Press-Republican

October 26, 2012

Adirondack Railroad looks to add pullman, sleeper excursion

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

---- — LAKE PLACID — Railroad companies are joining forces to reinstate passenger service from New York City to Lake Placid along a historic railway.

The new railroad excursion would utilize the Lake Placid to Remsen corridor.

On Thursday, Adirondack Rail Preservation Society announced an agreement to develop the tourist option and other railway uses with Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC.

A Memorandum of Understanding between the two lines suggests establishing “high-end excursion passenger service” using restored Pullman railcars and sleeping cars.

“This (memorandum) has been the subject of several months of effort as our two organizations established the basis for a working relationship and as Iowa Pacific fully assessed the potential of the Adirondack Railroad as the next in their continuing series of successful rail-service developments across the country,” Bill Branson, president of the Railroad Preservation Society, said in a press release.

The news came in advance of a celebratory trip on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid on Thursday afternoon.

OVERNIGHT EXCURSIONS

Iowa Pacific Holdings, based in Chicago, operates passenger and freight railroads throughout the United States.

“These include the Saratoga & North Creek Railroad in the eastern Adirondacks and the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, the Mt. Hood Railroad, High Iron Travel, the Texas-New Mexico Railroad and the West Texas & Lubbock Railway, as well as the Machuu Picchu Train in the Andes in South America. In addition, Iowa Pacific owns the Pullman Sleeping Car Company,” the release said.

And Pullman Co. is in the process of restoring some 70 historic passenger, dining and sleeper cars.

“This year, they have announced and are about to initiate Pullman Rail Journeys, operating high-end overnight excursions similar to those operated in many areas of Europe, such as the famous Orient Express. The first tour venture will begin in early November from Chicago to New Orleans,” Branson said in the release.

In the Adirondacks, Iowa Pacific found “numerous opportunities for rail-service development,” specifically railroad “access to trailheads and waterways, and future freight potential.

“The parties therefore also commit to the joint identification and shared exploration of these and all other forms of rail activity which appear achievable as a part of the future of this singular and irreplaceable infrastructure,” according to the railroads’ joint statement.

‘VITAL COMPONENT’

Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific Holdings, said they have been working to revive rail corridors across the United States and in other countries.

“Our recent success with the Saratoga and North Creek (line) is an indication of what can be done in the Adirondack market,” he said. “We believe the higher-end travel audience in New York City is ready to respond to a first-class overnight experience on historic Pullman cars through the Adirondacks to Lake Placid.”

“We believe we are uniquely qualified to assist (the Adirondack Railroad Preservation Society), and this agreement is a first milestone in working toward the vision. We are quite aware of the structural challenges involved in developing this kind of service.”

The press release included kudos from Kate Fish, executive director of the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA), which has posited that the existing railroad line through Adirondack wilderness should not be removed to make way for a recreation path as many in the region have suggested.

“ANCA has been a longtime supporter of retaining rail infrastructure in the Adirondack North Country region as a vital component for our economic future,” she said.

“We applaud the commitment of Iowa Pacific, the Adirondack Railway and other important partners in this significant initiative.”

Email Kim Smith Dedam:  kdedam@pressrepublican.com