Press-Republican

October 16, 2013

Wires cut on locomotive at Lake Placid station

Vandals cut wires on locomotive in Lake Placid, canceling rides

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

---- — LAKE PLACID — Operators of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad found more than a dozen wires cut on one of their locomotives kept at the train station here.

Lake Placid Police are investigating the vandalism, which happened sometime between Oct. 5 and 9, railroad officials say.

CABLES PULLED OUT

Police have not released details, but Adirondack Railway Preservation Society President Bob Branson said it is a sad turn of events, with the train booked to carry more than 300 passengers on upcoming Halloween runs.

It is expected total lost revenue will total more than $45,000, officials said in a press release late Tuesday that also announced Adirondack Scenic Railroad is offering a reward of $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in the crime. 

In an interview Tuesday morning, he described the damage, which was discovered by railroad volunteers late last week when they attempted to start engine GP9 No. 6076.

“Somebody got into the locomotive, into the electrical cabinet, and they pulled a dozen or more cables out and cut them at various places in the machine.

“We’re just trying to find them all. We can see some of it, but they could have gotten underneath it and cut cables there,” he said.

“We’re going through the locomotive carefully to make sure that we haven’t missed something that would compromise safety or the operation of the engine.”

INTENT

Branson said the actions suggest someone intended to sabotage the train’s safe operation.

“Vandalism is taking spray paint and spraying the outside of the cars. But somebody intended to damage this machine,” he said.

“They went in quite deliberately and cut electrical components that are important to the operation of the engine.”

FEDERAL PROBE

Meantime, the Federal Railway Administration has also opened its investigation of the alleged sabotage.

“The Federal Railway Administration is taking this seriously,” Branson said. “They consider this to be no less important than tampering with an airplane, as with any malicious damage that could compromise safety.

“What if there had been a trainload of 300 people on board and the brakes failed?”

The Federal Railway Administration is impacted somewhat by the federal shutdown, Branson said, which could add time to the investigation process.

PARTY STILL ON

The train did not make scheduled runs last weekend. And operators have canceled Family Halloween Trains planned for next weekend.

“We have made a decision. We have a couple of sold-out trains for the Halloween trains on Oct. 26 and 27. We will refund everyone their money,” Branson said.

“But we are going to have the party at the Saranac Lake Depot and give children free access to the Adirondack Carousel anyway. We thought we’d put a good face on, even if we can’t run the train.”

The costume parties were planned for the layover time between Lake Placid and the return trip from Saranac Lake.

Bethan Maher, executive officer for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, said Tuesday they are looking at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, to host the Depot Station party.

“At this point, it looks like we’re going to be canceling the train. Tentatively, we’ve said 2 p.m. on Saturday. That’s what we’re looking at right now.”

UNDER REVIEW

Branson did not know whether the incident was connected to the ongoing criticism from people who are pushing to remove the tracks on the Remsen-Lake Placid railroad corridor so it can be converted to a multi-use trail.

The railroad route is classified as a Travel Corridor. The Department of Transportation held four public-input sessions through last month to determine whether to reopen a Unit Management Plan and review use along the 119-mile railroad line through the Adirondacks to Utica.

Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates has gathered support from more than 400 area businesses and business owners looking to remove the tracks in favor of a recreational trail. More than 25 percent — some 133 of those businesses — are in Lake Placid.

Adirondack Scenic Railroad is looking to develop a Pullman Car sleeping-car route from Lake Placid to New York City.

REPAIRS ASSESSED

The railroad company has engineers and a locomotive engineer here from Syracuse working to assess damage and make repairs.

“The parts related to the repair are one thing,” Branson said.  “Then there is the cost of labor and figuring it all out. We have a railroad electrician and our locomotive mechanic working on repairs.”

Adirondack Scenic Railroad initial estimates suggest damage will cost between $25,000 and $50,000, not including lost train-ticket sales.

Lake Placid Village Police did not provide the Press-Republican with any further details, citing an ongoing investigation.

“There is a lot of Internet activity talking about this,” Branson said. “And there are security cameras at the station. It’s a small town, and I would be surprised if we don’t figure it out.”

If related to ongoing railroad-corridor-access debate and the push for removing the rails, the damage, he said, speaks volumes about the community.

“It’s very disappointing that this is what we’re up against up there. For our part in the railroad corridor discussion, we’re going to let the (state review) process takes its course.”

This is not the first time a train and the railroad track was intentionally damaged at Lake Placid’s station.

“It happened five or six years ago,” Branson said. “Someone pulled wires and cut them. To have something like this happen is a sad commentary that this is what it’s become.”

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com