gone so the Adirondacks can go back to “Forever Wild”. I don’t believe those few people actually want a trail any more than they want the Railroad. To gain public support to get rid of the rails, they promised the “wonderful, first class” trail that would be such a great trail that it would bring in hordes of people from everywhere in the US and the World and these people would spend $500,000 a week in the communities along the trail. I kid you not, they actually said that, and the trail people actually bought that.

Of course because the real objective of the people behind the trail really only want the railroad gone, they would have nothing to do, and opposed, having a trail run along with the railroad.

So communities like Saranac Lake are going to end up with nothing. No Railroad bringing in tourists, no Rail Explorers bringing in people, and no trail bringing in people. Actually the trail people are admitting mostly local people are going to be using the new trail, and nothing about a new trail is going to make local people spend any more money in the community than they do now.

Hopefully the lawsuit will be settled in favor of the Railroad and the trains can come back.

Mineville Is Getting Back On The Map NOW

MINEVILLE, N.Y. Some look at an abandoned, centuries-old iron mine in New York’s Adirondacks and see a relic. But, an ambitious group of engineers sees the shafts in Mineville as a new way to provide a steady flow of electricity in a growing market for renewable energy. They are pitching a plan to circulate some of the millions of gallons of groundwater that have flooded the mine shafts over the years to power an array of 100 hydroelectric turbines a half-mile underground.

They envision the operation as a solution for solar and wind power producers, who need ways to ensure an uninterrupted flow of energy when the sun isn’t shining and winds are still. While logistically complex, the plan is at the same time incredibly simple: Engineers would drain roughly half of the water from the shafts and pump the remainder into an upper chamber. The water would then be released into a lower chamber, powering turbines and creating electricity. The turbines would be reversed to pump the water back up to repeat the process. Technically, the pumped water is considered stored energy, to be released strategically when power is needed.

For the locals, the pumped storage project would breathe new life into a depressed former mining town, doubling the local tax base, generating hundreds of construction jobs and a dozen permanent ones, and providing extras like a new highway garage and water lines, said Tom Scozzafava, supervisor of the surrounding town of Moriah. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for 50 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2030.

minevillesign

So what and where is (was) Mineville? Well, I turned to the NEB&W Railroad.
images_troy_troy-grand-sassi-mm

The NEB&W Railroad is an “HO” scale railroad associated with R.P.I, a noted engineering school located in Troy, New York. The NEB&W still serves Mineville and Troy (where much of the products of the mine went).

Products went from the mine”minevillemine” to repunlicsteelfromtroymenandsbridgeRepublic Steel in Troy

Group Fights To Save The Adirondack Railroad

UTICA —”This has never been easy for the railroad or its supporters,” said Bethan Maher at a Friday afternoon rally in support of preserving the entire length of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad.

The group behind the rally, the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society — of which Maher is executive director — is challenging the state’s plan to remove a 34-mile stretch of the railroad between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid and replace it with a recreational trail.

SaveTheRailsORGAt issue is communities along the line, such as Utica, which want to preserve the line as an infrastructure and tourism boon. Supporters hope to see trails co-exist with the railroad. There currently is a legal challenge working its way through state Supreme Court against the state’s decision.

“We are invested so heavily in this,” County Executive Anthony Picente said of tourism development around the rail line and the ability to find ways for trails and rails to co-exist. “It’s not about dissing the snowmobilers (who would be able to use the state’s proposed 34-mile recreational trail). There are other ways to cross the state.”

State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, said at Friday’s rally that “officials in Albany lost their train of thought when they decided to rip up the tracks. We should be building up our rail infrastructure. … We need to send a message to Albany that this is an ill-conceived plan and it will not stand.”

On a final note at the rally, Mark Mojave, owner of Gerber’s Tavern in Bagg’s Square West in Utica, pointed out to the crowd: “Johnny Cash never sang about a rail trail.”

Adirondack Railroad and Trail Plan Approved by Cuomo

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has approved a $23 million plan for a state-owned rail corridor, which calls for renovating 45 miles of tracks to extend the route of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad to Tupper Lake and converting 34 miles into a multiuse recreational trail from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid.

The work will begin this fall and be completed within three years, Mr. Cuomo said on Tuesday. The Olympic Regional Development Authority in Lake Placid will have a hand in managing the broad, flat trail that will be used for bicycling, walking, skiing and snowmobiling.

“This long-distance, multiuse recreation trail between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake will complement our facilities like no other here in the Olympic region,” Ted Blazer, the president and chief executive of the development authority, said in a news release.

Rail supporters, who lobbied to have the tracks upgraded all the way to Lake Placid, vowed to fight the plan.

