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Railroad unveils rail bike design

Jack Roberson, executive director of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, unveils the design for a rail bike in June 2018 in Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

SARANAC LAKE — In front of a small crowd at the Adirondack Carousel Wednesday, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad unveiled its design for rail bikes the company hopes to use later this summer, but many details of the operation still remain up in the air.

Jack Roberson — the new executive director of the Adirondack Rail Preservation Society, which operates tourist trains under the Scenic Railroad name — talked about the design of the pedal-powered open cars and said the company hopes to start operating them here on Aug. 17.

ARPS said it plans to have as many as 10 rail bikes, but only one prototype has been built so far. The bikes are being built in Utica, and each will have either two or four seats, along with storage. Roberson said all the rail bike seats are compatible with child car seats.

But Roberson also said the railroad does not yet have a permit to operate the bikes from the state Department of Transportation, which has legal jurisdiction over the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor. A DOT spokesperson said last week that ARPS had applied for a permit for the rail bikes and it was under review. No timeline was given for when a permit decision would be made.

Roberson also said a destination for the bikes has not yet been determined, but he said it would be somewhere in or near Lake Clear.

This diagram shows what the railroad's new rail bikes will look like. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

ARPS used to operate seasonal tourist trains between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, but was denied a permit to do so last year amid state plans to remove the train tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake and replace them with a multi-use rail trail. However, a judge stopped that plan when ARPS sued the state and won. In response to the lawsuit decision, the state Adirondack Park Agency has proposed a reclassification of travel corridors that, if approved, could be used to allow construction of the rail trail between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake.

ARPS currently operates seasonal trains on the southern end of the line, between Remsen and Big Moose, under a DOT permit. The permit does not allow for train traffic in the Tri-Lakes this year, according to the DOT spokesperson.

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