Our History

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About Us…

The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society (ARPS), a nonprofit organization, operates the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, a former New York Central line located in upstate New York and the Adirondack region. Since 1992, we have built a successful tourist attraction, operating on track owned by the State of New York. In 1996, the State pledged to restore the track, allowing for rail operations between the mainline in Utica and the world-class destination of Lake Placid. The State has only partially restored the track which has, in turn, created a contentious rail vs. trail debate.

Since our inception, ARPS has worked to preserve the state-owned Corridor. We cut brush, inspect track, maintain switches and control the beaver activity throughout the Corridor. We have helped to preserve the stations in Thendara and Saranac Lake as working pieces of railroad history. As part of our mission to create a multi-use recreational Corridor, we have worked with other businesses to provide our passengers with the opportunity to hike, bike and float through parts of the Adirondack Park that are seldom seen by the casual visitor.

Fulton Chain Station, Pictured Right

The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society is a volunteer-based organization. Together with our staff, volunteers have donated approximately 300,000 hours to protect our historic railway and enrich the Adirondack experience for tourists and residents of our region. They have helped this railroad to grow from a four-mile excursion in the Old Forge area to a business that carried over 74,000 passengers annually on hundreds of trains in Utica, Thendara, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Our total ridership has surpassed 1,500,000 people.

Adirondack Scenic Railroad History

Transportation in Central New York underwent a transformation in the early part of the 19th century with the completion of the Erie Canal and New York Central and Hudson River Railroads. With people and goods now traveling more easily and more quickly than ever before across New York State, as well as the increased pressure to utilize natural resources of the northern part of the state, the Adirondacks began to experience an influx of people. In addition to loggers, trappers, and hunters, many wealthy families began to construct estates in the Adirondacks, today known as the “Great Camps.” Roads, difficult to construct through the heavily wooded and mountainous terrain were not practical for transportation of large quantities of goods or wealthier families, accustomed to a higher class of transportation.

Dr. William Seward Webb, a medical doctor by trade, president of the Wagner Palace Car Company, and husband of Lila Vanderbilt, of the wealthy Vanderbilt family, figured the best way to access Nehasane Park, his large hunting preserve to the north, was by train. In 1890, he financed a railroad into the Adirondack wilderness, work on the line started the next year and was completed in just 18 months. The rail line was a significant engineering feat for its day. Starting in Remsen, the line travels up 1,135 feet to its highest point at Big Moose Lake, at 2,035 feet. The line itself includes 17 bridges over several bodies of water as well as a large number of buildings, constructed along the line to support rail operations, many of which are still standing or in use today.

The railroad later became part of the New York Central System. The railroad carried the Webb, Morgan, Vanderbilt, Whitney, and Roosevelt families along with other not-so-famous families to their Great Camps in the Adirondack Mountains. It also provided freight service to communities along the way. In 1961, part of the line was abandoned from Lake Clear Junction to Malone. Scheduled passenger service was continued on the Adirondack Division from Utica to Lake Placid but ended in April of 1965. In February 1968 the New York Central System merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad becoming Penn Central Transportation Company. Freight service was continued with decreasing frequency until 1972. In that year, the Penn Central’s application to the Public Service Commission to abandon the line was approved. In 1975, the state of New York purchased the abandoned line.

The line had a brief reprieve when it was returned to service in 1977 when the Adirondack Railway Corporation contracted with the state to run passenger service from Utica to Lake Placid for the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid. In February of 1981, problems with the Adirondack Railway Corporation’s management of the line forced the State to terminate the company’s lease. Ownership of the property went to New York State and the railroad laid dormant.

In 1992 a group of devoted rail enthusiasts banded together and proposed to operate a short section of the line from Thendara south to Minnehaha. New York State approved the 4-mile train ride and on July 4, 1992 the Adirondack Centennial Railroad ran its first train out of Thendara station. By the end of the season the railroad carried over 55,000 passengers. With such a positive response from the public, New York State allowed the railroad to operate in 1993, distinguishing the entire rail line from Remsen to Lake Placid as part of the National Register of Historic Places along with the New York State Register of Historic Places. In July of 1994 the Adirondack Centennial Railroad became the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which is operated by the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, Inc. (ARPS). ARPS is a 501(c) (3), not-for-profit corporation and is run by a staff of 150 volunteers and a few full and part-time employees.

By the year 2000 the railroad has restored the line all the way south to Snow Junction. At Snow Junction the line connects with the Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern – a freight railroad –  and continues on to the southern terminus at Utica, NY’s classic Union Station. Currently the Adirondack Scenic Railroad carries passengers between Utica, NY and Big Moose, NY, and between Saranac Lake, NY and Lake Placid, NY. The remaining section of track between Big Moose and Saranac Lake needs rehabilitation in order to make it suitable for carrying outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and abilities on our passenger trains. Volunteers and staff work throughout the year to help promote and maintain the current railroad while working towards the reachable goal of restoring that remaining track.

