Utica to Thendara Trip, Summer 2012

This video was made by a passenger on our Utica to Thendara run on Labor Day weekend of 2012. It’s a great trip for people of all ages!

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Iowa Pacific and Adirondack Scenic Railroad Announce Partnership

The Adirondack Rail Preservation Society (ARPS), operators of current tourism rail services on the Adirondack Railroad, and Iowa Pacific Holdings, LLC have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a major new working partnership going forward. A key goal of the agreement is the establishment of high end excursion passenger service between New York City and Lake Placid, utilizing restored Pullman railcars and sleeping cars.

“This MOU has been the subject of several months of effort as our two organizations established the basis for a working relationship and as Iowa Pacific fully assessed the potential of the Adirondack Railroad as the next in their continuing series of successful rail service developments across the country,” states Bill Branson, President of ARPS.

  Iowa Pacific Holdings is based in Chicago and is the parent company of several successful passenger and freight railroads around the U.S. and internationally. These include the Saratoga & North Creek Railroad in the eastern Adirondacks and the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, the Mt. Hood Railroad, High Iron Travel, the Texas-New Mexico Railroad, and the West Texas & Lubbock Railway, as well as the Machuu Picchu Train in the Andes in South America.

In addition, Iowa Pacific owns the Pullman Sleeping Car Company. Under their leadership, Pullman is actively engaged in the acquisition and restoration of historic Pullman passenger, dining and sleeper cars, with approximately 70 currently in various stages of restoration. This year, they have announced and are about to initiate Pullman Rail Journeys, operating high end overnight excursions similar to those operated in many areas of Europe such as the famous Orient Express. The first tour venture will begin in early November from Chicago to New Orleans.  

“We are grateful to ARPS for the opportunity to work together on a project that can bring a dramatic rail service improvement to the Adirondacks,” said Ed Ellis, President of Iowa Pacific Holdings. “Iowa Pacific has been working to revive rail corridors across the US and in other countries for freight and passenger service for over a decade, and our recent success with the Saratoga and North Creek is an indication of what can be done in the Adirondack market. We believe the higher-end travel audience in New York City is ready to respond to a first-class overnight experience on historic Pullman cars through the Adirondacks to Lake Placid. While we are quite aware of the structural challenges involved in developing this kind of service, we believe we are uniquely qualified to assist ARPS and this agreement is a first milestone in working toward the vision.”  

The MOU further states that “Iowa Pacific Holdings, Pullman Sleeping Car Company and the Saratoga and North Creek Railroad also concur with ARPS and the other parties that, based upon our broad national experience, the Adirondack railroad offers numerous opportunities for rail service development in the future in addition to the Lake Placid-New York City operation, including other expanded tourism rail operations along its length, rail access to trailheads and waterways, and future freight potential. The parties therefore also commit to the joint identification and shared exploration of these and all other forms of rail activity which appear achievable as a part of the future of this singular and irreplaceable infrastructure.” 

“This interest by one of the nation’s premier rail companies in resuming service along the Utica-Lake Placid rail corridor is very exciting news,” states Kate Fish, Executive Director of the Adirondack North Country Association. “ANCA has been a long time supporter of retaining rail infrastructure in the Adirondack North Country region as a vital component for our economic future. We applaud the commitment of Iowa Pacific, the Adirondack Railway and other important partners in this significant initiative.” 

“The revival of rail as an engine of tourism is evident across Europe and now all over America,” states Garry Douglas, President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce. “People are hungry for new kinds of experiences, and new ways to see and enjoy spectacular areas like the Adirondacks. Hopefully everyone will come to the table to do all that we can to move this venture forward and then to develop all of the other possibilities waiting to unfold. Onward, upward and on track!” 

Under the agreement, the parties will work together on the full development of a joint plan that can be submitted to the New York State Dept. of Transportation and form the basis of business discussions with Amtrak and other stakeholders. Iowa Pacific will bear the equipment and operating costs and risks, and will be open to partnering in the costs of capital improvements required on the rail line, to be defined as part of the full plan. According to Branson and Ellis, the full plan will also include outreach to several of the major hotels and resorts in Lake Placid to determine their interest in becoming partners in hosting future visitors. 

