Empty Rail Cars Roll Into the Adirondacks, Stirring Controversy

“It is unsightly,’’ Mr. Cuomo told reporters recently in Glens Falls. “It is out of character with the Adirondacks. Nobody goes to the Adirondacks to look at old trains. They go there to look at the natural beauty.’’

Iowa Pacific Holdings, a rail company based in Chicago, bought the rail line with plans to haul rocks from abandoned mines that could be used for large-scale construction projects such as building roads. So far, however, the firm has not found a market for the venture.

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Environmentalists say the train cars are unsightly and could pose a risk to the environment.

Credit
Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

Instead, Iowa Pacific has begun leasing rail space, about 100 cars per track mile, to rail companies that want to store cars that are not needed.

Ed Ellis, the president of Iowa Pacific, said leasing space raises money needed for track maintenance and repairs.

In addition to the old mining rail line, Iowa Pacific also operates a connecting railroad, the Saratoga and North Creek Railway, which runs 60 miles from Saratoga Springs to North Creek, home of the Gore Mountain ski resort. It began operating the railway, which is used primarily for sightseeing rides, in 2011 under a lease agreement with Warren County and the town of Corinth, which own the tracks on the scenic railroad.

Iowa Pacific, however, is responsible for maintaining the tracks from Saratoga to Tahawus, which Mr. Ellis said costs more than $750,000 per year. Leasing storage space on the tracks, Mr. Ellis said, is a way to generate revenue to allow the company to run the scenic railway while it continues to seek customers for the rocks from the mines.

“We’re patient investors,” he said. “This is not about quarterly earnings. This is about the long-term future of railroads.”

But critics suspect that the storage deal will prove anything but temporary and oppose parking the rail cars for aesthetic reasons and also over concerns that the cars could damage the environment if they start deteriorating.

“In essence, Iowa Pacific is trying to build this linear junkyard through the Adirondack Park,” said Peter Bauer, the executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, an environmental group. “It appears that Iowa Pacific will continue to bring in more oil tanker cars until the state steps in and halts this activity.”

Mr. Ellis said that all the rail cars had been inspected and thoroughly cleaned by their owners.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency, another state entity that regulates land use in the park, also oppose the storage arrangement. “We are seriously concerned about potential environmental impacts and are evaluating all legal and regulatory options at our disposal,’’ the agencies said in a joint statement.

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