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Saratoga Springs & North Creek NY

Adventurers in New England

Chapter Seven

Saratoga Springs to North Creek


Robin Bowers

Text and Photos by Author
The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.

June 15, 2015


        Today began with early breakfast in the motel's breakfast room. Today's adventure will begin at the Rutland VT Amtrak station with us boarding the Ethan Allen Express at 8:00 A.M. and arriving at Saratoga Springs at 9:37 A.M. After arriving in Saratoga Springs we will board The Saratoga & North Creek Railroad for a trip along the Upper Hudson River. After our round trip we will board the Ethan Allen Express at 6:50 P.M. for the return trip to Rutland with arrival at 8:48 P.M.

         After breakfast Chris and I drove to downtown Rutland and the Amtrak station (RUD). We arrived with extra time to look around and take some pics.

train 290-2361

Ethan Allen Express waiting to start its day run to New York's Penn station.

train 290-2362

station 2363

Rutland station and platform.

        Amtrak's Ethan Allen Express provides daily service between New York City and Rutland, Vermont, by way of Albany. The train starts in New York City and operates on the former New York Central route to Albany and Schenectady. From there, its operates on track owned by Canadian Pacific through Saratoga Springs to Whitehall to Rutland. The total distance is shown by Amtrak to be 241 miles.

       The train was created in 1996, with the first trains running in December of the year. The Ethan Allen Express was the first New York-Rutland passenger train since 1953, and the first on the Rutland-Whitehall line since1936. 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 cafe/business class, all the traditional Buss-built Amfleet cars from the 1970's.

        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, the 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 A.M., #292 on most Saturdays at 11:00A.M. and on Sunday at 5:05 P.M. as train #296. Northbound, train #293 operates on Fridays only and arrives at Rutland at 11:13P.M. The rest of the week, train #291 arrives at Rutland at 8:48P.M. To complicate things further, train schedules are often swapped during the horse racing season at Saratoga Springs and on many holidays.

        Shorty before 8 AM, the Ethan Allen Express backed down the siding to the switch to cross over to the main and put it on the track next to the platform for boarding. This morning was rain with light showers on and off and would be the rule for today. No shadows in today's photos.  

        MP    101.6    Rutland Amtrak - Location is the current Amtrak station in Rutland.

        MP     99.73    Center Rutland - Welcome to the station with two identifications. On the former D&H, it is CR ant milepost A99.73. On the former Rutland, it is CR at milepost 56.00. Center Rutland was the junction between the D&H line west to Whitehall (NY) and north along the former Rutland Railroad to Burlington (VT).       Between the two lines is the old Rutland Railroad train station. Built as a railroad depot in 1912 with two agent bay windows, one on each railroad. The station was last used by the railroad in 1961. The depot is now a museum and includes displays about area railroad and a model of the Rutland Railroad.

rutland station

Former wooden Rutland Railroad caboose # 45.

          MP    99.62  Otter Creek Bridge - Otter Creek is the longest river in Vermont, and had been a major waterway for centuries. However, it is also a geographical challenge and a frequent cause of flooding.

        MP    77.35    Whitehall - Welcome to the birthplace of the United Stated Navy, or at least the one that State of New York recognizes. Whitehall gets that distinction because in 1774, American forces captured an English facility here. Philip Schuyler, Major General of the Continental Army and commander of the Northern Department (and a senator from New York), was given the job of fighting off a major English force marching south from Canada. Part of the plan required that Benedict Arnold build a fleet of ships to confront the British forces. After the battle, the American boats returned here to be destroyed to keep them from falling into enemy hands. Thus, this is reportedly the first "navy" of the United States.
        Whitehall still has daily passenger service provide by Amtrak. Two train routes actually pass through Whitehall, but the Ethan Allen route turns east at CPC 77 to Rutland just south of downtown and misses the Whitehall passenger station. The other train, the Adirondack, is a New York financed train that stops at the small Amtrak station downtown.

