Railway Preservation News

Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Placid
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Author:  Cosgarne92 [ Mon May 01, 2017 7:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Pla

What's happening is possible because it's New York and because of money and politics (which are one and the same).

I live two blocks from the state capitol and have been an observer of state government for over 40 years. I've had a number of friends who were career employees of various state agencies, all of whom are either retired or dead. Many of these friends were employees of NYSDOT, more specifically its Rail Division (back when NYSDOT had a Rail Division). The Adirondack Division was preserved by the administrations of Governor Nelson Rockefeller (a Republican) and his successor, Governor Hugh Carey (a Democrat). These guys could see into the future and understand what might one day be of value, even if it weren't apparent at the time. Today, everything is short-term., no long-term vision.

During that period, New York was Number One in the nation in rail improvement programs. Sadly, I think we're bringing up the rear today.

The trouble all started with the first Cuomo (first elected in 1982). He abolished the Rail Division in 1986, sending a very talented and motivated group of employees in a hundred different directions. He abolished rail programs and cancelled projects. When Conrail was proposed to be privatized, he ignored the advice of his rail advisors to back acquisition by Norfolk Southern (who offered to raise the Schenectady-Buffalo passenger speed limit from 79 mph to 90 mph if they controlled the line). Today, 30-odd years later, the speed limit is still 79 mph and rail is still not a convenient travel option between Albany and Buffalo. Cuomo cancelled a freight access improvement project at the Harlem River Yard, unnecessarily keeping trucks on the crowded highways which carried goods to/from Long Island and NYC. He cancelled a joint project with the Province of Quebec to determine the feasibility of building a high-speed passenger line (TGV) between Montreal and New York. He did much additional damage.

Paralleling this, my friends all agree that New York State government has become more and more political while becoming less and less professional. I fear where all this is headed. But it probably isn't any worse than where Washington is headed today.

But I digress.

So here we are, the fate of Adirondack Division right-of-way is determined by who has the strongest (wealthiest) political lobby. If the rail preservationists want to be effective and succeed, they need to figure out how to raise money and lobby government. Otherwise, we're all just sitting on the sidelines watching the world go by.

As far as I know, the only rail-trail in the U.S. to be returned to active rail use is in Denton, TX (north of Dallas), where part of a rail-trail was taken for use as a commuter rail line. The trail was relocated, so the "trailsters" were accommodated. If there are other instances of rail-trails being returned to active rail use, I'd be interested in hearing about them.

Author:  Randy Gustafson [ Thu May 04, 2017 1:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Pla

Part of the Armstrong rail trail in western Pennsylvania was returned to rail service. The trail wasn't a lot (not paved), and the original ROW was double-track; so putting rail back on one of the two lines didn't cause as much grief as it could have, although its no longer shown on the trail map at all. It's 8 miles between Schenley and Rosston that was once a trail and put back into rail service. Need was to access a coal load-out.

The trails folks really need to have this happen every once in a while, or there'd be no claim whatsoever that 'interim trail use' means exactly that, and that the trails can legally hold a ROW in the 'interim'.

There was a second one in this region that was attempted to gain access to what was intended to be a large landfill/recycling center near Snowshoe, PA, and relaying track back on an ex-PRR line taken up in 1997 or so that had been converted to a trail. It ran into all kinds of opposition more on the landfill side than the reconstruction of the railroad, and didn't get built.

Author:  Dougvv [ Thu May 04, 2017 4:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Pla


One time I was of the opinion that rail to trail was never again rail. This was about the turn of the century (2000). Someone was able to point me to a web site that showed that some 30-35 trails to rails had occurred and that some $150-odd miles had been re-railed.

The link was on a computer that later crashed. No more link or memory of who knew about it.

I wish I could find it to help out the truth.

Doug vV

Author:  Dougvv [ Thu May 04, 2017 5:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Pla


I found a reference to nine (9) trail to rail conversions on Wikipedia.

