Everyone loved the railroad,
with its engine the size of a whale,
it could pull ninety cars, haul ten thousand guitars,
(Photo — William F. Kollecker, courtesy of the Saranac Lake Free Library Adirondack Room)
and it had a red house for a tail.
They brought the rails to our region
a hundred and more years ago.
A trip that took weeks, on ponds, carries, and creeks,
could be made then in one day or so.
The Mohawk-Malone cut through forest and stone,
past Thendara to Lake Clear Junction,
take the Saranac line through the towering pines,
and reach Lake Placid without malfunction.
Trains hauled the logs through thickets and bogs,
and coal to provide winter heat,
the barons and czars had their own Pullman cars,
and train service couldn't be beat.
But the days of that train were soon ending,
New York Central went into decline,
as the highways came through, by the sixties they knew,
it was over for that old branch line.
There were not enough people, shipping too little weight,
and stores in a rush to restock,
they just couldn't wait for that slow-moving freight
and that train lost the race with the clock.
Since the halt of the train, train lovers maintain
that the trains will come back to our town,
Passengers, freight, it'll all be just great,
but their plans are so hard to pin down.
Their ideas and their dreams, such a tale of extremes,
no investors, no customers, too,
yet they claim it will be, just you wait and see,
and they say you can bring your canoe.
From their old scenic train, state dollars they drain,
as ties rot and the rails rust to brown,
and the gravel's washed free, it is easy to see,
yet it's all looking up, not run down.
Now a train would cost us a bundle,
tens of millions more right from the start,
going thirty miles an hour, very slow for all that power,
and soon it will all fall apart.
Any train will burn fuel and need maintenance,
and the tracks will still crack and twist,
health insurance, workers' pay, knowing which laws to obey,
these costs will accrue and persist.
But now there's a really good option,
a trail for your sled or your bike,
we could go walk and talk, while we hear the birds squawk,
rain or shine we could go for a hike.
Maintaining a trail's cheap and easy,
no hundred-ton cars to support,
no mechanics or insurance, just a test of your endurance,
on this purest form of public transport.
Railroaders say, "Don't disturb us,
those old rails are a treasure to hold,"
but they've had ample chance, spent the state's cash advance,
and now both stories should be told.
The state has a plan and a process,
hear both sides, then they can decide,
is it trail, or the train, in the public domain,
and the arguments will finally subside.
David Banks lives in Lake Clear and is a member of the Lake Placid Poets' Guild as well as a board member of the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates.