By Robert Gavin, Times Union
The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for the potentially catastrophic tampering of a scenic railroad track in Corinth.
“This was a deliberate act to derail a train,” said Janeen DiGuiseppi, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Albany field office, following a news conference at the Saratoga County public safety headquarters joined by Sheriff Michael Zurlo.
The tampering of the railroad, run by the Saratoga Corinth & Hudson Railway, is believed to have taken place in early June, according to a flier released by the FBI.
DiGuiseppi said authorities know, based on the investigation and experts who looked at the railway, that the tampering was an intentional effort to derail a train. Had a train gone over the tampered section of the rail, she said, it could have led to a derailment and injuries or death to people on board. Due to the rigorous safety protocols of the operator of the track, the hazard was discovered in June, DiGuiseppi said.
A track supervisor noticed something unusual during a routine inspection. The supervisor notified railway owner Hal Raven, who called authorities.
Someone tampered with the track at a switch, which allows trains to change directions, Raven said in an interview at his business.
Raven said it was clear the tampering was a deliberate act by someone who brought tools. He said his employees undergo extensive training and diligently follow safety procedures. “They immediately saw something out of sorts and knew that it wasn’t right,” he said.
Raven, who worked in the rail freight industry for 28 years at Pan Am Railways (now part of CSX) said his company, a small family business with about 10 employees, offers charity events and supports the community. He said he has not experienced any other trouble outside of the occasional rock-throwing and similar vandalism.
“Why would somebody do something like this?” Raven said. “Why is somebody trying to ruin something that we worked so hard to build up for the community?”
In February 2022, the Times Union reported that a new tourist line was coming to the railroad offering a 90-minute train ride through the southern Adirondacks pulled by an Alco S-1 locomotive built in Schenectady in 1943. It included a stop at the Fossil Stone Winery. It was part of a 98-mile railroad between Saratoga and Tahawus in Essex County.
Raven said he has been operating since May 2022. He said the trains can carry as many as 170 passengers in the six cars that are used.
They can move as high as 15 to 20 mph, he said. During July and August, the train can run as often as five days a week. A train was scheduled for departure on the day the tampering was discovered.
Asked if it was a potential terrorist threat, DiGiuseppi said “it is a terrorist attack because it was a deliberate act to cause injury or death to people.”
Neither she nor Zurlo provided details on any possible suspects. Zurlo said the tampering was a cowardly act.
“There’s a lot of people who travel on this railway,” Zurlo said. “It’s paramount that we keep them safe throughout the course of these trips.”
Zurlo and DiGuiseppi urged anyone with information to call the FBI’s toll-free tip line at 1-800-225-5324 or contact their nearest FBI office, American embassy or consulate. DiGuiseppi, the Times Union reported Tuesday, is soon to leave Albany for a bureau post in Washington, D.C.