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Friday, October 26, 2012

Iowa Pacific eyes Adirondack tourist train

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Iowa Pacific Holdings, LLC and the Adirondack Rail Preservation Society (ARPS) have reached a Memorandum of Understanding to establish tourist passenger service on the Adirondack Railroad, linking its namesake state park in upstate New York to New York City with Pullman sleeping car service.

"This MOU has been the subject of several months of effort as our two organizations established the potential of the Adirondack Railroad as the next in their continuing series of successful rail service > developments across the country," said ARPS President Bill Branson in a statement.

Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings already operates the Saratoga & North Creek Railroad in the eastern Adirondacks, as well as numerous other short line operations nationwide. Iowa Pacific also owns the Pullman Sleeping Car Co., which acquires and restores historic Pullman passenger, dining, and sleeper cars. Approximately 70 cars currently in various stages of restoration, Iowa Pacific and ARPS said.

"We are grateful to ARPS for the opportunity to work together on a > project that can bring a dramatic rail service improvement to the Adirondacks," said Iowa Pacific Holdings President Ed Ellis. "Iowa Pacific has been working to revive rail corridors across the U.S. and in other countries for freight and passenger service for over a decade, and our recent success with the Saratoga and North Creek is an indication of what can be done in the Adirondack market.

"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 {N.Y.]. While we are quite aware of the structural challenges involved in developing this kind of service, we believe we are uniquely qualified to assist ARPS and this agreement is a first milestone in working toward the vision," Ellis said.

Under the MOU, Iowa Pacific and ARPS will work together on developing a joint plan that can be submitted to the New York State Department. of Transportation and form the basis of business discussions with Amtrak and other stakeholders. Amtrak owns or controls much of the route between New York and Schenectady, N.Y., which Iowa Pacific would use for its service. (Metro-North Railroad controls right-of-way between Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and the Hell Gate Bridge in the Bronx.)

Iowa Pacific will bear the equipment and operating costs and risks, and will be open to partnering in the costs of capital improvements required on the rail line, to be defined as part of the full plan.

According to Branson and Ellis, the full plan will also include outreach to several of the major hotels and resorts in Lake Placid to determine their interest in becoming partners in hosting future visitors.