        MP    55.49    Fort Edward/Glens Falls - This location is known for the twin communities that formed near a series of falls on the Hudson River. The location of Fort Edward has been a center of transportation and warfare for thousands of years. It was located on the Native American "Great War Path," later used by French and English colonists during their own warfare, especially during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). The location is also know as the "Great Carrying Place" as it was a portage around the falls on the Hudson.

        The first fort here actually dates from 1709 during Queen Anne's War. Housing 450 men, Fort Nicholson has been described as little more than a crude stockade built to protect storehouse and log huts. Fort Nicholson was soon abandoned and later replaced by Fort Lydius, the trading post of John Lydius, a fur trader from Albany. During the French and Indian War, General Phineas Lyman constructed Fort Lyman here in 1755. The fort was renamed for Prince Edward, the grandson of King George II, in 1756 by Sir William Johnson, the British Superintendent for Indian Affairs in the region. Fort Edward and the related facilities on Rogers Island gave full control of the Hudson River at this point to whoever controlled the forts.

        Amtrak stops at Fort Edward, serving the historic D&H station. The station is on the west side of the mainline. Just south of the station is the south leg of the wye that connects to the Glens Falls Industrial Track. This track serves several major customers to the west along the Hudson River.

fort ed 2364

Fort Edward historic D&H station.

        The Ethan Allen Express arrived on time in Saratoga Springs, NY at 9:37 A.M.

        MP    A37.10    Saratoga Springs - This is the Amtrak station for Saratoga Springs, a rebuilt version of the station from the 1950s. The "A" mileposts, based upon the distance from Albany, are used on early track profiles and in the current FRA grade crossing milepost data base.

        The station you see today at Saratoga Springs actually dated from the reroute of the railroad around Saratoga Springs. The Amtrak station was originally built in 1956 for the Delaware & Hudson Railroad, but was rebuilt and modernized , reopening in 2004 after undergoing extensive renovations. With little of the original building actually still existing, it was rebuilt unto a modern, high-ceiling facility with offices for Amtrak and a number of other businesses. The station is served by two different Amtrak routes, the Ethan Allen Express to Rutland and the Adirondack to Montreal. Approximately 35,00 passengers use the station annually.

        The reason for the large station and ridership is that Saratoga Springs is a well-know resort and horse racing community. Saratoga Race Course is the oldest continuously operating sporting venue in the United States, having opened on August 3, 1863. Since 1864, the track has been the site of the Travers Stakes, the oldest major thoroughbred horse race in the United States.

        The city is also the origin of the potato chip. According to several sources, "while working as chef at the elegant Moon Lake Lodge's restaurant in 1853, Native American George Crum responded to repeated request by an annoying customer for thinner potato fries by frying potato slices so thin and crunchy that they could not be eaten with a fork. This proved so popular an invention that the restaurant made their Saratoga Chips a house specialty. Crum opened his own restaurant in Saratoga Springs in 1860, featuring his chips, and catering to wealthy clientele."

arr @ s springs

The Ethan Allen Express stopped at Saratoga Springs.

s springs 2366

Passengers disembarking and boarding the Ethan Allen Express.

station 2367

station 2368

Saratoga and North Creek Railroad

        During July 2011, The Saratoga & North Creek Railway took over operation of this 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.The S&NC is part of the Iowa Pacific Holdings(IPH) empire of freight and passenger railroads, which included the San Luis & Rio Grande, Mount Hood, Texas State Railroad and Cape Cod. 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 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 as far as Newcomb, 12 miles north of North Creek.
        This rail line has played an important role in history. In September of 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 the McKinley was going to be okay and that he should return to his vacation. Roosevelt spent the next two week 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 A.M. Standing on the North Creek depot platform, Vice-President was handed the telegraph informing him that President McKinley had died at 2A.M. and that he had to go to Buffalo to take the Oath of Office.

