The Adirondack Regional Railroad announced growth, Thursday of nearly 7% over the past year. During the same presentation, The volunteer organization’s President Bill Branson told an overflowing crowd at the Train Depot in Saranac Lake that there final payment has been made on a $400,000 note and the $12,000 monthly payment can now be aimed at paying down other debt including their payables and other short term expense liabilities.
A Look Back;
Transportation in Central New York underwent a transformation in the early part of the 19th century with the completion of the Erie Canal and New York Central and Hudson River Railroads. With people and goods now traveling more easily and more quickly than ever before across New York State, as well as the increased pressure to utilize natural resources of the northern part of the state, the Adirondacks began to experience an influx of people. In addition to loggers, trappers, and hunters, many wealthy families began to construct estates in the Adirondacks, today known as the “Great Camps.” Roads, difficult to construct through the heavily wooded and mountainous terrain were not practical for transportation of large quantities of goods or wealthier families, accustomed to a higher class of transportation.
Dr. William Seward Webb, a medical doctor by trade, president of the Wagner Palace Car Company, and husband of Lila Vanderbilt, of the wealthy Vanderbilt family, figured the best way to access Nehasane Park, his large hunting preserve to the north, was by train. In 1890, he financed a railroad into the Adirondack wilderness, work on the line started the next year and was completed in just 18 months. The rail line was a significant engineering feat for its day. Starting in Remsen, the line travels up 1,135 feet to its highest point at Big Moose Lake, at 2,035 feet. The line itself includes 17 bridges over several bodies of water as well as a large number of buildings, constructed along the line to support rail operations, many of which are still standing or in use today.
The railroad later became part of the New York Central System. The railroad carried the Webb, Morgan, Vanderbilt, Whitney, and Roosevelt families along with other not-so-famous families to their Great Camps in the Adirondack Mountains. It also provided freight service to communities along the way. In 1961, part of the line was abandoned from Lake Clear Junction to Malone. Scheduled passenger service was continued on the Adirondack Division from Utica to Lake Placid but ended in April of 1965. In February 1968 the New York Central System merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad becoming Penn Central Transportation Company. Freight service was continued with decreasing frequency until 1972. In that year, the Penn Central’s application to the Public Service Commission to abandon the line was approved. In 1975, the state of New York purchased the abandoned line.
The line had a brief reprieve when it was returned to service in 1977 when the Adirondack Railway Corporation contracted with the state to run passenger service from Utica to Lake Placid for the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid. In February of 1981, problems with the Adirondack Railway Corporation’s management of the line forced the State to terminate the company’s lease. Ownership of the property went to New York State and the railroad was abandoned.
In 1992 a group of devoted rail enthusiasts banded together and proposed to operate a short section of the line from Thendara south to Minnehaha. New York State approved the 4-mile train ride and on July 4, 1992 the Adirondack Centennial Railroad ran its first train out of Thendara station. By the end of the season the railroad carried over 55,000 passengers. With such a positive response from the public, New York State allowed the railroad to operate in 1993, distinguishing the entire rail line from Remsen to Lake Placid as part of the National Register of Historic Places along with the New York State Register of Historic Places. In July of 1994 the Adirondack Centennial Railroad became the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which is operated by the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, Inc. (ARPS). ARPS is a 501(c) (3), not-for-profit corporation and is run by a staff of 150 volunteers and a few full and part-time employees.
By the year 2000 the railroad has restored the line all the way south to Snow Junction. At that point it connects with a freight railroad the Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern and continues on to Union Station in Utica, NY, 6 miles north from Thendara Station to Carter Station and between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Work to complete another section of track, from Carter Station north to Big Moose Lake are underway as of 2012. The remaining section of track between Big Moose Lake and Saranac Lake need a great deal of work in order to make them safe for passenger trains. Volunteers and staff work throughout the year to help promote and maintain the current railroad while working towards the reachable goal of restoring that remaining track.