The company that hopes to contract with Warren County and the town of Corinth to operate trains on the municipalities’ railroad tracks is also hoping to buy the rail line to the former titanium mines in Tahawus.
Jack Kelley, the Saratoga County economic development leader who is serving as a local point person for United Rail, said the company has been in contact with the owner of the Tahawus line and would ultimately like to run trains on it to remove stone from the former mines.
That line is owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings, which formerly operated excursion and freight trains on the county and town-owned line, but pulled out amid financial problems last year. Iowa Pacific has been trying to sell the northern line for more than a year, but negotiations with the preferred suitor, OmniTRAX, broke down several weeks ago.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has filed a request with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to have the line declared “abandoned” of the Tahawus line in light of Iowa Pacific’s lack of activity on it, but that effort was put on hold until at least later this month amid sale negotiations. That state request came after a high-profile dispute over Iowa Pacific storing dozens of out-of-serve tanker cars on the line in the state Forest Preserve.
Kelley said the United Rail group with whom he is involved has been in contact with Iowa Pacific and the owner of the Tahawus mines. But he said the company was focusing on working with Warren County and Corinth to get an agreement to use the tracks between Saratoga Springs and North Creek first.
“We would like to see that whole line kept open for the benefit of the southern Adirondacks,” he said.
Next week, representatives of United Rail will sit down with Warren County’s railroad negotiating team and the Corinth Town Board for the first formal contract negotiations. United Rail is the only company remaining of four who initially submitted proposals to use and/or buy the municipally owned tracks.
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United Rail, which is based in Las Vegas and operates two rail lines in California and New England with plans for a third in Las Vegas, hopes to have some tourist train operations going locally this fall, but Kelley said the timetable would be tight unless a contract was reached in the coming weeks. Work is needed on the rails, marketing has to be done and trains and cars need to be brought to the region, he said.
The Tahawus line, also known as the Sanford Lake line, runs north from North Creek to the hamlet of Tahawus in the town of Newcomb in Essex County.
Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson, chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors Public Works Committee, said the county’s negotiating committee includes four county supervisors, but negotiating sessions will not be open to the public because there is not a board or committee quorum.
He said it was unlikely that the sides would come to an agreement next week. The county’s negotiating session will take place the day before the next meeting of the full county Board of Supervisors meeting on July 19.
“I would envision that it is going to take several meetings,” Simpson said.
Kelley said United Rail personnel from around the country will be attending the Corinth and Warren County meetings.
“We are looking forward to it. United Rail has an excellent proposal in place,” he said.