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

It’s the Adirondack Scenic Railroad’s first blog post!

Welcome to our new blog- we will be regularly updating with news about special events, improvements to our equipment, information about volunteering, and more! Here’s a brief synopsis of what is happening at the beginning of our 2012 season-

 New Technology at the Railroad!!

Recently, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad has made a large push to improve our social media and online presence in order to better serve the needs of our passengers. Our new website, www.adirondackrr.com, will be frequently updated with news about what is going on at the railroad- new special events, progress made towards the completion of the Utica- Lake Placid rail corridor, and various other projects.  Keeping with the theme of having a more accessible, tech-friendly business, we have implemented a new ticketing system.  By using Vendini, a cloud based ticketing company,  ticket purchases mobile-friendly, reward loyal customers with presale tickets to special events, and let our passengers share more with their friends. Want to purchase tickets for the Polar Express? Tell your friends about it by posting it to your Facebook page with a direct link so they can purchase tickets for the same train and you can all be seated together!

New Equipment at the Railroad!!

1st Class Car-

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad has had lofty dreams of constructing a swanky first-class car for years- this is the year that that dream is becoming a reality! Volunteers, led by Dan Bogden, have been working for months to remake an old ConnDot commuter car into our first class car, to be used during our Wine & Beer Tasting Trains, Polar Express, and for special parties. Currently in the final stages of the project, new carpet has been installed, construction of a bar is beginning, and tables and chairs are being secured in place.

Baggage Car Makeover-

Image

The baggage car operating on the train out of Utica was recently given a facelift. Two local artists, Tony Thompson (www.TonyThompsonArt.com) and Tim Rand (www.TRandArt.com) painted a large city scape mural in the interior of the car- now outfitted with two bars, serving for our Utica-based Wine & Beer Tasting Trains will happen right in the car, accompanied by live musicians on each trip! Check back for more news regarding our Wine & Beer Tasting trains soon!

Engine Tune-ups-

Currently the 8223 and 1835 are in our mechanic shop, located on the former Griffiths Air Force Base in Rome, NY. The 8223’s batteries are charging and bearing work has begun on the 1835. Later this season the 1835, purchased just this past year, will be outfitted with a fresh coat of paint.

A Sneak Peek-

In the next edition- updates regarding the start of our season in Thendara, Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid as well as news about our revamped Wine & Beer Tasting Trains!