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2015 NRHS Convention Saratoga & North Creek Trip 6/15/2015

by Chris Guenzler

This trip would be a combination of Amtrak to Saratoga Springs to and from Rutland then the Saratoga & North Creek Railroad up their railroad from Saratoga Springs to North Creek. After a safety meeting at the Rutland Holiday Inn, Robin and I rode the first bus down to the Amtrak station to wait for boarding of our group. My new mileage on this trip would be from Saratoga Springs to Corinth, New York.

Amtrak Ethan Allen Express

Amtrak's Ethan Allen Express provides daily service between New York City and Rutland, Vermont, by way of Albany. The train operates on track owned by Canadian Pacific from Saratoga Springs to Whitehall, and then the Vermont Rail System's Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad from Whitehall to Rutland. The total distance is shown by Amtrak to be 24.1 miles.

The train was created in 1996, with the first trains running in December of that year. The Ethan Allen Express was the first New York-Rutland passenger train since 1953, and the first on the Rutland - Whitehall line since 1936. A major part of the creation of the Ethan Allen Express was the rebuilding of the former Delaware & Hudson Rutland Branch, today's Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad. The rebuilding was accomplished using state and federal funds, obtained by the state of Vermont. At first, the train included a baggage car for skis and other outdoor gear, but today it runs with four or five coaches and a cafe car, all the traditional Budd-built Amfleet cars from the 1970s.

The train is still subsidized by the state. With this funding have come a number of studies to extend the route on to Burlington. Two basic proposals have come about. The first would simply extend the train from Rutland to Burlington. The second would reroute the train north of Albany, taking it east to Hoosick Junction and then north along the Vermont Railway to Rutland and Burlington. Several funding packages have been obtained and used to make improvements to both routes. In 2013, the state received additional funding to pay for the replacement of jointed rail with continuously welded rail, with a goal of extending the Ethan Allen Express from Rutland on to Burlington by 2017. However, an additional funding request was denied.

Amtrak operates the Ethan Allen Express on several different schedules. Southbound, Train 290 departs Rutland Monday through Friday at 8:00 AM, 292 on most Saturdays at 11:00 AM, and on Sunday at 5:05 AM as Train 296. Northbound, Train 293 operates on Fridays only and arrives at Rutland at 11:13 AM. The rest of the week, Train 291 arrives at Rutland at 8:48 AM. To complicate things further, train schedules are often swapped during the horse racing season at Saratoga Springs and on many holidays.

Railroad History Rutland to Whitehall

For a route of less than 25 miles, the Whitehall (NY) to Rutland (VT) rail line has a complicated history made up of a number of companies. From east to west, the builders of the railroad include the Rutland & Washington Railroad, the Rutland & Whitehall Railroad, and the Saratoga & Whitehall Railroad.

The Rutland & Washington Railroad was chartered on November 13, 1847, to build west from Rutland, Vermont. The railroad operated its first passenger train during October 1850, when it operated a special trip to the Rutland County Agricultural Fair in Castleton. The railroad eventually reached the Fitchburg Railroad (later the Boston & Maine Railroad, then Guilford, and today the Pan Am Southern) at Eagle Bridge, New York, east of Mechanicville, by 1852. As with many early railroads, the construction actually consisted of several different railroad charters. The original charter of the Rutland & Washington Railroad was controlled by Vermont politician Merritt Clark and Thomas Canfield, one of the founders of the Northern Pacific.

The original charter was for Vermont, so the railroad leased the franchise rights of the Troy & Rutland Railroad (chartered on July 2, 1849) between the Vermont-New York state line and Salem, New York, rent free. The route between Salem and Eagle Bridge was then built by the Troy & Rutland, completed in 1852. Following the end of construction, the rest of the railroad was leased to the Rutland & Washington Railroad on July 2, 1852.The Panic of 1857 left the railroad broke and Jay Gould took control of the company by 1860. According to Gould's own letters, this was the very first railroad that he invested in. He wrote "I bought a majority of the bonds at ten cents, and left everything else and went into railroading. That was in 1860. I took entire charge of that road. I learned the business, and I was president, treasurer and general superintendent, and owned a controlling interest."

