By MICHAEL VIRTANEN
A small-plane flight Tuesday over the 30-mile rail line from the old titanium mine in Newcomb down to North Creek confirmed that all the tank cars that had been stored along the tracks over the winter were gone.
The Saratoga and North Creek Railway started storing empty tank cars on the line last fall but began removing them this spring in the face of public controversy.
The railroad also has been removing its equipment from North Creek, according to local residents. About a dozen train cars, none of them tankers, remained parked on sidings or tracks in North Creek, which was the terminus of the company’s passenger service from Saratoga Springs. The railroad made its last passenger run from Saratoga on April 7 with no plans to resume.
On Tuesday, an Explorer reporter and photographer Carl Heilman II took a low-level flight with LightHawk Volunteer Pilots over the mine and the rail corridor. They saw no train equipment at the former mine or on the tracks down to North Creek. The tracks run alongside or parallel to the Boreas and Hudson rivers.
“Looks to me like they’re all gone,” Heilman remarked.
Ed Ellis, president of parent company Iowa Pacific Holdings, had told Warren County officials that the Saratoga and North Creek tourist train wasn’t making enough money and the railroad needed revenue from storing the empty tankers. Environmentalists and state officials contended the Ellis was using the Adirondack Park as a junkyard.
Meanwhile, an economic analysis recently filed with the state by the new owner of the long-idled Tahawus mine said shipping crushed stone by rail from the site to the lucrative New York City market isn’t feasible at current prices. Paul Mitchell, the owner, told the Explorer that could change in the future.
Ellis told county officials the railroad needed the income from storing the tankers to tide the business over until the freight business got under way.
Iowa Pacific has offered to sell the rail line to Warren County or New York State for $5 million, but neither has taken him up on the offer. Some people want the state to turn the corridor into a bike path.
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