TUPPER LAKE — Proponents of a plan to replace a tourist train with a recreation trail have initiated a study to determine what benefits the railroad has had on the community.
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad began offering tourist rides from Saranac Lake to Lake Placid 11 years ago on rails originally used by the New York Central Railroad, which ended its passenger service in 1965 and freight service in 1972.
Recent talks have focused on the possibility of stretching that historic rail line to Tupper Lake, adding 25 miles to the nine-mile existing stretch.
However, the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates group believes the rail bed would be much better suited as a recreation trail for hiking, bicycling and as an access to the Adirondack wilderness for people with disabilities.
"The premise for restoring the rail lines as a tourist railroad was that the railroad would be good for business," said Dick Beamish, a member of the Trail Advocates steering committee.
"There are two main sections of the tourist train: one from Utica up to Old Forge, which has done fairly well, and the one between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, which really hasn't paid off.
"We don't see where businesses have had any impact from this train."
Trail Advocates held a press conference in Tupper Lake Tuesday morning announcing its plans to commission a study on the costs for converting the lines to a recreation trail and to identify the economic impact the tourist train has had on the region.
"Our position is that they've had a good test to see if it works economically, and as far as we can see, it hasn't," Beamish said.
"We've been promoting an alternative (the recreation trail) that has been largely successful in other areas."
Trail Advocates believes the existing rail line between Old Forge and Lake Placid would be a tremendous tourist draw and could possibly bring in as many as 150,000 people to bicycle or hike through scenic Adirondack wilderness.