The railroad continued to fail, and it was sold at foreclosure in 1865. The route between Rutland and Salem was sold in two separate parts (New York trackage on March 15th, Vermont trackage on May 23rd) to holders of the Rutland & Washington's securities. The Troy & Rutland's Eagle Bridge to Salem route had previously been sold to Jay Gould on July 11, 1863. To reorganize the route and to keep it operating as one through system, the Troy, Salem & Rutland Railroad was incorporated on June 3, 1865, and immediately took control of the Eagle Bridge to Salem trackage. On June 30, the route on to the Vermont line was also acquired. To handle the railroad in Vermont, the Salem & Rutland Railroad was incorporated on February 1, 1867. To further consolidate the route, the Troy, Salem & Rutland leased the Salem & Rutland on March 19, and subsequently acquired its entire stock by October 10, 1867. The Troy, Salem & Rutland Railroad was never more than a paper company as it immediately turned around and leased the entire operation to the Rensselaer & Saratoga Railroad. A year later on October 20, 1868, the lease ended and the entire line was acquired. Changes did not end here as on February 24, 1870, the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company leased the Rensselaer and Saratoga, including the Eagle Bridge-Rutland line.

The line continued to be a part of the Delaware & Hudson. During the early part of the 20th Century, the D&H incorporated the Greenwich & Johnsonville Railway to operate a branch line from Greenwich Junction westward on what by this time was being called the Washington Branch. When the Georgia Pacific pulp and paper mill in Thomson, New York, closed, the D&H planned to abandon the Washington Branch as well as the Greenwich & Johnsonville Railway. However, in 1982, the Mohawk-Hudson Transportation formed the Batten Kill Railroad to acquire the G&J as well as the Washington Branch between Salem and Eagle Bridge. Eventually the railroad property was sold to the non-profit NE New York Rail, but the Batten Kill continued to operate the trains. While ownership has changed, the operating situation still remains much the same.

The track between Salem and Castleton was sold to the two states involved by 1983 and a recreational trail is being built over the route.

The Rutland & Whitehall Railroad was a small railroad chartered in 1848 and built by 1850 between Castleton and Fair Haven, as well as a short branch line from west of Castleton north along Lake Bomoseen to serve several local slate quarries. Because of its local control and operations, the railroad was also known as the Castleton Company.

In an effort to consolidate this string of railroads, the Rutland & Whitehall Railroad was leased soon after it was built by the Saratoga & Whitehall. On March 14, 1865, the Rensselaer & Saratoga Railroad leased both railroads and operated them as one railroad. On May 1, 1871, the Delaware and Hudson Company, which already controlled the Rensselaer & Saratoga, took over operation of the Rutland & Whitehall, giving the D&H a route from Whitehall into Rutland.

The history of the Saratoga & Whitehall Rail Road Company started on April 17, 1832, when the Saratoga and Fort Edward Railroad was incorporated to build north from Saratoga Springs. After exploring several potential routes, the Saratoga & Washington Rail Road was incorporated in 1834 to build north to Whitehall, New York. On December 10, 1848, the S&W opened the route between Saratoga and Whitehall. By fall 1850, the railroad had built east to the Vermont state line. When the Rutland & Whitehall Railroad opened its line between the state line and Castleton, the Saratoga & Washington Rail Road leased the railroad.

In 1854, the Saratoga & Washington was foreclosed on when it was unable to pay several mortgages and was eventually sold to the Saratoga & Whitehall Rail Road Company. The Saratoga & Whitehall Rail Road was organized on June 8, 1855, with the goal of acquiring the Saratoga & Washington. On March 14, 1865, the railroad was leased to the Rensselaer & Saratoga Railroad, later the Delaware & Hudson.

History of the Railroad Saratoga Springs Whitehall and Saratoga Springs

The rail route between Saratoga Springs and Whitehall is often credited to the Rensselaer & Saratoga Railroad (R&S). The R&S was chartered on April 14, 1832 by a number of Troy (NY) businessmen and built 25.2 miles of track between Troy and Ballston Spa by March 19, 1836. At Ballston Spa, the railroad connected with the Saratoga & Schenectady Railroad (S&S) to reach north to Saratoga Springs. The S&S was not always a cooperative connection so the R&S investors bought the S&S.