Utica Station History

The New York Central Railroad opened Utica’s Union Station in 1914, the third station to stand on the same site. Previously, the Utica & Schenectady Railroad built Utica’s first railroad station in 1836 and with the completion of the Syracuse & Utica line, it soon became a way station on the route west. This line soon combined with others to eventually form the New York Central in 1853. Until this point, passengers had largely only been traveling westward on the line, however, when the Black River & Utica Railroad began running trains north, Utica became a transfer point for tourists heading towards the Adirondacks. This same line is still in existence today, now operation as Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern and serving Adirondack Scenic Railroad trains as far north as Remsen.

By 1869 use of rail lines in Utica had grown to the point that a recently constructed store was converted to Utica’s second rail station. The second station was comprised of two brick structures, connected together by a long platform walkway and featured a waiting room and restaurant. The Mohawk River ran only a few yards from the northern part of the present station, presenting a problem in the years to come.

By 1900, the second station had been deemed inadequate. Central New York weather made the open waiting areas for trains impractical and seasonal flooding often covered the tracks. Passengers transferring trains to or from the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western and New York, Ontario & Western railroads had to cross Bagg’s Square to a separate depot. A new building had to be constructed that would accommodate the number of rail lines and high passenger demand.

In order to construct a new station close to the tracks but to ensure safety from seasonal flooding, the Mohawk River had to be diverted. Between 1901 and 1907 a new channel was dug a half mile north of the station location. Although part of the old riverbed became part of the Barge Canal, the majority of the channel was filled to make room for additional platforms and tracks.

Construction of Union Station finally began in 1912. To maintain train service while the station was being built on the same location as the old station, a temporary wood-framed station was constructed on the north side of the main line, joined together with the northernmost new platform, umbrella sheds, and an underground passageway. The temporary station opened in winter of 1913, serving as the main station, while the rest of the underground walkway was completed and the old station was demolished.

Utica’s new “New York Central Station” opened in May of 1914. After the DL&W and the NYO&W abandoned their old stations, the newest station became known as “Union” station. Subsequently, an additional platform and two stub tracks were built to serve as additional terminals for these lines.

Designed by Allen H. Stem and Alfred Fellheimer, both of New York City, Utica’s Union station has long been recognized for the architectural beauty of its design and the lavish use of marble on the interior. These architects also designed other famous rail stations such as Michigan Central Station, the Art Deco Cincinnati Union Terminal, and even New York’s Grand Central Terminal. Legend has it that eight monoliths of the marble columns came from New York’s “old” Grand Central Terminal, however, no proof exists to substantiate this claim.

During World War II the station was heavily used, however, with the end of the war, train transport to Utica declined and the station deteriorated badly, to the point that demolition was considered.

The Union Station Restoration Project of Oneida County in cooperation with The Economic Development Administration of New York State started restoring the station in 1978. The marble was restored, as well as new molds made for the rosettas by Utica’s Patrillo & Sons Masonry & Contracting. As part of the restoration work, heaters were installed under the seating benches, meaning that the whole waiting area of the station did not need to be heated while passengers could still stay warm. By reducing energy requirements, the second and later third floors of the station were opened and the design won several awards for innovation and energy efficiency.

Today, Union station is now owned by Oneida County and serves Amtrak, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and occasionally, New York, Susquehanna & Western passenger trains. Greyhound, Trailways, Utica Transit, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and County Offices are now all located in the station.

Thendara Station History

All aboard for the Adirondacks, riding in our climate controlled coaches, or take in the fresh, clean air in our open car, through remote forests, past sparkling rivers, over bridges, tranquil ponds and streams, into the magnificent beauty of the six million acre Adirondack Park.

Become a witness of nature’s beauty and look out for the many animals and birds along the routes.

Relive the golden age of railroading, a time when wealthy entrepreneurs like Vanderbilt, Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and Collis P. Huntington built fabulous wilderness estates in the heart of the Adirondacks. The Adirondacks played host to the rich and famous on their way to these Great Camps.

