Snowmobile club permitted to use former Saratoga & North Creek Railway line

Warren County supervisors discuss whether people should be allowed to walk on tracks

A Saratoga & North Creek Railway is parked on tracks near North Creek in September 2017. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

Snowmobiles will be able to use part of Warren County’s rail line again starting this winter, and some are clamoring to allow more public use of the rail line in light of there being no railroad activity planned in the immediate future.

The Thurman Connection Snowmobile Club had used a section of the railroad’s right of way for a snowmobile trail for years when there were no winter trains.

Saratoga & North Creek Railway restarted winter trains in 2012 and ran them into 2018 before deciding to pull out of the region this spring.

The Athol-based snowmobile club asked in recent weeks for permission to return to the areas along the track, and the county Public Works Committee OK’d the request on Thursday.

With some pushing for conversion of the rail line to a multi-use trail, the snowmobiling development prompted a wide-ranging discussion about whether those who want to walk on the tracks should be allowed.

Johnsburg Supervisor Andrea Hogan said people “are going to use it” when there are no longer trains around.

“It’s a public asset,” Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer said. “I would like to see it open to the public.”

Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson, chairman of the Public Works Committee, said there is still train activity on the line as SNCR moves its equipment out. And there are liability and safety concerns about public use of the rails that don’t exist with the insured snowmobile club.

“Right now, it’s trespassing. It’s an open, active rail line,” Simpson said.

Opening it to walkers could create confusion if railroad activity resumes, as some who walk the tracks may not know that trains are returning, Simpson said.

He pointed out there are many walking and hiking trails in the region that are available to the public where there aren’t railroad issues.

Tracks are also difficult to walk, as is the gravel right of way and bridges, and railroad ties are coated with hazardous creosote.