The Saratoga & Fort Edward Rail Road was organized in 1832 to build a line north. However, in 1834, the Saratoga & Washington Rail Road Company was organized to build a line on to Whitehall. Proponents of the two routes fought for a decade before an 1845 agreement restarted construction, and the line reached Gansevoort on August 15, 1848. The line reached Whitehall on December 10, 1848. The line eventually reached Montreal. The R&S eventually leased the lines, giving it control of 175 miles of track in the Upper Hudson and Champlain Valleys. On May 1, 1871, the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company leased the R&S, and then consolidated it into the Delaware and Hudson Railroad effective January 30, 1945. Canadian Pacific purchased D&H for $25 million in January 1991 and assumed all operations.

Over the years, the route has been known as the Saratoga Subdivision and the Canadian Mainline. Today, the route has seen a significant increase in business, especially in the number of oil trains heading to the United States west coast from the Alberta oil fields.

History of the Route of the Saratoga & North Creek Railway.

Efforts to get transportation into this area proceeded the coming of Europeans as the area's game resources attracted numerous Indian tribes. However, the 1826 discovery of a source of rich iron ore, led by an Indian named Lewis Elija, suddenly created the need for something better than foot and horseback. The Adirondack Iron Works created the Adirondack Iron & Steel Company in 1829 with the charter including the construction of a wagon road to move product to market. This early road headed east to Lake Champlain where boats moved via the Champlain Canal. However, by the late 1850s, the project was dead and the investors were searching the area for more profitable deposits, but the Civil War prevented further work on the project.

In 1848, the Sackets Harbor & Saratoga Railroad was organized to connect the two towns in its name and tap the iron mines at Sanford Lake. They were required to pay New York State $5,000 to have the right to select any quantity of land up to 250,000 acres within the next three years. They also had three years to commence work and ten years to complete the line or the company was liable to be dissolved and its franchise forfeited. The total length of the line was to be about 140 miles. In 1851, the legislature extended the requirements of the 1848 deal for one year.

Further legislative action took place in 1853 and initial surveys took place. In 1854, ground was broken in Hadley and several sections of grade were built until funds ran out. The company was again reorganized as the Lake Ontario & Hudson River Railroad in 1857. A report of the State Engineer showed the total property of the railroad at 255,202 acres. In 1860, the company again reorganized, this time as the Adirondack Estate & Railroad Company. Reportedly, a small amount of construction was done before funds ran out and it looked like the project was finally dead. Nevertheless, more financing and support showed up when on October 24, 1863, the Adirondack Company was chartered as a land and development company by a group headed by Dr. Thomas C. Durant, the vice-president of the newly chartered Union Pacific. Durant was from the area and recognized that earlier land grants for the project could make it profitable. Owning more than 700,000 acres in the area, it was quickly determined that a railroad was needed to harvest the timber and mine the ores found in the mountains. It was sometime during these efforts that the name Adirondack began to be used by the company, changing from that of the former ore town to that of the mountains they controlled.

Construction of the railroad began in 1865 at Saratoga Springs, with a charter requirement to build northward at least 60 miles. The railroad built a small engine house and a general office and shared the existing Rensselaer & Saratoga depot at Saratoga Springs. However, funds for construction ran out as the railroad was reaching Wolf Creek, twenty-five miles north of Saratoga Springs, during late 1865. On November 1, 1865, the company was seized for nonpayment of more than $1.3 million in bills. With this major event, operations of the railroad began on December 1, 1865, but with little revenue coming in from the venture. New track work began during late spring of 1866 with the goal of reaching traffic sources at North Creek and Warrensburg.

About 1870, the railroad's fortunes began to improve. Revenues from online industry began to grow and Cyrus McCormick joined the board, bring fresh money and business experience to the company. In 1871, service began to North Creek, the last town of any size in the area, and the railroad was extended a few miles past to comply with the 60 mile requirement. The financial panic of 1873 again put the railroad into insolvency.

