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Rail Car Storage Plan Raises Concerns

Old railroad cars on tracks outside of North Creek
Protect the Adirondacks
Old railroad cars on tracks outside of North Creek

Some Adirondack environmental organizations are raising concerns over a plan by a railroad to store unused rail cars along tracks it leases in Warren Country.  The environmentalists say leaving the boxcars would degrade the wilderness stability and beauty of the Adirondacks.
The Saratoga & North Creek Railway reported to the Warren County Board of Supervisors during a meeting last week its plan to store old rail cars on tracks between Warren and Essex counties.  The company leases part of the line from Warren County.

The Adirondack Council calls the idea outrageous. Spokesman John Sheehan says the rail company has not proven that it will maintain any rail cars it brings into and leaves in the Adirondack Park.  “We think it’s a terrible idea to put a railroad junkyard in the Adirondack Park. The fact that they plan to do this on rails that sit on the Forest Preserve would only add to the injury and the insult of it all.  Frankly the company is already doing things that degrade the look of North Creek by abandoning rail cars on the outskirts of town. We’re concerned that this being repeated on the Forest Preserve will only make it worse.”

Two years ago the railroad, owned by Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings, proposed leaving old oil train cars on tracks between North Creek and Tahawus.  Protect the Adirondacks Executive Director Peter Bauer says that was abandoned but the current plan to leave box cars along the rails is no better.  “These are old cars in disrepair and the Saratoga-North Creek Railroad Company already has some of these cars stored along the Boreas River where these cars are falling apart. Paint chips are evident all along the rail ties. This does not give us a lot of confidence in how the railroad company would mothball these railcars.”

Iowa Pacific Holdings and Saratoga-North Creek Railway President Ed Ellis says the two groups are misrepresenting the situation.  He explains that supervisors were merely informed that more cars would be stored under an existing agreement.  “It’s not new. It’s not a plan. And they’re not dilapidated. And I would say that in the rail car world they’re not even old. Under our contract we are permitted to store cars on the railway and we have 30 miles of our own railway where we can store cars as long as they’re not hazardous and these are not hazardous.”

But Bauer, with Protect The Adirondacks, views the situation as creating an industrial landfill in the middle of the Adirondacks.  “We’re not going to use the Adirondacks to import solid waste from outside the Park. This may be the point in time to take a fresh look at other options that are less damaging to the Park. Why not look at a conversion to a multi-use trail from Saratoga to Newcomb? We think that that would have far greater dividends than the rail line.”
Bauer’s vision fortifies Ellis’ belief that the environmental groups want the rail corridor eliminated.   “I think their goal is to destroy the railroad.  And what’s sad about that is there are many trails all over New York that are very valuable trails.  But through the Adirondacks and up to Tahawus there is only one rail line.  And that rail line was built there as part of public policy during World War Two and everybody has labored to preserve that rail line since then. The towns, the counties, me, our company, everybody has put their own valuable resources into preserving the rail line. And it ought to be preserved. And we’re going to do our best to preserve it.”

The Saratoga-North Creek Railway reports to Warren County officials regarding activities along a portion of the tracks that is leased from the county.  The remainder of the line is owned by the railroad.