Thursday, October 23, 2014

Stone Trains Begin


Saratoga And North Creek's 821 and BL2 54 head North at Ordway's Siding, north or North Creek (PHOTO: Bradley Peterson)


More train rides, new freight deals boost railway’s prospects

QUEENSBURY — With a new freight-hauling contract, and a surge in sales of passenger trips, the Saratoga-North Creek Railway is enjoying a prosperous conclusion to 2014, railway general manager Justin Gonyo said this week.
A new themed passenger excursion called the Pumpkin Patch Express is to occur this weekend, with as many as 1,000 children and adults participating.
The trip features children a choosing a pumpkin to take home and visits to North Creek shops, billed as a walk down “Trick of Treat Trail.”
This fall-themed excursion is selling quite well, Gonyo said, noting it was sold out for Sunday Oct. 19 and filling up fast for Saturday Oct. 18 — at a price of $20 per ticket.
Leaving at 10 a.m. from Saratoga, the train — accompanied by a story-telling scarecrow character — arrives in North Creek at 12:15 p.m. for a three-hour layover. During this time, children paint their pumpkin, win prizes, taken a pony or hay ride as well as visiting the local stores for treats. Vendors of crafts and other wares are to be on hand, Gonyo said.
“We aim to boost foot traffic in the local businesses,” he said.
The railway already has 10,000 passengers booked for its 2014 Christmas-themed Polar Express excursions. Last year, these special trips occurred during late November and throughout December. For this year’s Polar Express, a additional double-decker dome car will join the existing two in order to boost the number of passengers, Gonyo said.
While ridership was light on this summer’s new North End Local which aimed to give Lake George visitors a ride from Thurman Station to North Creek, the railway is taking action to build the passenger traffic next year. Efforts are already underway to partner with businesses and boost publicity for this short-run tourist service, Gonyo said.
The railway’s special trains on Oct. 4 and Oct. 5 to Thurman Station were sold out, Gonyo said. These runs transported bargain-seekers from Saratoga to Thurman for Warrensburg’s huge World’s Largest Garage Sale event.
“Overall, we’re very pleased about the response to our North End Local during it’s first year,” he said, noting he and other railway officials expect growth for 2015. In late summer, Gonyo told supervisors that ridership overall during 2014 had increased by as much as 25 percent, year-to-date.
New rail freight contract signed
The big news, however, is a new freight contract the railway secured — to haul 2,000 tons of high-grade gravel per day via rail from Tahawus to Taunton, Mass., where the material is to be used for railroad ballast under the rails.
Another pending contract calls for 6,000 tons per day to be hauled by rail to Corinth, and trucked from there to Fall River, Mass.
Gonyo said Tuesday Oct. 14 that freight cars in Tahawus were already being loaded with the gravel, and that the freight trips to Taunton would begin the week of Oct. 20.
The high-friction gravel is from the abandoned NL Industries mines.
Another contract, calling for millions of tons of gravel to be transported to Long Island for road construction, is still being negotiated. This customer is seeking to have as much as 20 million tons of gravel hauled via rail over the next two decades.
Additional rail freight traffic over the Warren County-owned railroad is welcome news, county Board of Supervisors Chairman Kevin Geraghty said Tuesday.
“There has been some concern that getting the freight underway was taking longer than expected, but this is good news because it’s important to the finances of the railway operations,” he said.
Warren County and the town of Corinth, which jointly own the track and stations, receive a portion of the railway’s revenue.