It was about this time that the railroad began to profit from vacationers from New York City heading to mountain resorts to escape the summer heat. In particular, resorts on Blue Mountain Lake and Raquette Lake, near North Creek, resulted in Wagner Palace Car service on the line. Soon, more cottages, resorts, and children camps developed in the area, creating a large summer passenger service on the railroad. However, on September 29, 1881, the railroad again failed, owing almost $10 million in interest payments and bonds. William West Durant, the son of Thomas Durant, acquired the railroad and land holdings. Reorganized, the railroad acquired the name Adirondack Railway Company. On June 11, 1889, the railroad was sold to the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company, with complete control not taking place until 1902. At this time, the line became known as the Adirondack Branch of the Delaware & Hudson Railroad.

About this time, this rail line played an important role in history. In September 1901, President McKinley was shot at the Pan America Exposition in Buffalo, New York. At the time, Vice-President Teddy Roosevelt was speaking in northern Vermont and rushed to Buffalo. However, he was told that McKinley was going to be okay and that he should return to his vacation. Roosevelt spent the next two weeks in the Adirondacks. However, President McKinley took a turn for the worse and Roosevelt was needed. He was found hiking on Mount Marcy, the highest mountain in the state. Through a series of all night wagon relays, he arrived at the North Creek depot at 5:00 AM. Standing on the North Creek depot platform, Vice-President Roosevelt was handed the telegraph informing him that President McKinley had died at 2:00 AM and that he had to go to Buffalo to take the Oath of Office.

The north end of the railroad continued to be North Creek until the development of a titanium and iron mine and processing plant beside Sanford Lake to the north. Because of the need for titanium, the federal government pushed an extension of the line through protected wilderness lands to the open pit mine at Tahawus. A unique part of this operation was the first use of diesel locomotives, the D&H S2 3000. The success of the diesel on this line led to the acquisition of more diesel locomotives for branch line use.

In 1950, winter passenger service was discontinued with summer service operating May 15-September 30. However, ridership continued to collapse with only 5319 passengers on 278 trains in 1953. On May 29, 1957, the last regular passenger train operated over the line. However, fall foliage trains, ski trains and numerous excursion trains operated over the branch until the early 1980s.

On November 17, 1989, rail service to the ore mines ended with a 58-car ore train pulled by four locomotives, leaving just the International Paper Company at Corinth as an online shipper. In 2003, IP closed their Corinth mill and all freight service on the line ended. To preserve the line, in 2006, the Town of Corinth purchased the 16 mile stretch of track in their town for $2.2 million.

In 1998, Warren County purchased the track to run it in the interest of tourism and economic development. In 1999, the Upper Hudson River Railroad contracted to operate an excursion train on 8.5 miles from North Creek to Riverside Station in Riparius. The track was rebuilt from Riverside station to Hadley by 2007. In 2011, the line was opened between North Creek and Saratoga Springs and the operations were turned over to the Saratoga & North Creek Railway.

Saratoga & North Creek Railway

During July 2011, the Saratoga & North Creek Railway took over operation of the line, operating passenger train trips between North Creek (NY) and the Amtrak station in Saratoga Springs (NY), serving a total of nine different stops along the line. Besides Saratoga Springs and North Creek, station stops are found at Corinth, Hadley/Luzerne, Stony Creek/1000 Acres Ranch, Thurman, Glen Hudson Campground, The Glen and Riparius/Riverside. The S&NC is part of the Iowa Pacific Holdings empire of freight and passenger railroads, which includes the San Luis & Rio Grande (Colorado), Mount Hood (Oregon), Texas State Railroad (Texas), and Cape Cod (Massachusetts). As a part of their rail operation, the S&NC operates a number of special trains, including their winter Snow Train, Polar Express, and various festival trains.

The Saratoga & North Creek is also attempting to build up a base of freight business on the line. A part of this is opening the line north of North Creek to the former mine at Tahawus to potentially move existing mine tailings, to serve active mines south of there, and logs for several area logging companies. On May 14, 2012, the railroad received permission from the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to restore freight service on this line as far as Newcomb, 12 miles north of North Creek. In 2013, freight began moving over the railroad.

The Trip

Amtrak Ethan Allen Express train 290 at Rutland. We had our Safety Meeting then when Amtrak was ready, we boarded the train for the trip to Saratoga Springs. I worked on several stories on the trip south then after our arrivals and unloading all the passengers, I headed down to get pictures of the Ethan Allen Express.

