Champlain Valley Rail Snapshots is dedicated to railroad news and happenings in Upstate New York, the Adirondacks and North Western Vermont. I strive to keep updated on train movements, maintenance projects and railroad history and heritage.
Join me as we witness the evolving nature on the local Canadian Pacific mainline on the historic Delaware & Hudson bridge line!
The railroad industry has a fascinating heritage, and the modern railroad is a miracle of technology and human labor.
The ADIX 6076 in Adirondack Scenic Railroad Yard in Lake Placid
May Issue 2016 Kalmbach Publishing Trains Magazine
5/9/2016 A fantastic article in the
May/June issue of Kalmbach Publishing's Trains magazine highlighting
the importance and value of the preservation railroad industry, yes
I think this is pertinent up here
because of the brutal assault faced by rail historical preservation
groups in New York at the hands of “trail zealots” who covet the
right of ways and want nothing more than to murder the historic
preservation railroads that use them, like the Adirondack Scenic
Railroad and the Catskill Mountain railroad. To justify their
personal outdoor playgrounds these hobbyist groups have been using
the buzzword “underutilized” and horrifically mutilated the
Rails-to-Trails conservancy into a railway gobbling monster, bullying
communities and picking on volunteer operated non-profit historical
One group I've seen posting on the
internet has resorted to name calling and routinely uses the kind of
insults and derogatory slurs when talking about the rail enthusiasts
and historical preservationists would make a libel lawyer dance
gleefully with wads of cash clenched tightly between their fists.
Sadly for those trudging away trying to
make a preservation railroad operate what is underrepresented is the
continued growth and interest in the industry. This is what makes
Aaron Isaacs' article “The State of the Railway Preservation
Industry” so welcome and wonderful. The article is a fantastic
read, he opens stating that “It's time to apply the word 'industry'
to railway preservation and it's no exaggeration.” Combining
tourist railroads, museums, restored depots, private car owners and
historical societies he asserts is a $400 million industry. “It's
grass roots, and it would be hard to find another industry that
relies so heavily on volunteers labor.” The last few years has seen
6 reborn tourist line just Pennsylvania, with more appearing
throughout North America that he lists.
Isaacs also talks about how important
special events are, such as the popular “Day Out With Thomas” and
“Polar Express” trains, which for some organizations cover “as
much as 30 percent to 50 percent of their annual operating budgets.”
However despite the interest and growth
of the preservation railway industry “a major setback to funding
for big ticket items, in 2012 Congress gutted the Transportation
Enhancement grant program that began in 1991 and had channeled an
estimated $626 million to railway preservation” which was important
for places like Spencer, NC, home to the largest preserved roundhouse
and host to several extremely popular events. He also lists several
other valuable sources that have been drying up like the “MAP-21
federal transportation law that cut overall funding for
Transportation enhancement-type projects” these are huge losses for
operations that welcome millions of every year, including the “40
railroads and museums” that host Day Out With Thomas events alone
“roughly a million people attend” according to Isaacs, and plus
there are the Polar Expresses, Easter Bunny trains, Halloween trains
and regular season runs.
The interest keeps building and the
projects keep getting done despite the negativity from special
interest groups. “The last two years have seen the completed
restorations on a dozen steam locomotives, five diesels, 12 passenger
cars, 10 freight or non-revenue cars, and 10 street cars, plus at
least 12 new or restored buildings and four major track projects.”
there is a great amount of interest in this history and they can
really pack the people in to experience it.
This is why I cannot understand why New
York State and these special interest lobby groups are so obsessed
with destroying what we have. One local historical preservation
railroad has suffered for years with empty promises of state backing
on several large projects that never materialized, leaving it in the
position it is now, fighting for it's very survival. This wouldn't
have been a problem nor the trail group that hounds it had the state
followed through on their original intentions.
A historic preservation railroad is not
just a train ride, or a special interest, it adds a wonderful
attraction and increases the diversity of an area's tourist draw.
Isaacs mentions “it happens that between the ages of 2 and 6, kids
go crazy for big mechanical things that move” and scenic train
rides are a great way for a family to experience an area and learn
about local history. Most preservation railroads utilize historic and
vintage equipment, like the Adirondack Scenic railroads 6076, while
an operating GP9 is not entirely rare, a 1959 GP9 with a 'F'
emblazoned on the end of the long hood and control stand to match
with a proud high short hood is something you don't see anymore.
With that locomotive you get eager
volunteers, ready to answer your questions and explain what makes a
particular piece of equipment special. These are the kind of
operations you can get a good look at how a railroad functions, ask
questions and see how a big horsepower diesel locomotive runs and
people happy to show you.
Historic preservation railways offer a
great insight to local history as well as providing a fun family
friendly activity and you may not realize how much you learn.
Railroads were important to the everyday lives of just a generation
or two ago and I'll break down just a small segment of the Adirondack
Scenic Railroad for example. On a ten mile stretch of rail line
between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, NY there were 16 businesses and
industries that utilized the railroad directly. The railroad fell
under the New York Central and Delaware & Hudson Railroad as well
as under different names. It supported 2 Winter Olympics in Lake
Placid in 1932 and 1980, providing most of the transportation in and
out during the earlier games. In fact in 1932 snow had to be
transported to Lake Placid in freight cars for some events due to a
mild winter! The railroad saved millions by transporting people out
of the cities into the clean mountain air of Saranac Lake for respite
from Tuberculosis. Presidents and important actors rode the train,
and Lake Placid and the Adirondacks (famous style chair included)
wouldn't be the tourist destination it is today without the railroad.
Today you can take a train from either
Lake Placid or Saranac Lake riding in classic 1950's passenger
coaches behind a 1950's locomotive and learn wonderful anecdotes and
history first hand while talking to the all volunteer crew in a
However this endearing scene of
Americana is endangered by a group of trail zealots, 2016 is to be
the final season of 34 miles of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad
between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. Despite the broken promises of
state support, despite plans for rails-with-trails solutions that the
state and trail groups dismissed out of hand despite successful
“Steam Into History” and Western Maryland Scenic combined
rails-with-trails outfits, despite what Isaacs says that “The
industry is growing and in good shape, largely because so many people
want it to happen. There are challenges, but also much forward
momentum.” Recent decisions by NYS turns its back on all this with
the DOT, DEC and Adirondack Park Agency collaborating in the state
sponsored killing of a treasured piece of history that affected the
lives of millions of people, where thousands of visitors annually
make family memories, is now turning its back on part of a $400
million industry with increasing interest and growth for the lofty
goal of spending millions of taxpayer money to create a nice space
for your dog to go poop.
May Issue Trains Magazine 2016 Kalmbach Publishing
Maybe if more articles like this had
been written and published the trail lobby wouldn't have as much
ground the last few years.
I am glad there is someone out there
talking about the good parts of railway preservation and I hope Aaron
Isaacs message gets around much farther, because it is a wonderful
relief and very encouraging news.