Since railbanking began in 1983, nine railbanked corridors have been approved for reactivation by the STB. Some of these reactivated corridors had only short sections reactivated, while others had the entire corridor reactivated. Two of these approved have not yet been reopened, though both are in the process (as of March 2010).[37][38] Railbanked corridors are usually utilized as multi-use recreational trails for cyclists, walkers, joggers, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, and horseback riding.[36][37][38][39][40]

The land over which railways pass may have many owners—private, rail operator, or governmental—and, depending on the terms under which it was originally acquired, the type of operating rights may also vary. Without rail banking, on closure, some parts of a railway's route might otherwise revert to the former owner. The owner could reuse them for any purpose, or modify the ground conditions, potentially prejudicing the line's future reuse if required. However, the landowner must agree to keep the infrastructure such as bridges and tunnels intact.

This may not be up to date.


See the reference to Connecticut in the article.


Doug vV

Author:  dinwitty [ Thu May 04, 2017 9:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Pla

it is not worth a darn penny to rip out the rails just to bring them back, its all about...we got lots -o- money to spend and make the snowmobilers happy.
You now have some addresses or emails to send to, get yer voice made to the sources making a decision on this brewhaha.

Author:  Cosgarne92 [ Thu May 04, 2017 11:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Pla

I imagine what is key to using a rail-trail once again as a rail line depends on who owns the ROW property. Probably a trail group is not going to voluntarily relinquish an ROW they own so that it can be used once again as a rail line. However, if the rail-trail ROW is owned by a party which is not a trail organization, there's a better chance that it will return to railroad use.

Sounds like state legislation is needed to protect railroad ROWs for future rail use, as they are an important economic resource. In New York State, this intent is there in Section 8 of the State Transportation Law, which establishes a hierarchy of governmental and quasi-governmental agencies which have "the right of first refusal" to purchase the railroad property at a negotiated fair market price. It aims to keep rights-of-way intact for use by some governmental or quasi-governmental entity. But it applies only to disposition of railroad property. It says nothing about re-acquisition of ROWs for rail use.

Author:  Cosgarne92 [ Sat May 06, 2017 8:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Pla

Correction: That was section 18 of the State Transportation Law (as amended), not Section 8.

Author:  Chris Webster [ Sat May 06, 2017 9:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Pla

I neglected to share this April 12, 2017 article:
SARANAC LAKE — The haunting sound of train whistles won’t be heard locally this year, as the state Department of Transportation will not issue a permit for the trains to run north of the Big Moose station.

The Adirondack Rail Preservation Society, based in Utica, has been running seasonal tourist trains on the southern end of the line and between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid for years. ARPS runs trains under the Adirondack Scenic Railroad name.

“DOT will be issuing a permit to ARPS to operate from Snow Junction to Big Moose,” DOT spokeswoman Jennifer Post wrote in an email. “This is consistent with the approved Unit Management Plan for the Remsen-Lake Placid Corridor.”

Post did not elaborate on the reasoning behind the decision to withhold the permit for local operations.
Link to the full article:
Adirondack Daily Enterprise: No trains in Tri-Lakes this year

Author:  Dougvv [ Sat May 06, 2017 10:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Pla


Can someone clarify my perceptions?

Railbanking is where the track is left in place and gravel may be filled to the top of the rails for trail use.

Rails to Trails is the removal of the track and turned into another use.

Railbanking and rails-to-trails are not the same? I was thinking about it I seem to vaguely recall the difference between the two. Both save the right of way.

Another railroad rail removal alternate use is the use of the ex-railroad grade as a power line RoW or a pipeline RoW.


Doug vV

Author:  Overmod [ Sat May 06, 2017 11:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Pla

'Railbanking' involves the legal designation of a ROW in such a way that it does not automatically revert ownership or be 'abandoned' if no longer used or wanted for present rail purposes. In most cases, it does not matter if track remains on a railbanked line, or even that some encroachments get made over time; it does mean that if there is a subsequent decision to re-establish rail service the 'encroachments' might be removable without notice or compensation, perhaps at the 'encroacher's' expense. Lawyers here can give you a full explanation with appropriate cites,\.

