I picked up a copy of the Lake Placid News yesterday and found a story pitting railroad enthusiasts versus rail trail promoters. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad already runs a tourist train between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, and an offshoot, the Adirondack Rail Preservation Society wants to develop a luxury train service between New York City and Lake Placid.
They’ve teamed up with Iowa Pacific Holdings, who are ready to invest in the restored Pullman cars and other fancy accoutrements, but there is just one problem. Well, that and their opposition. The tracks between the two cities would require an overhaul estimated to cost between $20 and $43 million. That’s if the trains are to travel faster than 5 mph between Old Forge and Saranac Lake.
But there are other problems–namely big opposition from locals who think the tracks should be torn out and a bicycle-hiking path be built instead. The Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates say the railroad buffs are dreaming if they think they can build a financially viable rail service, and that the current ridership numbers for the existing scenic railway are low, because they count each boarding as a rider, and most people take round trips.
But no one can stop the imaginations of the rail buffs, who say that they could use the train to give access to the woods for the disabled and that the service would be more than just the luxury Pullman cars with fine expensive dining. “it could be used for hauling freight, fuel and lumber as well as moving people about the region,” said one advocate.
But the elephant in the room is who is coming up with the millions to fix the tracks.