Warren County railroad negotiations progressing
The company hoping to restore train service to a rail line in Warren and Saratoga counties is now eyeing a start to tourist train service next May as contract negotiations take more time than initially hoped.
No additional negotiation sessions have been scheduled between rail line owners Warren County and the town of Corinth and United Rail Inc. of Las Vegas, as United Rail looks to secure a contract for tourist and freight train service between Saratoga Springs and North Creek.
Warren County Administrator Ryan Moore said the two sides have made significant progress toward a contract, but some details need to be worked out.
As of Wednesday, the county was trying to firm up details related to “performance metrics,” such as guaranteed number of train trips, train speeds, inspections, schedule delays and reporting of railroad worker injuries.
He said the two sides agree on not allowing tracks to be rented for rail car storage. United Rail has agreed to not use the rail line for storage of unused cars outside of normal storage of its own equipment.
The prior operator, Saratoga & North Creek Railway, created a major controversy in 2017 by putting out-of-service tanker cars on the rail line north of North Creek, in the state Forest Preserve.
Moore said there was no timetable for additional negotiations, as of this week.
Jon “Jack” Kelley, a Saratoga County economic development leader who is one of United Rail’s local representatives, said the company’s hope now is to have a contract in place in the coming months so United Rail can begin rail repair work and kick off excursion trains next Memorial Day weekend.
He was optimistic a deal would be reached.
“It’s been a very fair and very polite discussion,” Kelley said.
The company is also looking into restoring rail service north of North Creek.
The company is urging the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to decline to declare abandoned the line north of North Creek, known as the Tahawus or Sanford Lake line, to the former stone mines in Tahawus, Kelly said.
United Rail believes the stone and titanium in Tahawus are still valuable commodities best moved by rail.
The state, which opposed the tank car storage by Saratoga & North Creek Railway, has sought the abandonment declaration.
“New York state has not acted in the best interests of all of the residents of the state in regard to their position on that line,” Kelley said.
United Rail executives have been talking to SNCR’s owner about a purchase of the Tahawus/Sanford Lake line, he said.
In addition to freight, excursion trains between North Creek and Tahawus would allow the disabled and elderly to see sights they couldn’t reach otherwise, Kelley added.
Some Warren County leaders have been concerned that United Rail doesn’t actually operate any railroads, and that its purchase of a railroad in New Hampshire that was supposed to have occurred this summer did not.
Moore said company leaders indicated they still hope to buy the New Hampshire line, New England Southern Railroad.
“They told us it is still in the works,” he said.
Saratoga & North Creek Railway and its parent company, Iowa Pacific Holdings of Chicago, bowed out of local train operations last year, and have been sued by Warren County for breach of contract and back revenue payments.
The county and Corinth initially had four suitors interested in a contract on or purchase of their rail line earlier this year, but three dropped out or were deemed non-responsive to the request for proposals the county issued. So United Rail is the exclusive suitor as of now.