The Ethan Allen Express departed and we then waited for the Saratoga & North Creek Railroad to let us board our passengers. I then sat at a table in the lower level of the full length dome car "Matanuska" now "Canyon View".

We left Saratoga Springs aboard the Saratoga & North Creek Railroad Special NRHS Train and headed up their railroad to North Creek. Bart then had us announce the photo runby at Corinth. It was an overcast and wet day but we had a train full of happy passengers. We arrived at Corinth and unloaded the train for two photo runbys.

The front of the train with BL-2 52 pulling our train this morning.

Photo Line at Corinth. The train then started to reverse.

Reverse move 1.

Photo runby 1.

A different photo line.

Reverse move 2.

Another photo line here at Corinth.

Photo runby 2. We reboarded the passengers and were off to North Creek. Bart had me walk the train to announce the North Creek departure times and I thanked the passengers for their excellent following of directions at the Corinth photo runby. I was able to relax the rest of the way to our destination.

Views along the Upper Hudson River.

The view ahead of our train.

More views of the very beautiful Upper Hudson River.

As we neared North Creek I went to my door to be ready to unload passengers.

Our train was arriving in North Creek, after which we unloaded our passengers and I had one and a half hours of free time.

Saratoga & North Creek Railroad BL-2 56, ex. Wisconsin and Calument 56, nee Bangor and Aroostook 556, built by Electro-Motive Division in 1949.

Upper Hudson River Railroad RS-36 5019, nee Delaware and Hudson 5019, built by American Locomotive Company in 1963. I went to Martha Restaurant's for a good lunch then returned to the station for a few more pictures.

Our train was being made ready for the 3:00 PM departure and I walked north along the railroad.

Saratoga & North Creek Railroad B39-8E 8524, nee LMX 8524, built by General Electric in 1987.

Saratoga and North Creek S-1 5 built by American Locomotive Company in 1947. This was the Alco shop switcher.

Delaware & Hudson S-2 821, ex. Upper Hudson River Railroad 821, exx. Staten Island Transit 821, nee United States Army 7108 built by American Locomotive Company in 1943.

Long Island Railroad commuter car 3003 built by Tokyu Car in 1990.

Saratoga and North Creek E8A 808, ex. San Luis and Rio Grande 808, exx. New Jersey Department of Transportation 4272, exxx. Penn Central 4272, exxxx. Erie-Lackawanna 808, exxxxx. Delaware, Lackawanna and Western 808, nee Pennsylvania Railroad 5702A built by Electro-Motive Division in 1952.

Business car built by Pullman.

Saratoga and North Creek E8A 807, ex. San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad 807, exx. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority 4261, exxx. Pennsylvania Railroad PRR 4261, nee Pennsylvania Railroad 5761 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1952.

North Creek scenes.

A box car. We reboarded the train and left at 3:00 PM for Saratoga Springs after which I walked through the train telling our passengers about our two stops at the Golf Course photo runby and at which stops they must get off. We unloaded the rear half of the train first.

Start of reverse move 1.

The front half of the train unloads with the photo line already formed.

The rest of reverse move 1.

Photo runby 1 at the Golf Course.

Golf Course photo line.

Reverse move 2.

Golf Course photo runby 2. We then reboarded the train and I next walked through the whole train thanking everyone and gave them the Saratoga Springs information they needed then relaxed the rest of the way back to Saratoga Springs. There we detrained our passengers and checked the train for anything left.

Saratoga & North Creek caboose 1001, ex. Upper Hudson 101, exx. Conrail 24548, nee Penn Central 24548 built by International Car in 1971.

With Amtrak running late I talked with Bart, Sarah, Mia and Greg and we had a great time talking together. The Amtrak official arrived and we had a quick meeting about loading our passengers. Ethan Allen Express train 291 finally arrived and we loaded everyone then I was able to get online since Amtrak's Internet connection allowed me to upload all the stories I had finished. I called Elizabeth and she proofed them while I was heading back to Rutland. A special thank you to Amtrak and the Saratoga & North Creek Railroad for having our NRHS special trains today. We arrived in Rutland under an hour late and once all our passengers detrained, Bart and Sarah gave Robin and I a ride back to the Holiday Inn and we drove back to the Days Inn just in time to see the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. A tired Chris then called it a night.