Train to arrive in Tupper Lake today
Inaugural ride marks first passenger train on renovated Thendara-Tupper Lake line
TUPPER LAKE — Today, for the first time in many years, a train engine carrying passengers — train enthusiasts, local politicians and the media — will pull into the Tupper Lake Depot on its way from Thendara.
This ride on the state Department of Transportation-owned tracks, which the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society operates the Adirondack Railroad on, marks the first passenger train on those tracks since 1981, according to ARPS. ARPS board Vice President Steven Potter said passenger trains last chugged into Tupper Lake during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. But regular passenger train service on this line really stopped in 1965.
From 2000 to 2016, ARPS operated a tourist train — under the Adirondack Scenic Railroad name — from Saranac Lake to Lake Placid in the summers. In 2000, an ARPS train stopped briefly in Tupper Lake on its way to Saranac Lake and Lake Placid just before the first abbreviated season began in September of that year.
After the state’s decision to refurbish the tracks between Remsen and Tupper Lake, it has put $30 million into upgrading the track, Potter said.
“They rebuilt basically everything,” Potter said — the railbed, ballasts, timber and tracks.
ARPS also has new used locomotives. Potter said the engine pulling cars today will be brand new to the Adirondack Railroad.
ARPS is holding a grand opening and ribbon cutting at the depot to celebrate the years of work bringing train traffic back to the rails. The event at 37 Depot St. will start at around 12:45 p.m., when the train arrives.
ARPS estimates that its staff and volunteers have donated up to 500,000 of their hours to protect and refurbish the historic railway. ARPS is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) volunteer-based organization in operation since 1992 with main offices in Utica.
“It’s really exciting to see. So many people have put lots and lots of hours into going through all the hoops and getting the investments,” Potter said. “It’s a long time coming.”
This ride will be the only one of the year. Real train service from Thendara to Tupper Lake will start next season.
ARPS spokeswoman Amanda Hill said ARPS does not run trains north of Remsen from Dec. 1 to April 1 to allow snowmobilers to use the line.
Hill said this ride is a “huge milestone” and that when the line opens next summer, ARPS will have “the longest tourist railroad east of the Mississippi” with 108 miles of tracks.
Potter estimates that trains will bring in 200 to 300 people a day, traveling on four to six passenger cars. He said when train service starts next year, it will run mostly on weekends — Fridays to Sundays — with potential Thursday runs.
For pricing and details on rides on the Adirondack Railroad, call 800-819-2291 or go to www.adirondackrr.com.
ARPS also operates Adirondack Railbike Adventures — a railbike excursion company that began guided tours out of the Tupper Lake Depot on Aug. 5.
ARPS has been running railbikes in Thendara for a few years now and used to operate a branch in Saranac Lake
ARPS Railbike Operations Director Jakob Rothfuss said the work this summer restoring the railroad track and ballasts between Tupper Lake and Old Forge has permitted the railbike attraction to open this year.
The organization is seeking local guides to spearhead the operation and lead peddlers.
Ten railbikes leave the depot for a 7-mile round trip. At the half-way point, bikers get off and the railbikes are turned around. Five bikes carry four people, and five carry two.
Potter said railbike business been doing well.
“Most Saturdays we’re totally sold out,” he said.
On Fridays and Sundays, Potter says they are at 50% to 70% capacity.
The railbike tours are on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The bikes are a bit more strenuous of a ride than people are ready for, he said, but the recumbent-style seats make it easier than riding a bike.
Railbike tours will run through October, Potter said, and possibly later, depending on the weather.
The trip takes between 1.5 and 2 hours to complete.
Rothfuss said railbikes have become a popular activity in the U.S., attracting riders who want to see “scenery that cannot be seen any other way.”
When ARPS started its railbike operating in Saranac Lake in 2015, there were 14 other such locations in the U.S. Now, there are 34.
To make reservations online, go to adirondackrailbikes.com, or by phone, call (800) 819-2291.