        After the Ethan Allen Express departed for Manhattan, we waited in and around the station for our next train to arrive. The hungry ones overwhelmed the small cafe counter with non-stop business. Then after twenty minutes our train arrived on the track next to station. Today I'll be riding in the dome car. I booked this dome ticket last November to be sure to get on. These dome seats sell out fast and Chris said that this and the Bellows Falls trip were the two best of this year's convention. It was near 10:00 A.M. when we left the station.


times 006

ticket 007

        Today's ride would be in car # 508 - Dome.  This full-length dome was built by Budd in 1954 as ATSF #508. The car became Auto Train #520 in 1971. Pullman-Standard refurbished and reconfigured the car with 51 coach seats in the dome, with the original bar and 28-seat lounge on the lower level. The dome went to Westours  and was  rebuilt for its McKinley Explorer train in Alaska. Renamed Matanuska, the car was the first rebuilt and was used in a publicity event in Seattle to promote the new Alaska service. The car was sold to Iowa Pacific in 2009 and renamed Canyon View, although the name Matanuska is still on the side of the car.



Inside the dome Matanuska #508.

dome 2371

        As we were getting under way, we were offered beverage service.

        Soon we were coming to our first photo runby: Corinth.

        MP A53.8    Corinth - This location was known as Jessup's Landing until about 1891. The first station was built here as a combination freight and passenger station in 1865. In 1891, the building was rebuilt into a freight house. It is not clear what passengers did when the station was converted, but a new passenger station didn't open until June 1911.It was located on the east side of the tracks. The last of the freight house was torn down in 1984 while the passenger station was removed in 2007.
        At one time, Corinth was a busy industrial town. E.H. Benway had a pulp mill to the west of the tracks just south of the station. Several miles south,of the station was White's Sand, a significant shipper. Additionally, a spur left the branch just south of the station and headed east to the International Paper facility at Palmer. The spur was about 2.5 miles long but the mill began closing in 2002. By 2003, the International Paper Mill in Corinth completed closing, ending all freight service on the line. In 2006, the Town of Corinth, to save the railroad, purchased the 16 mile stretch of track in their town for $2.2 million.


Site of our photo run by.

runby 2375

run 2377

Dome car Matanuska.

loco 2373

        52 - BL2  This locomotive was built as Bangor and Aroostook #552 by EMD in March 1949 with serial number 8163. It became #52 in 1953, and was sold to Glen Mohart and painted as Janesville & Southeastern #52 when it was retired. Next it was sold to Mineral Range Inc. as MRAX 52 and then sold to MidAmerica Rail Car Leasing as MRLX52. In 2011, it was sold to Iowa Pacific as San Luis & Rio Grande, then Saratoga & North Creek #52.

loco 2374

#52 with power car.

        The General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD) BL2 is a rare locomotive; only 59 units were built between September 1947 and May 1949. The BL2 was the first production step by EMD to build a locomotive with additional visibility to the rear. EMD realized that the hood of one of their locomotives could be cut down around the diesel engine, providing a better view to the rear. However, the result was a locomotive considered to be ugly by many people, and one that didn't provide the hoped for visibility. Alco was building their RS series of locomotives and EMD soon followed with their GP types, so the BL2 was a short production experiment.
        The BL2 was sold for both freight and passenger service. The key indicator of the locomotive's intended purpose was the presence of an exhaust stack between the two windshield panes. This exhaust stack was for the steam generator on passenger service units.

loco 2376

dome 2387

Dome SLRG 508  Matanuska.

green arrowSNC photo run by at Corinth

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        After we finished our photo runby, we continued north with views along the Hudson River.

hudson 2389

    As I first boarded, I looked around to see what was available and open. I found a table with one side vacant and the other with two gentlemen. Asking if it was taken, they replied no, it was open. So I invited myself to sit down and join them. We chatted and I found out they were English chaps from the UK. Clive lives south of London and railfans in the UK and on the continent and the other gentleman, Simon was from the UK but now transplanted to our Midwest. They both had done a lot of traveling and had many interesting stories of railfanning to tell as we passed the time on the cloudy drizzly day. Later I was to meet a friend of theirs, Martin also from the UK here at the convention.   


Simon checking today's itinerary.

