Monday, February 22, 2010

Today's Train of Thought- Do you Believe in Miracles? Febuary 22, 2010

Today's Train of Thought marks the 30th anniversary of the 'Miracle on Ice' by taking a look at some of the railroads serving Lake Placid then and now. In 1979, the Adirondack Railway began operating over the former New York Central branch that ran from north of Utica, NY to Lake Placid, NY. NYC successor Penn Central abandoned the line in 1972, but the state of New York took possession of the right-of-way in 1975 and was re-opened in 1979 as the Adirondack Railway in part to bring visitors to and from the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid.

However, keep in mind that the, like the rest of the country back then, the railway industry was in a state of turmoil in the late 70s and on through the 1980s- particularly in the Northeastern USA. Less than four years prior, the bankrupt Penn Central and Erie-Lackawana were merged with smaller, bankrupt and troubled railways like the Ann Arbor, Central Railroad of New Jersey, Lehigh Valley, Reading Lines, Lehigh and Hudson River or Pennsylvania-Reading Shore Line to form the Consolidated Railway Corp- or Conrail. The beleagured Delaware & Hudson was only a few years away from being sold to Guilford Transportation for a paltry $500,000 in a short-lived and disastrous marriage and shortlines throughought the country like the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville; Wellsville Adison and Galeton or Skaneateles Short Line were on their last legs.

But the renewed interest in opening up a route to Lake Placid to accomodate the Olympics gave one tiny corner of the nation's rail network a brief reprieve from the turmoil. This kind of made sense, since Olympic host cities like Salt Lake City, Torino, Nagano and Vancouver are served by large international airports, multiple expressways, railways or ferries. Lake Placid simply didn't have any of those some 30 years ago (and as far as I know, still doesn't)- just some two lane highways cutting through the Adirondacks and the recently re-opened branchline. To haul the passengers, the Adirondack acquired some secondhand ALCO diesels and coaches and for good measure, leased additional locomotives from Conrail and Delaware & Hudson. Here, rrpicturearchives contributor Chuck Edwards caught borrowed D&H RS3 #4075 shortly after its departure from Utica with a northbound consist in the snow at Remsen, NY on Febuary 2nd, 1980.

Sadly, the Adirondack Railway went bankrupt in 1981 and the tracks remained dormant for another decade.

However, in 1992 a group of volunteers began restoring 4 miles of right-of-way on the southern section of the line between Theandra, NY and Minehaha, NY and operating it as the Adirondack Centennial Railway in observance of the 100 year anniversary of the line's completion. The excursions proved to be very popular and in 1994, the railway was renamed the Adirondack Scenic and work began on restoring the line all the way through to the Mohwak, Adirondack & Northern interchange and operating on trackage rights to Utica's Union Station. In 2000, the northernmost 20 miles of the line were reopened, operating roundtrip excursions between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. Above, contributor Andrew Blaszczyk caught Adirondack Scenic ALCO C424 #4243 leading it's consist westbound across the Chubb River shortly after it's departure from the Lake Placid station on the last day of August 2006. Although the entire line isn't yet up to snuff for operating passenger trains, volunteers and work crews can send ballast and MOW equipment the entire length of the line.
The Adirondack Scenic generally operates in the summertime and the right-of-way is used as a snowmobile trail in the winter. Aside from ballast for MOW purposes, there is no freight traffic to speak of on the line, although the excursions are becoming increasingly popular with canoers.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe they can get a federal Alaska native Corp. no bid contract like the Napa valley scenic rail.