To the editor:
(Submission is related to Mr. Lubic's letter/article, "A hard look at rail/trail numbers," published April 10.)
While I don't have a direct "dog in this fight," I am heavily involved in a railroad museum in Connecticut and support other museums and railroad tourist operations in the New York and New England area.
One thing that needs to be added concerning any cost evaluation of converting the Adirondack Scenic Railroad or any other rail line to a trail is the cost involved in disposal of the old creosote-treated railroad ties. There used to be a disposal location in Maine, but last I heard, that location has closed. The only other disposal location that I know of is out West (Colorado-New Mexico area).
So on the ASR, you have 34 miles of rail plus sidings, ties are commonly spaced at 21 inches apart, meaning you have approximately 3,200 ties per mile, which equates to 109,000 ties, which in good condition weigh 200 to 250 pounds each for 7-inch-by-9-inch-by-8-foot creosote-soaked oak ties. So assuming one-third of the original weight remains on average, that is 16,186,500 pounds, or about 7,360 tons, plus any tie piles alongside the tracks and ties within sidings. Anyone want to calculate transportation cost to carry this much weight cross country, in addition to the processing cost? Likely any money gained from scrapping the rail won't even cover the cost of disposal let alone the transportation.
Before anyone mentions it, in New York, Connecticut and most other states in the U.S., creosote-treated ties cannot be used for any purpose other than within the railroads (so no reuse for landscaping or retaining walls), and unless the ties are 95-percent usable, no railroad or rail material company will purchase them for reuse.
So you take this info and add it to Mr. Lubic's, and you realize scrapping the rail will definitely not pay for its conversion to a trail, and it is immensely cheaper to leave it as a railroad.