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Don’t argue timetables with a railroader

Tony Goodwin’s letter to the editor in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise is not accurate with regard to the timetable he quotes regarding Bob Hest’s excellent Guest Commentary. Bob writes that a train would take a little over three hours from Utica to the “heart of the Tri-Lakes.” Bob did not say Utica to Lake Placid, as Tony writes. In fact, the words “Lake Placid” are only used once to mention lodging and restaurant capacity, not travel times.

The timetable reference is absolutely correct for what Mr. Hest writes, even as late as November 1957. Train No. 5, northbound, had five regular stops and another five conditional (flag) stops, for a total of 10 stops. This train departed at 3:15 p.m., arriving at Tupper Lake (107 miles) at 6:45 p.m. The southbound trip on train No. 2 was a bit faster, at 3 hours, 21 minutes, with the employee timetable for November 1957 showing No. 2, the southbound train, making seven regular stops and another six flag stops, plus two mail stops, for a total of 15 intermediate stops. Time had to be built into the schedule for this. Train No. 2 left Tupper Lake at 11:39 a.m. and arrived at Utica at 3 p.m.

Today, there would only be stops at Old Forge and Big Moose between Utica and Tupper Lake, and in that case, a trip would only take about 2 hours and 45 minutes. This would be at an average of 45 mph, with a possible top speed of 59 mph, the maximum allowed by federal regulations for lines without signals. On these lines, trains are dispatched by track warrants and radio communication, and since there is only one train operating, safety is not the issue it would be if other traffic was present. A through train to Lake Placid (147 miles) would take about three hours and 45 minutes with stops at Old Forge, Big Moose, Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake, much faster than the best five-hour New York Central time of 1957, due to the elimination of many intermediate stops made then.

This service from Utica to Lake Placid would look much different than the timetables of 1957, 1940 or Tony’s 27 mph scenario. If the railroad were to be improved with signaling, the top speed would increase to 79 mph and the average speed would probably be about 55 mph. In that case, the Utica-Tupper Lake running time would be a little over two hours and Utica-Lake Placid would be about three hours. At this point, the railroad will become a serious transportation option for those who do not wish to drive, and keep in mind also that a railroad can always be improved to increase speeds and frequency.

In the latter case, we would probably have regularly scheduled service several times a day from Lake Placid and Tupper Lake to Utica, Albany and New York, as well as the tourist trains. This would be possible if the state viewed the railroad as an asset to provide transportation options to the Adirondacks, instead of listening to the siren song of trail supporters. Treat people right on a train, and they will come for the ride alone and pay big bucks to do it. A couple in their 60s or 70s with disposable income would choose the pampered style of a top-notch dinner and upscale accommodations at the destination point, and have the scenic attractions of the Adirondacks on top of that.

Tony should stick to what he knows and not argue about timetables with a railroader. He attempts to make subtle changes to the facts to support misinformation, but once again that is easily refuted. I might add that some officials recognize that the Adirondacks have a transportation problem, which won’t be solved by tearing up the last railroad there.

Bill Hutchison lives in Clearwater, Florida. The New York Central employee timetable from November 1957 can be found at www.canadasouthern.com/caso/ett/images/adirondack-tt-1057.pdf.

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