Operations continued Friday at Saratoga & North Creek Railway despite the company owner’s pledge Thursday to shut it down amid mounting losses.
Ed Ellis, president of the railway’s parent company, told Warren County supervisors that it would cease operations unless he is able to sell a rail line his company owns north of North Creek for $5 million. County leaders made it clear that the county would not be paying that amount or any lesser amount for the line, known as the Sanford Lake line.
The railway’s general manager, Justin Gonyo, wrote in an email Friday that “Employees are working, no timetable established yet” when asked whether there was a planned date for operations to end.
QUEENSBURY — The owner of Saratoga & North Creek Railway told Warren County leaders Thursday that he plans to shut down the railroad unles…
The company’s “snow train” tourist train between Saratoga Springs and Thurman runs Saturday and April 7 before it finishes for the winter season, with no trips beyond early April listed on the sncrr.com website. Gonyo also said earlier this month that the railway had a new freight contract to transport stone from Barton Mines in North River.
Meanwhile, Warren County leaders said Friday they will likely hire a lawyer who specializes in railroad issues to help in light of Ellis’ comments at Thursday’s Board of Supervisors committee meeting. The county attorney’s office had been talking with a specialist in recent months.
Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson, chairman of the county board’s Public Works Committee, which oversees the railroad, said the county has a lot of complicated issues to work through. One of those issues is what rights SNCR has to cross Warren County-owned rails without a contract when accessing the company-owned line to the north.
“We need to make sure we are protecting Warren County taxpayers and our assets,” Simpson said.
Simpson said it was his understanding that the railway’s local employees had not been told by Ellis before Thursday’s meeting he planned to pull the plug on the local operation.
Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, said county leaders have been talking with state representatives about the situation.
“I think it’s really important for us to take our time and do our homework and consult with the people we need to consult with,” Conover said.
SNCR operates a tourist train and limited freight trains on the rail line, which Warren County owns between North Creek and Corinth, and the town of Corinth owns from Corinth to Saratoga Springs.
The tourist train has lost money and freight traffic has not developed as hoped, as much of the business plan revolved around the hope that stone in the former Tahawus mines would be taken out by rail, so the company has often been late with revenue payments to municipalities.
The company owes Warren County nearly $29,000, which resulted in county leaders notifying it earlier this year that their contract had been breached.
Ellis told county supervisors Thursday the controversy over his company’s storage of out-of-service tank cars on the Sanford Lake line had cost it revenue, and it could not afford to run the railroad anymore. Environmental groups and others criticized the storage on a line in the state Forest Preserve.
Simpson said the railroad’s financial problems began long before the tank car controversy last fall.
“We didn’t cost them millions,” Simpson said Friday. “The railroad was failing long before that.”
Ellis also said the company was preparing to move the tank cars out of the region.
“The storage cars will move as soon as the snow subsides,” Gonyo wrote.