All Aboard the Adirondack Scenic Railroad

Changes occur to rail lines in the Adirondack region


Story by Nicole Weber
Photos courtesy of Edward Mullen and Shaun Kittle

what's this pic about?

The first steam engine was invented in 1804.
Photo by Edward Mullen

There are many different ways to view the Adirondacks: by foot, by car, and also by train. What if live entertainment was available for viewing while touring the Adirondacks—sit back and judge a little skiing while drinking coffee.  

The Adirondack North Country Association and the Town of North Elba joined to raise funds for a recreational path that would go alongside the scenic rail line that goes from Utica to Lake Placid.

The recreational path would be separated by a fence and would be parallel to the rail line. The path would be available for those who want to hike, bicycle, ski, and snowshoe. Progression of the new scenic rail line has been put on hold since 2008 due to funding problems.

Kate Fish, Director of the Adirondack North Country Association says, “We have no idea how long it will be [until the path is done].”

A preliminary engineering study was conducted on the construction of the existing rail line according to Fish. Construction for the existing line, and building of the new path were approved by the Adirondack Park Agency, but “The cost of the engineering that was done exceeded the funding at the time,” says Keith P. McKeever, Public Information Officer of the Adirondack Park Agency.

“In the conditions of the permit, the surrounding wetlands wouldn’t be impacted, and construction wouldn’t produce run-off.”

Construction for the recreational path and to the existing rail line will still occur, but are held off for the time being. The existing railroad line takes people from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake. One line going from Lake Placid to Ray Brook and the other line going from Ray Brook to Saranac Lake. The trail line will bring revenue to the area with little doubt, but what will the affects of the line have on the environment?

McKeever says that when the APA was issuing the permit they made sure that no environmental harm would be caused in the process of building the rail line. “In the conditions of the permit, the surrounding wetlands wouldn’t be impacted, and construction wouldn’t produce run-off.”

The APA has several conservation requirements including the protection of water, land, air and wildlife. As for protecting the Adirondacks surrounding wetlands, silt fencing would be placed prior to any construction. Silt fencing is a ‘meshing net’ that creates a barrier between the land and the water. McKeever says that conservation of the wetlands is a major concern to the APA. 

“We're happy to see recreational options in the area.”

Dan Fitts, Executive Director of the Adirondack Research Consortium says, "We're happy to see recreational options in the area because the area relies heavily on tourism."

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The longest train is 40 rail cars long.
Photo by Shaun Kittle

At the same time Adkaction.org is working with Camoin Association who is conducting a study of the rail bed and the economic costs and benefits the rail line bring to the area. The study will also conclude if it would be cost effective to do construction to the existing line, or if taking down the line, and making the space entirely a recreational area would be more cost effective.

Ernest “Lee” E. Keet, Director of the Steering Committee says, ”We’re pretty successful,” referring to Adkaction.org, “we have a number of projects, and we’re working with all the assessors in the North Country.

One of Adkaction.org’s projects was assessing the impacts of salt being used on roads in the winter and its affects on the environment.

The group’s involvement is making sure the study is conducted in an unbiased manner. Camoin Association will be conducting the study for about four months.

Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies, Adirondack Research Consortium's publication, would "absolutely publish" Camoin Association's research results according to Fitts.

Changes to the Adirondack Scenic Railroad are in the works, but are not fully certain as of now since funding is the biggest restraint.

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad has been a great success though, releasing a press release saying they have carried their one-millionth passenger this year. All are welcome abroad and time will tell if the Adirondack Scenic Railroad will be your ticket to a little taste of the Olympic region.

 

Wouldn’t you like to watch people ski while taking the train?

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