The New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) has begun tearing up the former NY Central Adirondack Division tracks connecting Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, part of a $1.9 million State project to build a rail trial suitable for use by bicyclists and snowmobilers.
The 34-mile rail corridor being removed was key to a once-thriving 119-mile railroad which operated almost continuously from 1892 until 1972, first as the Mohawk & Malone, and then by the New York Central starting in 1913.
Scheduled passenger service was terminated by New York Central in 1965. The 1968 merger of the New York Central and the Pennsylvania Railroad created Penn Central. Under Penn Central’s ownership, freight service was continued with decreasing frequency until 1972. The line and its right-of-way were purchased by New York State in 1974.
The corridor is part of the larger New York Central Railroad Adirondack Division Historic District. Listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places in the 1990s, the District includes numerous bridges, stations, freight houses and ancillary railroad buildings, switch stands, and mile markers. The State completed a Historic Preservation Plan in creating the recently completed 2020 Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor Unit Management Plan (UMP) that lays out the coming changes.
A second $19.1 million project has commenced to rehabilitate 84 miles of remaining rails between Remsen and Tupper Lake to create the longest scenic railway in the country. DOT award this contract to Tartaglia Railroad Services of Syracuse, who has started the job near Remsen. This project will return to service the long-dormant 45-mile section between Big Moose and Tupper Lake.
The line is currently operated under a use and occupancy permit issued by the State to the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society (ARPS), operator of the Adirondack Railroad. The rail rehabilitation is expected to be complete by the end of 2021. Plans also call for the Tupper Lake Station to be redeveloped to serve as a northern terminus for rail operations.
The rail trail is expected to include signage to help visitors interpret the history of the railway, the cultures of adjacent communities, and the natural resources of surrounding lands and waters. The New York State Office of General Services is leading the trail’s design and responsible to ensure it’s compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Upon completion of construction, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will assume day-to-day management of the trail.
While the rails are currently being removed, the phased construction of the trail is scheduled to begin in 2022 and be completed by the end of 2024.
Photos, from above: Removing New York Central Railroad Adirondack Division Rails in October 2020 (provided by DEC); the former Ray Brook Post Office, located in the former New York Central rail station on Ray Brook Road between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake; and Train No. 1845, a work train, crosses Dayton Road near Remsen on the first day of work Oct. 23, 2020 (photo by John Koslosky).