“We are going ahead with a court case trying to prove this decision process was not conducted fully aboveboard,” said Bethan Maher, executive director of the nonprofit Adirondack Scenic Railroad. “We firmly believe the maximum economic benefit and tourism potential will be served by extending the railroad to Lake Placid.”

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESSMAY 17, 2016

Amtrak Montreal train service could take three years

MONTPELIER – Amtrak’s Vermonter train could resume passenger service to Montreal within three years, lawmakers were told Tuesday morning.

“The stars are aligned, and I think we are going to go as fast as we possibly can,” said Brian Searles, Vermont’s former transportation secretary who now works as a consultant on the cross-border train project.

The Vermonter brought passengers to Montreal from 1972 to 1995, when the service was suspended due to long labor- and security-related delays at the border. The train currently runs from Washington, D.C. to St. Albans.

Officials on both sides of the border are hoping to create a security clearance facility at Central Station in Montreal to make the route viable again. The security facility would also expedite border crossings for the Adirondack train that runs between New York City and Montreal.

The project depends on the success of pending legislation in Congress and the Canadian Parliament, Searles said.

“We think everybody is poised and ready for passage of this legislation,” Searles said, noting that Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has led the bill in Congress.

With legislative approval in hand, a “highly speculative” timeline would require 12 months of planning and permitting and 24 months of construction, for a total of three years, Searles said.

Members of the House Transportation Committee chuckled at the optimistic estimate, but Searles listed reasons for hope.

He said Amtrak would schedule four trains through Montreal daily, or one round trip each for the Vermonter and the Adirondack.

INFOWORKS Great Railroad WebSite: 1980 Olympics, Troy Union RR and MORE

It all started out when we got a note from Richard O. Aichele from Information Works Inc. in Saratoga Springs, NY. He commented on one of our WebSites about “Who Owns Grand Central” and then: “Back in 1980 I lived under GCT for several days between runs of the Irving Trust Winter Olympics Spacial.  I was the guy who had the fun of getting the five private cars together, dealing with the railroads and making the trips run as smoothly as possible.  I have some the details of it on my website www.inforworks.com/trains.htm
Still remember how different – quiet like a cathedral –  GCT was about 3 or 4 AM.

Took a look at his Website. Before I even got to the 1980 Olympics, I ran into a section on the Troy Union Railroad. (One of our favorites).

Then I got to his section on the 1980 Olympics and the Irving Trust Company special train. Great details, great pictures.

He also has a section on the Railroad Steam Era.

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad: Let’s preserve it!

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad is engaged in a “battle” with “tree huggers” for it’s existence. It is “supposed” to run between Utica, NY and Lake Placid, NY. Pictured below is the Lake Placid train station.

AdirondackRailroadLakePlacidFor a great discussion on this subject, I am going to turn this over to Phyllis Zimmerman, columnist for the Utica Observer-Dispatch.

“I am an Adirondack Railroad preservationist. I am strongly against the state DEC’s and DEP’s recent proposal to tear up a 34-mile section of the track between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid.

Reportedly, this newest proposal is a compromise. Officials from these state agencies are offering this as an alternative to ripping up a 90-mile section of unused tract running between Big Moose and Saranac Lake.

This makes me wonder, why rip up the railroad’s northernmost section and leave Tupper Lake as the corridor’s final destination instead of Lake Placid? I happened to visit both of these towns last summer and can relay with some authority that Lake Placid is far more of a tourist destination than Tupper Lake.

Tupper Lake is a nice little Adirondack town offering plenty of water recreation, skiing, and snowmobiling, but sadly, the main part of town appears rundown with little for tourists to do. The Wild Center nature museum appears as its saving grace.

In comparison, Lake Placid appears to be overflowing with tourist activities. I can’t tell you about all of them because my family only skimmed the surface of things when spending an afternoon there last summer. The town’s main drag is dotted with miles of unique shops, restaurants, and hotels, as well the U.S. Olympics Museum. That’s not to mention Whiteface Mountain and the U.S. Olympic Training Center just outside opposite of sides of the town.

But really, I have a bigger question to all this: Why rip up ANY of the railroad corridor? The Adirondack Trail Advocates reportedly believe that the 90-mile track span between Big Moose and Saranac Lake originally slated for demolition would be better served as a recreational trail for hikers, bicyclists and snowmobiles. I have absolutely nothing against these recreational pursuits, but don’t we already have enough Adirondack trails for these?

I have taken the Adirondack a few times between Utica and the Thendara station just outside Old Forge, and let me tell you, the route is breathtakingly beautiful. It is one of a kind. If any portion of the railroad is torn up, it probably never will be replaced.

Once it’s gone, it’s gone!”

