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Train of Thought
July 10, 2012 - Rick Burdt
I commend the passionate folks who are actively trying to save the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. As a child, I grew up in awe of trains and personally built a couple train sets complete with towns and mountains. But, as the saying goes, you can’t beat a dead horse, or in this case, an iron horse.
Freight is out of the question. The tracks would have to be completely removed and replaced to be able to handle the amount of weight and speed that would be required to even begin to compete with the current supply system. There are no local businesses large enough that could even handle the amount of supplies a train load would deliver and there certainly wouldn’t be anywhere near enough passenger service to make it worthwhile. Have you ever priced Amtrak? In most cases, it’s far cheaper to drive or even fly than it is to ride the train.
The current train being used is a collection of miss-matched cars that just abruptly end, one of them actually looks like a cattle car. Whenever the train goes by, there’s hardly anyone to be seen on it. The whistle is so loud, especially once it picks up speed and goes through Ray Brook, that whatever wildlife may have been nearby runs for cover as soon as they feel it coming.
If they were operating an old steam locomotive with turn of the century style passenger cars complete with a caboose, they may have fared a bit better. At least that would have fit in with a ‘Historic Saranac Lake’ theme. But I don’t think that would have been enough and the environmentalists would have probably thrown a fit.
Salvage companies would pay generously to perform the work and this whole trail could be completed at no cost to the taxpayers. Not to mention that thousands of railroad ties, which have been deemed so environmentally unfriendly that you cannot purchase or use them in NY unless you are a railroad company, would be removed.
There is no doubt in my mind that this trail would bring exponentially more tourists to our area than the current operation. I have never heard of anyone planning a vacation around the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and, I’m afraid if they did, they would be a bit disappointed. A hiking/biking trail through the middle of the Adirondacks is something that would unquestionably draw tourists to our area. And even more importantly, it is something that would promote repeat customers. Ask anyone in the hospitality industry how important repeat customers are.
The depots could be used as information centers with booths set up for vendors selling everything from post cards and food to camping gear and bicycling equipment. The ASR brings absolutely nothing to our communities in the winter months so the snowmobilers would certainly be welcome.
Since this rail corridor is owned by the state (DOT), if there ever came a time that rail service was necessary or viable, rail service could easily be returned. Since the current rails would have to be replaced, the first step, removal, would already be completed and rail service could be constructed even quicker and more economically.
It’s time to face the fact that the Adirondack Scenic Railroad doesn’t even begin to bring in enough tourists to offset the subsidies it receives and there is a much more viable solution that would come at little to no cost to our communities. Tourists are looking at ways to save once they arrive at their destinations due to the high costs of travel. As a result, hiking and biking are becoming more and more popular. We have a gold mine right in our back yards and should embrace this opportunity to mine it.
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