Saratoga & North Creek Railway has decided to cut its snow train this season, with no passenger trains to North Creek planned until at least March next year.
The snow train trips were cut to holiday weekends last winter, but this season the railroad plans to scuttle it altogether through February, then consider adding some trips in March.
“We did pretty well in March last year,” said Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC, the railroad’s parent company.
He said ridership earlier in the season has not met the company’s expectations.
Ellis was in town this week to take part in negotiations with county leaders for a new contract with the county and town of Corinth, which own the rail line on which SNCRR operates. The company’s five-year contract runs out next June, but he said he was optimistic his company and the county could come to another agreement.
Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, said the talks were “preliminary,” but he believed the sides would reach an agreement.
The snow train, a fixture in North Creek for years until it was halted in the 1940s, was resurrected in 2012, after SNCRR took over operations on the line.
It was hoped the train would attract skiers who would take it from Saratoga Springs to North Creek, then take a shuttle bus to nearby Gore Mountain Ski Center. But after a strong first year, passenger numbers did not live up to the company’s hopes.
SNCRR was contractually obligated to have 30 or more winter train trips, and operated 32 last year. Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors Public Works Committee, said SNCRR will try to do some dinner train trips on holiday weekends, but the county will “bend a little” on the contract requirement and get an update in January on the winter schedule.
The railroad’s Polar Express bookings have been strong again this year. SNCRR general manager Justin Gonyo said 19,000 reservations had been made for the holiday-themed trips, which run through Dec. 27.
Merlino said snowmobile clubs have inquired about using the train tracks in the winter if there are no trains, as was done before SNCRR started winter operations, but he said they will not be allowed.
“We’re not going to let snowmobilers run the tracks,” Merlino said.