Pet Star 20 Under 40

New rail operator thrilled with results

2011-12-08T16:43:00Z New rail operator thrilled with resultsDAVE CANFIELD -- dcanfield@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
December 08, 2011 4:43 pm  • 

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- When Saratoga & North Creek Railway customers began filling the parking lot at the train station in Saratoga Springs to capacity this summer, the train company leased a patch of adjacent land to add more parking.

When that was full, they brought in a shuttle to take riders from their vehicles at Saratoga Springs High School to the train station for the ride to North Creek.

For Ed Ellis, owner of Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC, the railway's parent company, it's not a bad problem to have less than five months after opening.

"That's how wildly successful it's been," Ellis said during a visit to the train station Thursday. "If anything, we were conservative in our business plan. The ridership has been more than expected."

Ellis had expected the train would see about 38,000 riders from its first run on July 23 through the end of 2011, he said. He expects the actual total to be nearly 60,000.

Two-thirds of those riders will be aboard the Christmas-themed Polar Express train - more customers than Ellis expects to see on Polar Express trains the company operates in Oregon and Texas.

The Polar Express began in mid-November and ends Dec. 28. A ski-themed "snow train" begins two days later and will run on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through the winter, leaving Saratoga Springs at 7 a.m. and returning at 6:20 p.m.

It will drop train tourists on Main Street in North Creek for the first time since October. Polar Express riders don't leave the train cars.

Slightly more than half of those who take the snow train are expected to ski at Gore Mountain. Business owners are hoping the rest spend their money at the foot of the mountain in North Creek, and they're working to give them as many reasons to do so as they can.

"It's a continued effort," said Mike Bowers, owner of barVino in North Creek.

Bowers, who is part of what's called the Business Alliance, a group of business owners, said there's a "real synergy" between North Creek and the train company. He said some businesses that would otherwise have failed will continue to operate, thanks to business from the train's riders.

Ellis said the train brought 450 people to North Creek on its busiest day this year.

"There was a guy who told me it'd be a cold day in Hell when 100 people would get off a train in North Creek," he recalled.

Ellis, who works in the company's corporate office in Chicago, said the firm expects to operate regular runs between Saratoga Springs and North Creek from roughly Memorial Day through Oct. 31 in 2012. He said the company is considering expanding the schedule to six or seven days per week instead of five.

The seven whistle stops along the way will remain the same, he said.

Copyright 2015 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. DWC121
    Report Abuse
    DWC121 - December 12, 2011 12:17 am
    Uncle Fester said: "DWC121…Have you called them instead of e-mails? I’m sure if you talked with a live person on the telephone about reservations they would be very accommodating." No I haven't, because I want something in writing. Besides, if they provide a link on their website to send them questions, they should respond (or remove the "contact us" link). When companies do not respond, even with an acknowledgement, it makes them look less than professional.

  2. winterrider
    Report Abuse
    winterrider - December 09, 2011 1:33 pm
    gfcitizen said: "A very positive story for North Creek and the entire region. This should have more positive spin-off effects."

    hopefully it brings in more revenue for north creek than the snowmobiling did, as it cut all the snowmobilers off from the south areas from accessing north creek for food, gas and lodging....seems to me it will hurt winter economy as the riders were spending money every day and the train only runs 3 days a week on the weekends. a main artery trail was lost to this train.
  3. DWC121
    Report Abuse
    DWC121 - December 09, 2011 11:30 am
    Localguy101 said: "Is it the train company's job to hold your hand and make sure you planned appropriately? "

    Many hotels, trains, and airlines will sell you a package deal. Train or plane fare, transportation to/from the depot or airport to the hotel, transportation to/from the hotel to area attractions. Most hotels (not necessarily in NC) will have a concierge who will arrange to get things for you at area businesses and have them delivered to you where ever you are.

    If there is no concierge, some local businesses provide delivery to hotels. It is also a great opportunity for a local entrepreneur (a smart high school or college kid w/ a driver's license, mature senior citizen, etc) to start an on-call delivery service from area businesses to local hotels and to area attractions.
  4. Uncle Fester
    Report Abuse
    Uncle Fester - December 09, 2011 11:18 am
    Overall, the new train company has been good for the region & it’s good to know that they’ve exceeded expectations. They are a First Class operation All Around. Hope North Creek and other areas along the line can / will benefit from the upcoming snow trains. Remember, it’s only the first few months of their first year. Expect great things from this railroad operator!

    DWC121…Have you called them instead of e-mails? I’m sure if you talked with a live person on the telephone about reservations they would be very accommodating.

    Parwanda…It’s a GOOD thing that they’re going to improve the stations and actually work to enclose them & put in restrooms as originally planned. The reason they had cost so much for what you see is because of what you don’t see. Most of the monies went towards things that were needed in order to conform to local codes like septic systems, moving the side railing in Thurman, etc.

    I won’t even bother to respond to “debatethis” ignorant remarks.
  5. MaketheSense
    Report Abuse
    MaketheSense - December 09, 2011 9:58 am
    Let's hope the train company has an informal ban on portable DVD players.

    Enjoy the real scenery.
  6. Localguy101
    Report Abuse
    Localguy101 - December 09, 2011 9:22 am
    debatethis said: "Just curious but do the passengers understand exactly how they are getting to Gore once in North Creek? How they are getting to motels? Over priced grocery store? Are they told ahead of time unless you are a drinker there's about 10 places (being very generous here) to visit that don't include alcohol and takes 30 minutes at snails pace. If you just like riding the train for the scenic/holiday part of it then your in for a good ride. But rest assured if you are expecting pomp and circumstance once in North Creek your about to be taken for another ride. Open those wallets they are about to be emptied."

    Is it the train company's job to hold your hand and make sure you planned appropriately?
  7. parwana
    Report Abuse
    parwana - December 09, 2011 8:21 am
    Does anyone actually check the information that business people give out, or will newspapers publish any preposterous information?

    And guess what, we are about to dump even more money into our million dollar train stations, or pole barns, or whatever they are in Hadley and Thurman.
  8. debatethis
    Report Abuse
    debatethis - December 09, 2011 7:12 am
    Just curious but do the passengers understand exactly how they are getting to Gore once in North Creek? How they are getting to motels? Over priced grocery store? Are they told ahead of time unless you are a drinker there's about 10 places (being very generous here) to visit that don't include alcohol and takes 30 minutes at snails pace. If you just like riding the train for the scenic/holiday part of it then your in for a good ride. But rest assured if you are expecting pomp and circumstance once in North Creek your about to be taken for another ride. Open those wallets they are about to be emptied.
  9. DWC121
    Report Abuse
    DWC121 - December 08, 2011 10:51 pm
    No wonder they don't respond to their e-mails through their website! They're too busy !!

    I've sent them 3 e-mails since last June with a question about round trip tickets spanning more than one day, and no response yet. I guess people who stay overnight in North Creek have to purchase 2, one-way tickets. Not very accommodating.
  10. gfcitizen
    Report Abuse
    gfcitizen - December 08, 2011 9:11 pm
    A very positive story for North Creek and the entire region. This should have more positive spin-off effects.
  11. Locke
    Report Abuse
    Locke - December 08, 2011 6:55 pm
    I really enjoyed the train ride. I can't wait to go again.

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