Revolution Rail Company (RevRail) has announced its purchase of the Saratoga and North Creek Railway, which stretches from the hamlet of North Creek in Johnsburg, Warren County, north to the Tahawus mining works in the Town of Newcomb, Essex County.
The North Creek railbiking company’s bankruptcy purchase of 30 miles of a rail line right-of-way allows RevRail to continue Railbiking tours out of North River on the Upper Hudson River, with the hope of expanding its operations from the Tahawus mine toward the scenic Opalescent River — while providing rail services upon request to area freight shippers, in adherence to its Federal Common Carrier obligation.
“Our business model relies on bringing railbike tours through naturally beautiful and historic railroad tracks around the country; our stewardship of the Tahawus branch will be in keeping with this mission,” RevRail’s founder Robert Harte said in a statement to the press announcing the purchase.
The purchase coincides with an announcement by RevRail and the Open Space Institute (OSI) that, in the event commercial freight demand does not materialize after several years, the two entities will work with local officials, the Surface Transportation Board, and the Department of Environmental Conservation to determine the future of the line, which has the potential to be a four-season, multi-use recreational trail.
To that end, in return for an option to acquire the line for up to 20 years, OSI, through its subsidiary Tahawus Rail, LLC, provided RevRail a $2.7 million loan to acquire the line. While the arrangement permits commercial shipping on the line, it prohibits parking storage tankers on the rail property, a long-term goal of OSI and the New York environmental community. Should OSI exercise its option to acquire the line, it would own the full 30-mile right-of-way, subject to a leaseback of portions of the line to RevRail.
“By partnering with Revolution Rail, OSI has met its long-term recreational and conservation goals of creating the opportunity to pursue a world-class, year-round destination greenway and ensure that the line will never again be used for the storage of aging rail cars,” Kim Elliman, president and CEO of OSI, said in the announcement to the press. “We look forward to our partnership with Revolution Rail and to continuing to work with local and state leaders to promote the region’s economic prosperity, protect its natural resources, and preserve its character.”
“Revolution Rail’s acquisition of the former Saratoga North Creek Rail Line and its partnership with the Open Space Institute allow for continued commercial rail service on the line. The purchase may also provide an option for multi-use recreational trails for snowmobiling and hiking. While many details remain to be worked out, I am encouraged by the balance struck by this partnership between potential future use of the railroad and the environmental restoration of the Village of Tahawus, which I have been advocating for since 2018,” Newcomb Town Supervisor Robin DeLoria said.
The purchase of the bankrupt rail line occurred after the original high bidder for the property was disqualified. RevRail, which was the next high bidder at the live auction that occurred in March, negotiated the $2.7 million sale price with the bankruptcy plan administrator. The sale of the former rail line has been approved by the Surface Transportation Board. As part of the agreement, RevRail will maintain common carrier status.
The Saratoga and North Creek Railway operated over former Adirondack Railway tracks built under Thomas C. Durant in 1871. Delaware and Hudson Railway acquired the Adirondack Line from William West Durant in 1889. The North Creek station is where Theodore Roosevelt learned he was to become president of the United States of America after President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901.
During the Second World War, the line was extended from North Creek to Tahawus where magnetite, ilmenite, and titanium were mined. The D&H last operated Monday through Saturday passenger service to North Creek in the 1950s, reducing the operations to summer only service by the mid-1950s. Regular service ended in 1957, with sporadic freight service operating until September 1989, when the mine at Tahawus closed.
In 1998, the line was purchased by Warren County with plans to operate an excursion train. The following year the Upper Hudson River Railroad began operating excursion trains south from North Creek to Riverside Station in Riparius. The Upper Hudson River Railroad lost its contract with Warren County in a controversial move by the County on December 31, 2010.
The line was then leased by Iowa Pacific Holdings who operated began operating the renamed Saratoga and North Creek Railway in July 2011. Passenger operations ceased on April 7, 2018 amongst controversy over stored tankers cars and the failures of Iowa Pacific to meet its fiduciary requirements.