Saratoga & North Creek Railway

The Saratoga & North Creek Railway passenger train stops at the Saratoga Springs train station before returning to North Creek Rail Depot in July 2011. The company was locked out of the main storage building at the depot last week because of unpaid rent, according to the building’s owner.

Post-Star file photo

JOHNSBURG — The owner of a storage building next to the North Creek rail station said he has locked Saratoga & North Creek Railway out of the building because of $25,000 in unpaid rent.

The large building, located at 320 Main St., to the left of the driveway into the rail depot, was being used by the railroad for storage, including that of equipment for the annual Polar Express holiday trips, a backhoe and other equipment, according to property owner John McAlonen.

McAlonen said the company was behind on its rent into last year, and its last check, for $1,000, bounced. In all, he said, $25,000 is owed.

McAlonen said he locked the building on Wednesday, and heard the next day from a representative of the company, who said he would get back to him about payment. But as of Monday morning, he had not heard anything further.

Justin Gonyo, the railroad’s general manager, said in an email that the company has no comment on the situation, describing it as “private relations between private companies.”

The railway is also behind on its payments to Warren County, owing about $4,200 from last year, and has not filed monthly ridership reports this summer, according to the Warren County Treasurer’s Office. The company guarantees $81,000 in revenue each year.

Supervisors have questioned the company’s tourist train schedule in recent years, saying that its basic 6-hour trips from Saratoga Springs to North Creek and back appeal only to die-hard train riders. Breaking trips into southern and northern routes could attract more riders, said Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino, chairman of the county board’s Tourism Committee.

The company has had money problems on and off throughout its stay in Warren County, with numerous late payments and cuts to train trip schedules. A lack of freight traffic that it hoped would help pay bills has been blamed for much of the financial trouble.

Its parent company, Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC, has been sued in Colorado by the Polar Express license holder, Rail Events Inc., which claims Iowa Pacific owes $3 million in unpaid royalties for Polar Express, including for the Saratoga & North Creek trips.

A lawyer for Iowa Pacific told Train News Wire in February that Iowa Pacific was withholding payment.

“[Iowa Pacific Holdings] is withholding a disputed amount of money due to what we believe are unfair practices related to competition and pricing,” Iowa Pacific’s General Counsel David Michaud wrote to Trains News Wire.

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Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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