Cuomo Announces Approval Of Adirondack Rail-Trail Plan

As George the cranky steam roller from the Thomas the Tank Engine series says “Tear them up and turn them into roads” but in this case trails. I’ll be honest, I agree with this plan. I work in the rail industry, however I enjoy the outdoors. The original plan was to remove the rails from Big Moose to Lake Placid. Now the rails will only be removed from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake a distance of 35 miles rather than about sixty or so.

I believe that if the rails were to stay and the entire line be restored to active service it would boom until the nostalgia wore off. Who knows maybe I am wrong? I do believe a rail trail will draw more visitors than the railroad. Right now in America the “Rail Trail” boom is booming and they continue to grow in popularity. I guess only time will tell if this was the right decision.

Below is the story by Phil Brown  of the

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced approval of a controversial plan to remove state-owned railroad tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake to create a 34-mile multi-use trail. In addition, the state is committed to restoring 45 miles of tracks between Big Moose and Tupper Lake.

The governor’s announcement is a victory for Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA) and a defeat for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad (ASR), which operates a tourist train on a 10-mile stretch of tracks that will be removed. Later in the day, ASR revealed that it recently filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court seeking to save the tracks.

ARTA President Joe Mercurio, who lives in Saranac Lake, said he was thrilled by the governor’s announcement. “ARTA and a great many others have worked long and hard for this,” he said. “Governor Cuomo deserves a huge round of applause for his support. It was the right thing to do.”

The trail would be used by bicyclists, hikers, and others most of the year and by snowmobilers in the winter.

In a news release Tuesday afternoon, the governor’s office said the trail will be finished within three years, at a cost of $8 million. The line south of Tupper Lake will be rehabilitated within the same period, at a cost of $15 million.

“By rehabilitating the railway and building a scenic trail, we are better utilizing the corridor and its surrounding lands to create more economic and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike,” Cuomo said.

One argument for removing the tracks was that the ASR train that runs between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid does little for the local economy. ARTA and many local officials contend that a recreational trail will attract more tourists.

If the tracks are removed, ASR will have to shut down the Lake Placid train. Also, Rail Explorers USA, a rail-bike operation that started last year in Saranac Lake, will have to relocate.

ASR will still be able to run trains out of Old Forge and eventually extend its excursions all the way to Tupper Lake. The Old Forge train is seen as more successful than the Lake Plaid train.

However, it’s not certain ASR will continue to be the rail operator in the corridor. The state plans to solicit bids for a rail operator.

The entire state-owned rail corridor extends 119 miles from Remsen to Lake Placid and is managed by the state Department of Transportation. The updated management plan for the corridor was drafted by DOT and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which will oversee the construction and maintenance of the recreational trail.

DEC officials said Tuesday that track removal could begin as early as December or, if not then, in the spring. ASR and Rail Explorers can continue to operate on the tracks through November.

Supporters of the railroad have argued, among other things, that removing the tracks would violate the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. They also point out that the corridor and the tracks are on the state and national registers of historic places.

In February, after the Adirondack Park Agency approved the rail-trail plan, ASR started a campaign to raise $100,000 for a legal fight. As of late March, it said it had raised about $40,000.

Bill Branson, president of the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, which operates ASR, said in a news release late Tuesday afternoon that the railroad recently filed a lawsuit against DEC and the APA. “We are an important driver of tourism in the Adirondacks, and we cannot understand why DEC is determined to destroy vital transportation infrastructure and the only operator on that infrastructure,” he said.

Steve Engelhart of Adirondack Architectural Heritage also criticized the decision. “We are disappointed by the governor’s announcement, as we feel that the railroad advocates made a strong case for the preservation of the entire 119-mile rail corridor for its economic, social, and cultural value,” Engelhart said. “In addition to destroying a significant section of this National Register-listed historic resource, this decision will shut down a successful local business, Adirondack Rail Explorers, and eliminate the northern operations of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, a popular attraction for area visitors with thousands of riders every year.”

In addition to building a rail trail and fixing up old tracks, the state intends to:

  • Build snowmobile trails near the corridor to connect Tupper Lake and Old Forge and improve snowmobile connections between the Adirondacks and Tug Hill.
  • Evaluate the feasibility of a hut-to-hut cross-country ski trail from Beaver River to Horseshoe Lake.
  • Establish railway stops for visitors and outdoor recreationists.
  • Consult with the State Historic Preservation Office to mitigate the impacts of removing the rails.
Adirondack Scenic Railroad "Railroader's Special" arrives the station at Big Moose, NY on September 24th 2015.
Adirondack Scenic Railroad arrives the station at Big Moose, NY, image © Joe Geronimo.

Thursday Review: #tbt

New York Susquehanna & Western Railway conductor Matthew Gibbons. Image © Joe Geronimo.
New York Susquehanna & Western Railway conductor Matthew Gibbons. Image © Joe Geronimo.

I remember this day well, sadly I don’t remember the date. In my haste I never logged that pertinent information on the negative sleeve. I believe this was January 2001? It was cold, brutally cold. Minus 50 degrees cold along the southern edge of Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, NY.

Matthew Gibbons and I were attempting to bring a rather large freight to CSX Dewitt yard in East Syracuse. CSX averages 70+ trains per day on the Chicago main line or “Water Level Route”. Trains traveling at 50 & 60 MPH with Amtrak hitting 79 MPH would blow snow all over filling our switch where our two railroad connect.

In this scene Matt attempts to clean snow and ice from the switch points. Windchill dipping near fifty below, an eastbound CSX intermodal train roars by at 60 MPH and Matt has all he can do just to stand up. Matt now resides in Wisconsin battling the same weather conditions on the Soo Line Railroad.

I captured this moment with a Canon EOS Elan 7E on Kodak TMax 400.


Getting Nervous



In mid February I entered the lottery for the 2014 New York City Marathon. Lottery entries officially closed on Tuesday March 18th and selection begins on March 26th. I’m nervous, nail bitting nervous. Reaching into my soul part of me wants to get in so desperately, meanwhile a part of me hopes I do not.

You’re probably asking yourself “Is this guy crazy??” To be honest this would be my first marathon andI feel intimidated. I’m totally capable of running this race. What really has me freaked is how 2014 has started out for me. So far I’ve been clobbered by a brutal cold and now I have strained hip flexors. So my training and morale have really been affected. I know, I know, plenty of time to heal and train. I’m a worrier!

As I nevously wait over the next several days pondering my fate I can tell all of you this. If I do get selected to run in 2014 New York City Marathon, I will take every advantage that this experience offers. Now if I don’t get selected, look out 2015.


The Beginnings of a New Day

4,865 ft  Whiteface Mountain towers in the distance as the sun rises on Lake Placid in New York's Adirondack Park. Canon EOS 1N Fujichrome Provia 400X Image © Joe Geronimo.
4,865 ft Whiteface Mountain towers in the distance as the sun rises on Lake Placid in New York’s Adirondack Park. Canon EOS 1N Fujichrome Provia 400X Image © Joe Geronimo.

The last week of nothing but glorious sunshine has me chomping at the bit to set off on an adventure in my kayak. Late last summer I began to get up well before sunrise and travel to the Finger Lakes Region of New York State to watch the show. There is something so peaceful and surreal about the quiet calm at that time of the morning. The beginnings of a new day, another day I’m alive enjoying life. The water is like that of glass as the calls of wildlife echo throughout.