Anyone hoping to take the Saratoga and North Creek Railway's popular dining train to the Adirondacks this summer is out of luck after the railway ceased operations earlier this week. Our Matt Hunter has the details.
NORTH CREEK, N.Y. – To many small business owners in tiny North Creek, the sound of commerce closely resembles a train whistle.
"You hear the train coming in and it is like the whole town prepares for it," said Erica Fredette, who helps manage her mother’s restaurant, Chrissy’s Café. "It’s amazing, it is great. We will have a dead day in the summer time and that train comes in and we are packed right full right up until we close at three."
The Main Street business is just one of the shops and restaurants that's benefitted from the Saratoga and North Creek Railway's tourist trains since they began shuttling passengers and their wallets from Saratoga to Warren County in 2011.
"Us being the first stop off the train, the first restaurant, it was perfect," Fredette said Thursday afternoon.
Whether it was the wintertime snow train to Gore Mountain and Christmas-themed Polar Express for children or the summer's popular Pullman table dining train, the economic boon was why so many were saddened to learn this week that the railway's parent company, Iowa Pacific Holdings, pulled the plug on the whole operation.
"We were all a bit disappointed just because it does bring so much business into town,” Fredette said.
The closure comes months after the railway drew the ire of environmental groups when it started storing old, unused freight cars on its tracks to make extra money.
"If it did have residue still in the tanks and they get old and rusty and start leaking, that could be a problem," said Claudia Braymer, who represents Glens Falls Ward Three on the Warren County Board of Supervisors.
Braymer says she was happy to learn the last of those cars had been removed. Her concern now is making sure Iowa Pacific honors its contract to pay for insurance and maintain the county-owned tracks.
"I am pretty concerned, the whole board is,” Braymer said. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars it could be just on maintenance and insurance alone."
With summer nearly here, many in town are hopeful a new business will step in to take over the railroad.
"We are looking at what we can do to fill that gap with some profitable or at least sustainable operation," Braymer said.
"I am not really looking forward to it, this summer, to be honest with you,” Fredette said. “It is definitely going to impact every business in this town negatively."
Saratoga and North Creek Railway's general manager, Jutin Gonyo, said 13 employees in North Creek alone will lose their jobs. He referred all other questions to Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific, who did not return calls or text messages seeking comment Thursday.