       MP    A94.6    North Creek  57.1 from Saratoga Springs. - According to a plaque in the front of the station, erected by the Johnsburg Historical Society in 1976:

North Creek Railway Station
At this site early in the morning of September 14, 1901, Theodore Roosevelt received the message that President McKinley had died in Buffalo and that he had become president of the United States.

    After a hard ride over muddy roads from the Tahawus Club, he arrived at a special train at North Creek at 5:22 AM, were he learned the President McKinley had passed away at Buffalo at 2:15 that morning. Reportedly, within one minute, Roosevelt boarded the special train which at once pulled out of the station in the direction of Buffalo via Saratoga and Albany. The station was built in 1872-1873 and was restored during the early 1990's.

    Among the businesses once operating at North Creek were many hardwood and related industries. These included companies like North Creek Handle Company, Russell Heel Corporation, North Creek Kiln Drying Company, and Elliot Hardware Company. Additionally, North River Garnet Company originally moved ores through the North Creek facilities. In 1928, Barton Mines bought North River Garnet and their storage sheds at North Creek. According to their website. "Barton Mines is a family owned business that has produced the world's highest quality garnet abrasives for over 5 generations. Founded in 1878 to mine and mill garnet for the sand paper industry. Today, Barton produces garnet abrasive products for many diverse applications such as water jet cutting, blasting, bonded and coated abrasives and specialty lapping and grinding medias.
    In 1941, the freight yard facilities at North Creek were greatly expanded to handle titanium ore shipments from National Lead Company's new mine near Tahawus. This yard, known as South Yard, included four tracks designed to hold 64 ore cars, built on a grade of more than 2% to allow gravity loading.   

    It was lunch time when we arrived in North Creek and today you were on your own for lunch. One of the options was to prepay for a box lunch offered by the Copperfield Inn located across the street from the station. This was the option that I chose. Other options were a buffet lunch at the Inn or maybe a short stay at their bar. Also there were several local restaurants along Main Street to choose from. Some of experienced travelers already had a spot picked out.

    Leaving the station I walked up the grade to Main St and across it to the Copperfield Inn. There was my box lunch (Roast Beef & Cheddar Wrap) ready to be pickup. I took it and the can of soda and walked back across the street to a grassy spot with a picnic table with a view of the station and the tracks. I was then joined by a couple of gentleman with their box lunch. We sat enjoying our lunch, the view and the fresh air. After a good lunch break it was time to walk the length of down town.


View from the picnic area. Station in background.



Lunch table.


A head turner.







Main Street, North Creek, NY


Love this name.


Copperfield Inn.


Back at the station, ready to board.





In 2003, the turntable installed in 1944 was restored by the community.



Hudson River peeking thru top of rail.


Hudson River.



River and main line tracks.

    At mid afternoon it was time to reboard and begin the return trip back to Saratoga Springs. On the way back there was time for one more photo runby. For this one I remained in the dome car staying warm and dry.


Photo line up for run by on the golf course.

     While heading back to Saratoga Springs, we were informed that the Ethan Allen Express was running over one hour late into SAR. Therefore our arrival into Rutland would be close to 10:00 P.M.
    It was near 6:00 P.M. when our Saratoga & North Creek train arrived. We had a two hour lay over here in Saratoga Springs due to the late Ethan Allen Express.
At 7:56 P.M. we bid adieu to the Adirondacks, Saratoga Springs and New York state and head for the Green Mountains of Vermont.


Final look and last good bye to the Saratoga Springs Station (SAR).

    Along the way back to Rutland, it was announced that the Holiday Inn's kitchen would stay open to accommodate their late arriving guests. A collective sigh of relief was sounded by the hungry travelers.

    It was 10:10 PM when Chris and I arrived at our room. As we drove to the station, we were able to leave right away and bypass the bus shuttle. Although late I decided I needed a snack to hold me till breakfast. I then walked across the highway to the Taco Bell and ordered a Cheesy Nacho to go. That seem about the right amount to eat before bed. After my snack and then getting ready for tomorrow, it was then lights out.

Saratoga & North Creek RR

Copperfield Inn

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Green Mountain Railroad - Rutland to Bellows Falls

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