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For more information about Pullman Rail Journeys visit: www.travelpullman.com

Don’t Stop Railroad Revival

We need to think out of the box; we are thinking too locally.

What happened to the Adirondack Railroad in the 1960s and ’70s has no bearing on today’s reality. It does not make sense to compare the railroad of the past with the potential of the railroad today. Times have changed dramatically.

Back then, all railroads were struggling to survive, with both passenger and freight operations in trouble. Good planning, thinking outside of the box and containers brought freight back. Innovative methods were tried and succeeded. Passenger service was a mess during that time, equipment was poor, service was not good, and people were abandoning a good way to travel because it was no longer a good way. But that was then. Now we have Amtrak, which came along, cleaned up old equipment, offered fewer trains but somewhat improved service, and that evolved with baby steps into the really good trains we have today. The trains are nice, the service great. Trains run full all across the country, with more trains being added each year. Pretty good for a service that everyone said would fail.

Go ride the Acella at up to 150 mph between Boston and Washington through New York. Ride the Cascades trains on the West Coast. Try the Superliner double-deck trains that regularly go west from Chicago – made right here at Bombardier, by the way. Bottom line: Trains are coming back strong as a real part of our lives.

OK, we have a tourist train here right now, and that’s all we have. But plenty ride it; we carried 22,000 on just our little 10 miles, and 70,000 we have run on the whole system, and the season isn’t over yet. We sell a book in our gift shop that tells about all the trains offered in the U.S., and it’s about a half-inch thick. More are being developed every year. Rail fans and tourists flock to them just to ride a train again. That means big bucks for the areas they go through. Iowa Pacific has taken over the Saratoga-to-North Creek train and made it into a real deal with dining, domes and lots of passengers. We can have that here; all we have to do is keep doing what we are doing and finish the track work already started and well under way. We are more than halfway done!

I know some folks are saying we have to redo the unit management plan. I disagree. As the UMP stands now, it allows for the development of the rail service along with trails and expansion of it. No new plan needs to be done, and no permits need to be sought out. When more material and labor are available, we can continue the rehabilitation of the line. The last thing we need to do is to stop work and change canoes mid-stream. Let’s not further delay implementation of a plan that was already thoroughly debated and is now well under way.

It makes no sense to pull out an existing rail line to make a trail when we have miles of them already but only one railroad. Where it is practical, we can have the trail alongside of the tracks, and that’s good. With the track work completed, we could pull big trucks off the narrow roads we have, and we make it possible for folks to ride up rather than drive the congested roadways.

Let’s consider a trail-only conversion. Our line goes through some of the most rugged and beautiful country in the Park. It is, however, very remote. There is nothing there. If you break down, there is nothing close you can walk to and, what’s even more concerning, spotty cell service at best. I’m not sure I’d like to be riding a bike through some of that area without a train coming along to pick me up if I need it.

We also experience the same thing other roadways do – washouts. If the tracks were gone, how would we get equipment in there to make the repairs? Do you want to drive a big dozer or back a big dump truck miles down on a narrow bike path? It would be a full-time, never-ending job and difficult at best. Yet working from the track, it’s easy to zip in and out, and you don’t have to steer! Yes, the tracks do need some new ties, but they are just ties – nothing to be afraid of – and more than half of them or better remain in good condition! And the rail is good heavy rail, in great condition. All we need are some more ties.

We need to get our trains running to Utica as soon as we can. We want to add trains to Tupper Lake as soon as we can, with Lake Clear as our first goal. Trains are going to be needed soon with this fuel crunch we are in. A ton of freight can be hauled 500 miles on a gallon of fuel, according to a CSX television ad. We can haul hundreds of passengers on very little fuel. We can reduce our carbon footprint with trains. Think of the cars not going on the road to haul 500 people. And in Utica, we connect with one of the country’s busiest main lines, so travel by Amtrak to all areas of the country is possible.

One of these days I’m going to be able to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, passengers for Boston, New York and Chicago change at Utica!”

Thanks for listening.

 

By: Rusty Russum Sr.

Volunteer Conductor

Adirondack Scenic Railroad

Saranac Lake, NY