Our train adventures offer many different scenic excursions departing from Utica’s Union Station, Thendara Station near Old Forge, Saranac Lake Union Depot and Lake Placid Station in the beautiful Olympic Village of Lake Placid, New York. There are also many “Special Trains” which include fabulous productions such as magic trains, clown trains, train robberies, and of course a magical trip with Santa Claus to the North Pole on The POLAR EXPRESS™ train

Saranac Lake Station History

In 1878 the State of New York authorized the construction of a railroad from Plattsburgh to Dannemora to transport men, supplies, fuel, and other necessary materials. The following year, the Plattsburgh and Dannemora was leased to the Chateaugay Railway Company. On December 5, 1887 the track was open for traffic from Plattsburgh to Saranac Lake, a total distance of 73 miles. Changes in the corporate name pursued during the next five years but the Delaware and Hudson Company had a substantial interest in the road from the beginning.

The Saranac Lake and Lake Placid Railroad became organized in 1890. At first, it was a standard gauge railroad running between the Saranac Lake and Lake Placid stations. Eventually, a third rail was laid, allowing the Chateaugay trains to run over the ten mile new road all the way to Lake Placid. In 1903 the Chateaugay Railroad Company and the Saranac and Lake Placid Railroad Company were consolidated and the Delaware and Hudson became in control of the new company known as the Chateaugay and Lake Placid Railway Company. The rebuilding of the railroad to standard gauge occurred in 1902 and was completed in 1903. The line was leased to the Delaware and Hudson for a period of 500 years.

Saranac Lake’s Union Depot was built in 1904 by the Delaware and Hudson Railroad. It consolidated the passenger operations of the Chateaugay Railroad from the east, and the New York Central Railroad from the west. Union Depot handled 18 to 20 scheduled passenger trains per day during its busiest years, 1912-1940.

On November 1, 1946 the Interstate Commerce Commission gave permission to the Delaware and Hudson Railroad to abandon all of the line beyond Lyon Mountain and to sell the ten miles of track that consisted between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake to the New York Central. In 1957 when passenger service north of Lake Clear Junction became discontinued, the trains ran to Lake Placid as a terminal.

New York Central closed Union Depot in 1965 when passenger service had ended. Union Depot was restored in 1997 with help from ISTEA funds administered through New York State’s Department of Transportation in anticipation of renewed tourist rail service.

Today, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid are part of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and run tourist passenger trains between the two stations.

Lake Placid Station History

In 1878 the State of New York authorized the construction of a railroad from Plattsburgh to Dannemora to transport men, supplies, fuel, and other necessary materials. The following year, the Plattsburgh and Dannemora was leased to the Chateaugay Railway Company. On December 5, 1887 the track was open for traffic from Plattsburgh to Saranac Lake, a total distance of 73 miles. Changes in the corporate name pursued during the next five years but the Delaware and Hudson Company had a substantial interest in the road from the beginning.

The Saranac Lake and Lake Placid Railroad became organized in 1890. At first, it was a standard gauge railroad running between the Saranac Lake and Lake Placid stations. Eventually, a third rail was laid, allowing the Chateaugay trains to run over the ten mile new road all the way to Lake Placid. In 1903 the Chateaugay Railroad Company and the Saranac and Lake Placid Railroad Company were consolidated and the Delaware and Hudson became in control of the new company known as the Chateaugay and Lake Placid Railway Company. The rebuilding of the railroad to standard gauge occurred in 1902 and was completed in 1903. The line was leased to the Delaware and Hudson for a period of 500 years.

Saranac Lake’s Union Depot was built in 1904 by the Delaware and Hudson Railroad. It consolidated the passenger operations of the Chateaugay Railroad from the east, and the New York Central Railroad from the west. Union Depot handled 18 to 20 scheduled passenger trains per day during its busiest years, 1912-1940.

On November 1, 1946 the Interstate Commerce Commission gave permission to the Delaware and Hudson Railroad to abandon all of the line beyond Lyon Mountain and to sell the ten miles of track that consisted between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake to the New York Central. In 1957 when passenger service north of Lake Clear Junction became discontinued, the trains ran to Lake Placid as a terminal.

New York City closed Union Depot in 1965 when passenger service had ended. Union Depot was restored in 1997 with help from ISTEA funds administered through New York State’s Department of Transportation in anticipation of renewed tourist rail service.

Today, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid are part of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and run tourist passenger trains between the two stations.

Map of All Locations

Click on the map locations for more information about all of our stations!

Utica Station

Utica Union Station
321 Main Street Utica, NY 13501 1-800-819-2291

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Thendara Station

Thendara Station 2568 State Route 28 Thendara, NY 13472 1-800-819-2291

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Lake Placid Station

Lake Placid Station 242 Station Street Lake Placid, NY 12946 1-800-819-2291 LP depot - darkened- 741x491

Saranac Lake Union Depot

Saranac Lake Union Depot 42 Depot Street Suite #1 Saranac Lake, NY 12983 1-800-819-2291

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