Bill would help speed up Amtrak clearance over U.S.-Canada border

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) this week announced a new bill that would lead to a preclearance border security program for passenger trains traveling from Montreal into New York State.

The proposed “Promoting Travel and National Security Act of 2016” would expand U.S. jurisdiction over the American Customs and Border Protection agents that are operating in Canada, pursuant to border security agreements, the lawmakers said in a joint press release.

Sponsored by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the bill would facilitate air, rail, marine and overland travel between the United States and Canada, according to Leahy’s office. A new agreement between the United States and Canada would expand those facilities to include rail for the first time.

The bill introduced this week is necessary to establish a preclearance process for Amtrak trains between Montreal and New York City, with stops in the North Country region and Albany, N.Y., the lawmakers from New York said.

Currently, passengers traveling on Amtrak’s Adirondack Line wait at the border for more than an hour while customs agents check the entire train. A pre-clearance program would help speed up that process.

The legislation would ensure U.S. citizens and federal workers are subject to U.S. law and legal protections when working at the pre-clearance location across the border in Canada, where they would be working to “pre-clear” passengers on the Adirondack Line, the lawmakers said.

“Implementing pre-clearance for passenger trains traveling between New York and Canada will be critical to both increasing efficiency and economic opportunities for the North Country and Capital Region — and clearing these legal hurdles now will better pave the way to making this prescreening program a reality,” Schumer said. “This legislation will bring us one step closer to reducing horrible wait times and boosting tourism opportunities for local businesses for years to come.”

Creating a preclearance process for passenger trains traveling between Canada and New York State has been of interest to business leaders on both sides of the border.

“Nothing is more important to the North Country economy than our relationship with Canada, and the North Country Chamber has no higher priority in Washington and Ottawa this year than approval of the pre-clearance agreement negotiated between the U.S. and Canada,” said Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.

Delaware & Hudson Passenger Train Demise

Albany-Binghamton died in 1962 or 63, the commuter trains to Altamont and Saratoga went just about that same time.To be more exact: Trains 250/208 Binghamton – Albany & return came off in January 1963. My September 1930 Susquehanna Division Employes’ Time Table shows no dedicated Altamont commuter service, and no convenient times to and from Albany for commuters on Binghamton trains. Saratoga commuter trains 5 and 40 came off ca. 1960.

The D&H was down to two Montreal trains when 205 and 208 were discontinued in 1963. There had been discussion of substituting Budd RDCs for the Laurentian in that time period also, but I’ve never heard a reliable source on how far that got, or what that would have meant for the night train. (discontinuance, presumably?)

John Hiltz proposed to the NYPSC to substitute Budd RDC’s for conventional equipment on 34 and 35, The Laurentian, ca 1964 but the PSC objected and the issue was not pushed. I don’t recall the night trains, 9 and 10, being an issue at the time.

A little background. Passenger traffic soared in the summer of 1967 during Expo 67 in Montreal. No. 9, the Montreal Limited, had three units (RS-2’s) and 23 cars on Friday night, July 1, 1967. Most were NYC sleepers. The D&H leased coaches from EL and Reading to handle the load, but only used the same passenger RS-2’s. In the middle of that, No. 9 ran into the side of RO-2 at BM Cabin, and the 4024 and 4025 were destroyed. And Buck Dumaine became President of The D&H.

Buck first restored dining cars to 34 & 35, leasing two from the New Haven. He wanted to upgrade the service and grow the business. It was a fairly economical move, because the D&H dining service employees were protected by their labor agreement, and were working various jobs in the Headquarters building, including elevator operators, etc.

With the 4024 and 4025 gone, and most of the existing passenger car fleet in need of serious overhaul, it was a wise decision to upgrade the fleet with some good used locomotives and cars. That took the form of the four PA’s from the Santa Fe, and the 12 cars from the Rio Grande. I was told by good authority that the four PA’s cost $135,000 for the lot, and the Rio Grande cars totaled $120,000. That was almost certainly less money than an overhaul of the car fleet, and it took care of replacing the 4024 and 4025.

I can remember several months early in 1967 when both Montreal trains were covered by two RS-2’s, the 4005 and 4009. One went north on 35 and returned the same night on 10, and other went north on 9 and returned on 34. The only time they missed a turn was for their monthly inspections at Colonie. Two other passenger units were assigned as yard engines at Whitehall and Rouses Point to protect the passenger service.

The PA’s went into D&H service at the end of 1967, after Expo was done.. The first unit, I forget which, arrived at Plattsburgh on the Sunday night after Christmas, I believe. The major problem with the PA’s came up later in the winter, when we learned the hard way that one PA could not heat six cars on No. 9 when the temperature reached minus 20 F.

On the north end, the passenger locals (common reference: “Milk Trains” ) came off in 1963,