Saratoga & North Creek Railway announced Tuesday that it is close to an agreement to move stone from former mines in Tahawus, a development that would keep the line open and likely prevent storage of out-of-service oil tank cars on the little-used rail line north of North Creek.
Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC, parent company of SNCRR, said Tuesday that his company has not received any proposals from tank car owners looking to store them on the line from northern Warren County into the town of Newcomb.
Instead, some open-topped "hopper" cars may be stored on the line, out of sight of the Hudson River, Ellis explained. Those cars are used to transport stone.
New safety regulations have resulted in thousands of oil and ethanol tank cars being taken out of service, and owners are looking for lines on which to store them.
Ellis told Warren County leaders in late July that the former freight line to Tahawus could be used for storage of cars, which had raised concerns about environmental issues from residue in the cars and the aesthetic issues of having the cars on a line that crosses state forest preserve. Numerous environmental groups had come out against the proposal.
Tons of stone tailings from the former NL Industries mines remain at the site in remote Tahawus, and SNCRR purchased the train line between North Creek and Tahawus in anticipation of moving the tailings to industrial customers.
Ellis had said "seven figure" revenue was possible from storage of 300 to 500 tanks cars. But no offers materialized.
"While we were considered, we never got a proposal," Ellis said. "We would rather move the rock anyway."
Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, said he had not heard that the company appeared to have ruled out tank car storage in the region, but had heard that talks for stone movement had progressed.
State Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman Lori Severino said the agency has been "urging" SNCRR to "prevent oil tank car storage in the Adirondacks" and was "happy to hear that the Saratoga and North Creek Railway is working to address the state and local communities' concerns."
SNCRR operates tourist and passenger trains between Saratoga Springs and North Creek, on a stretch of line owned by Warren County and the town of Corinth.
Ellis has maintained for years that the tourist train would likely not be a moneymaker, and that freight traffic would drive the company's profits. But the freight traffic has come slower than expected, in part because SNCRR and Canadian Pacific Railway had been unable to come to an agreement on use of CP Rail tracks.
Ellis did not comment on whether negotiations with CP Rail had progressed, but some believed the public airing of the tank car proposal was an effort to get the state involved in those negotiations.
The company's five-year contract with Warren County and the town of Corinth is up in June 2016. While there has been concern about whether Iowa Pacific would seek to stay on the line in light of revenue issues, Ellis said a meeting has been set up later this month "to work on renewal of the contract."
He said SNCRR has also seen an increase in pre-season ticket sales for the annual Polar Express trains.