Railroad moves out of Adirondacks

Warren County frets over insurance, maintenance

A Saratoga & North Creek Railway locomotive is seen in September 2017 in North Creek. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

Saratoga & North Creek Railway has moved out of all but one station on the Warren County-owned rail line, and plans to be out of the last station this week.

Railway General Manager Justin Gonyo told Warren County leaders that the railroad has moved out of the North Creek, Thurman and Hadley stations, and will be out of the Riparius station this week. It is still using the “locomotive house” in North Creek and has no timetable for vacating it.

“I don’t know when that will happen,” he said Monday.

Gonyo said 24 tanker cars that had been in storage in Essex County have been moved to North Creek and were scheduled to start moving south from North Creek as early as Tuesday.

The railway’s moves to shutter operations come after its owner and chief executive officer notified county leaders in March he was pulling up stakes amid revenue issues. Gonyo told supervisors his attendance at Monday’s monthly Public Works Committee meeting was likely his last time before the board.

Warren County supervisors had many questions for Gonyo on Monday as he briefed them on how the railway’s seven-year tenure is coming to an end. Most of them focused on safety issues, such as who is going to maintain crossing signals at intersections and whether the company was maintaining insurance on the line.

With 2.5 years left on the contract between SNCR and the track owners in Warren County and the town of Corinth, county supervisors believe the railroad has responsibility for the signals and insurance, despite claims it has breached the contract.

Gonyo said the company is legally obligated to notify county leaders when it is no longer maintaining the crossings, as under the contract any crossing maintenance and signal maintenance is the responsibility of the railway and its parent company, Iowa Pacific Holdings. He would not say for how long that would continue, however.

Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty said he had concerns over Gonyo’s “kind of vague” answers, but Gonyo said he was providing all of the information he could. Bolton Supervisor Ronald Conover, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, said he had public safety concerns about the rail line in light of the company’s departure.

“Their obligations continue to accrue, continue to exist,” he said.

Meanwhile, the demise of Saratoga & North Creek Railway could help local snowmobilers as soon as this winter.

Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson said he had talked in recent days with the executive director of the New York State Snowmobile Association about the use of the rail corridor by snowmobiles this year.

Simpson said he has directed the county Department of Public Works to develop a plan for snowmobile use of the Warren County-owned stretch of tracks, which runs from Hadley to North Creek. Parks and Recreation Director Tim Benway said some work would be needed, including putting railings on all bridges.

“I’d hate to get a ton of snow and not be able to use that beautiful corridor for the winter,” Conover said.

Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino said he received correspondence from another potential railroad operator, who would have interest in tourist and freight trains on the Warren County line after SNCR’s exit. The company’s name was not available, but he said the person identified himself as Robert Low.

“They have another railroad and wanted to talk to us,” he said.

Supervisors want to wait until after they figure out how to handle the SNCR contract issue before plotting a course for the future.