Saratoga & North Creek Railway’s tracks up for auction

An excursion train runs along the Hudson River in 2012. The rail company has ended service.

An excursion train runs along the Hudson River in 2012. The rail company has ended service.

ADIRONDACKS — A 30-mile section of train track leading into the Adirondacks is up for auction.

The track and its easement running from North Creek to Tahawus are the primary asset of the Saratoga & North Creek Railway, which ceased operation in early 2018 and removed its equipment from the site.

The S&NC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2020 and Chapter 11 liquidation in September 2021. William A. Brandt Jr. of DSI Consulting is the Chapter 11 trustee.

He said Monday that he has received inquiries from potential bidders interested in using the line to resume freight service to the titanium mine that the line was built to serve.

The trackage may appear to be in rough shape, but it is still usable, he said.

“Railroads everywhere require continual maintenance and that has not been done in a while,” Brandt said. “We actually can run cars across the entire line, albeit at reduced speed.”

One reason for its durability is that it was commissioned by the federal government, which needed ready access to the titanium at Tahawus to support production needs during World War II. It has a 125-pound rail, which is heavy for such an application, Brandt said.

“They way over-engineered it,” he added.

There’s two more segments totaling about 60 miles between North Creek and Saratoga Springs, one owned by Warren County, one owned by the town of Corinth. A train would have to travel the entire length to get freight to the interconnection with the Canadian Pacific and the rest of the continent. 

Because the railway is designated a common carrier, the two other track owners can’t refuse operations on the rails, Brandt said, but negotiations may not be necessary. Brandt said he’s heard reports that one or both municipalities might want to sell their trackage, and he’s heard directly from potential bidders that they’d try to make such a purchase.

“I believe that the southern two segments will quickly thereafter be engaged in discussions,” he said.

None of this would preclude the return of tourist trains, which have operated on various parts of the line with various operators.

The potential freight operations at this point would be limited to loading hopper cars at Tahawus by day and hauling them out at night, and possibly serving Barton Garnet Mine in the same manner, Brandt said.

Such a purchase would, however, preclude the tracks being torn up and the right of way replaced by a mix-use recreation trail, which is an option Brandt doesn’t support.

“I have spent a lot of time with the local officials,” he said. “Their line to me is, the forest has an abundant amount of hiking trails.

There’s no crying need for yet one more.”

There is, he said, a crying need for more good jobs in the region such as the ones that a working railroad would support, as well as a national security interest in keeping the mines along the route viable.

The Bankruptcy Court on Jan. 13 approved an amended bankruptcy plan that includes a requirement that the buyer preserve future operation of rail service along the 29.71-mile stretch north of North Creek.

Bidding is open through midnight Feb. 23 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Colorado.

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