Despite rail-trail questions, Adirondack Scenic prepares for busy 2019 season

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An Adirondack Scenic locomotive and train.
Alex Mayes
THENDARA, N.Y. — While questions remain on the fate of 34 miles of track that New York state has said it wants to remove to make a rail trail, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad is preparing for an active 2019 season.

"We're on the verge of beginning construction of a new locomotive maintenance facility, we're attempting to buy several pieces of rolling stock, and we've got a new office to build. We've got a lot going on right now," says Bill Branson, board president of the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society Inc., which operates the railroad.

The railroad plans to offer a full schedule of activities comparable to last year's, including the use of rail bikes in some areas, Branson says. The railroad has yet to decide whether it will offer rail bikes in the 34-mile section between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid, the portion that has been the subject of the ongoing dispute between those who want to remove the rails and those who want to see them remain and be repaired.

Branson says the condition of the tracks makes it unlikely that the railroad will attempt to run trains there this year, although its permit allows for such activity.

The dispute centers on the state's 2016 proposal to remove the tracks, which are on state land, and create a rail trail. The railroad sued, and state Supreme Court Judge Robert Main Jr. ruled in 2017 against the state, citing, among other factors, that the land is designated as a "travel corridor."

Main said removing the tracks violated the long-standing definition of travel corridor to mean either a highway or railroad corridor. He also cited concerns about whether the state has ownership of the entire land in question, and about historical preservation issues.

The Adirondack Park Agency, which oversees the land, in December 2018 changed the definition of travel corridor to include a rail trail. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has indicated it is likely to file another proposal to remove the tracks, through a revised Unit Management Plan.

Branson says that while the railroad pays attention to new developments with the management plan, its focus is more on offering riders the best experience it can.

"We're not spending a lot of time thinking about [the management plan]. We assume they will do what the court instructed... It's up to them to get it right. We really don't know what they've done. Presumably the new [management plan] will address all of that," he says.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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The history of the Transcontinental Railroad.

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