K&J – Grooming the Rails

There’s a Snowmobile Trail system in the North Country that will take you just about anywhere you need to go.. From Lake Placid, however, the only way to get where you want to go, with a few exceptions, is to ride out to Lake Clear on the Adirondack Rail Corridor and it’s the responsibility of The Lake Placid Snowmobile Club to coordinate a smooth trail once there’s enough snow to accommodate grooming.

K&J – 010713 – Grooming the Snowmobile Corridor

Interestingly, while many of us would have thought there would have been more than enough snow for the rail corridor to be groomed, after this three hour tour of the corridor from Lake Placid to Lake Clear, however, one can truly understand why snowmobile clubs are in favor of removing the rails, which make grooming the trail relatively dangerous. It’s actually quite frightening. Getting started, though, it’s terribly daunting..

2001 Bombardier BR-180

The Groomer is a 2005 Bombardier BR-180 – It uses a hydrostatic Drive with an 8 way plow –  If you can picture in the old days on a bulldozer, sitting in a chair with a forward backward stick on the right for your right hand and the same post with a handle on the left for the left hand. Each track is independently controlled and steering is accomplished with a push or a pull of one side or the other.  In the case of this Groomer, both of these controls fit in one hand on the left.. and they’re much more sensitive to the requests of the driver.  There’s another joystick to the right for the plow and another thinner joystick in the center console.. That’s for the Drag..  Normally behind us we would be dragging a 20 foot by 8 foot wide steel drag with six blades – it’s designed by arrowhead groomers – but today we’re not going to use the drag because this is the inaugural grooming of the rails and that means the snow hasn’t been packed sufficiently to accommodate the drag and instead, it would simply expose the rails…

The plow is larger than the older one and it can be angled down into the snow outside of the rails and set to push the snow into the middle of the trail so that the tracks behind the plow can compact the snow into the trail..

The Snowmobile Clubs in the region are entirely in favor of re-opening the Unit Management Plan which was originally created by the Department of Transportation..

McCulley adds, and don’t forget about Fish Creek, Lower Saranac, Rowland’s Ponds and two hundred Thousand People, he says, who would be able to use this trail almost immediately.. and it’s not just about Snowmobiling..

We’re passing the powerhouse at the damn which adds power to the correctional facility… It’s interesting to note that the lines running from the damn to the facility are so hot they melt the snow above all the way… The Groomer is running smoothly because we’re in the forest at this point and it’s flat.. So we’re able to talk a bit more about the value of the corridor for the communities it passes..

And I have to say – riding in the groomer – with the president of the Snowmobile Club of Lake Placid – putting myself in their shoes for a while – The argument is a compelling one..  and in this case, the rails are clearly an obstacle for snowmobiles.. or perhaps it would be better said this way, the rails are clearly an obstacle for the groomer which precludes use of the corridor usually until mid January, and then only until March – Without the rails in place, the snow cat could ready the trail with just a few inches of snow to pack down..  Now speaking of grooming.. that’s really what we’re doing Friday afternoon..

Our three hour tour takes us over route 3 and luckily we have rubber tracks so the train gates aren’t dropping – I think those are locked in the up position anyhow during the winter – it’s a good thing busses still have to stop though – because you never know when a train might be coming – and there’s the Saranac Lake Train Station – It causes a bit of a problem for snowmobiling because the rails come together and some of the switching mechanisms will turn a snowmobile off course or rip up a ski or two once and a while..  From there – Aubuchon Hardware and past Kinney Drugs out to the Lake Colby Causeway..

Well we made it over the Causeway.. and to be honest, after that quarter mile excursion, I have to say, some of the smaller drop offs aren’t quite as ominous, but I will say, they’re just as dangerous..

As it turns out we lost a coolant hose, Tom brought us to a neighbors house where we parked the Groomer in a side driveway. Luckily we made it the entire three hour trip before the hose gave out. So normally a six hour job, to groom the corridor from Lake Placid to Charlies and back..  This time we only got to go one way – and there’s one thing for sure…  Grooming this trail is hard work! frightening at times and dangerous most of the way. And this time, we only made it half way..

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