Rails to Trails is concerned with 'adaptive reuse' of rail ROWs to trails. Usually in the past this involves abandoned or moribund lines; we now see bolder and bolder attempts to get rid of service on operating lines.

Rails with Trails is a response which advocates trails in parallel with active rail trackage, so that both groups of 'users' get benefit from the complete and open line. I am not sure, watching YouTube, how some of these operations work without scaring people to death, but they are intellectually at least a win/win situation for most of the potential 'stakeholders'

Author:  Dougvv [ Mon May 08, 2017 7:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Pla


Thanks you for the clarification.

Doug vV

Author:  robertjohndavis [ Mon May 08, 2017 8:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Pla

dinwitty wrote:
it is not worth a darn penny to rip out the rails just to bring them back, its all about...we got lots -o- money to spend and make the snowmobilers happy.

The interesting twist in the Adirondack debacle is that the snowmobile lobby is not the driving force, at least not anymore. It is summer recreation advocates who have become the most vocal.

Of course, these could be wolves in sheep's clothing as the snowmobile argument was a bit spurious as the line already shuts down for snowmobiling. You can do that and keep the tracks.

The summer rec argument leaves no room for rails, and thus is the latest battle cry.


Author:  dinwitty [ Mon May 08, 2017 12:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Pla

The railroad is a pretty well safe guaranteed transportation system, who knows if someone gets stuck out there trying to run all the way to Lake Placid. We're also talking about disable access as well.

Author:  Chris Webster [ Sun May 14, 2017 9:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Pla

A May 13, 2017 article in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise:
RAY BROOK — About 20 people attended the second of two public meetings the state held this week concerning the proposed plan for the Adirondack Rail Trail. No members of the public attended the first such meeting.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation held one meeting in Tupper Lake on Tuesday evening and another at DEC headquarters in Ray Brook Wednesday. Organizers said no non-officials attended the Tupper Lake meeting, but there was a solid crowd at Wednesday’s meeting.
Another issue that has come up is the material the trail will be made out of. The state is planning to construct the trail with stone dust surface to ensure that it meets Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Keith Gorgas of Saranac Lake recently raised the issue that the silica stone dust is a known carcinogen with warnings from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but Winchell said after the meeting that those health concerns are aimed more at people who endure prolonged exposure to the fine dust.

“We’ve looked at the MSDS (material safety data sheets) on it and talked to our hazardous waste people,” Winchell said. “The MSDS sheets actually refer to prolonged exposure in enclosed spaces.

“We’re not seeing anything that users of the trail are going to be exposed to any harmful levels.”

He added that workers who physically construct the trail may have to take extra precautions.

Link to full story: Adirondack Daily Enterprise - Rail trail sessions end with small crowd

Author:  J3a-614 [ Sun May 14, 2017 10:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Adirondack Park Agency oks scrapping RR line to Lake Pla

One thing that stands out in that Adirondack Daily Enterprise story is that the state claims it owns the right of way outright.

There is a fellow who will strongly dispute that--and I recently found out that while he isn't a lawyer, he's better versed in easement issues than most.

http://www.adirondackdailyenterprise.co ... rail-plan/

. . .There are over 50 lots that are bisected by the railroad in the Lake Clear area.. . .

First and foremost is the fact that the railroad is occupying and operating within a railroad right-of-way. The state does not own the land. They have a right-of-way through the properties. For a railroad. This use does not extend to a trail. The state taking the position that it owns the land is proven wrong by a complete lack of any property tax payments by the state, or the railroad, for the property in question. Where and when has the state paid any property taxes to Franklin County on this property? I can find no record of the state, or the preceding railroad, paying anything at all in property taxes for this property. This fact alone seems to prove the ROW issue is valid, and a lot more widespread than the state or the local media is willing to admit. It is very easy to verify this.

I've got to say, with over 50 properties involved in just Lake Clear, I've got a strong feeling this isn't just about a trail. That's too many for this to be a mere case of neglect on the part of the state.

I think we may have a land grab in progress.

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