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Lake Placid-Saranac Lake route closed; foul play suspected in train damage

October 15, 2013
SHAUN KITTLE , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The locomotive that runs between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake was heavily damaged sometime last week, and Adirondack Scenic Railroad officials say it was sabotaged.

The railroad crew discovered something was wrong when the train failed to pass a routine safety inspection before going into service Wednesday. The train was deemed inoperable, and tickets were refunded. Nevertheless, it took a few days for the crew to discover the source of the problem: A yet-to-be-determined number of wires inside the train's electrical cabinet had been pulled out, cut and placed back into the cabinet, according to David Link, director of volunteers at the Adirondack Scenic Railroad.

No damage was detectable from outside the train.

Link has worked in the mechanical departments of freight railroads for 37 years. He said the train was rewired eight years ago. He added that severing the wires could also have compromised the train's electric generator.

"We are currently shut down and still unable to determine the full value of the damages, but having been in this business, I'd say we're between $25,000 to $50,000, not counting the lost revenue to the railroad," Link said.

"This was a deliberate and calculated effort to render that piece of railroad equipment inoperable, and more importantly to disguise it so it wouldn't immediately be obvious to the operator."

Lake Placid village police responded to the call at about 6 p.m. Friday and said the incident probably occurred between Oct. 5 and 9, while the train was parked at the Lake Placid train depot. A press release said investigators are following several leads.

Bill Branson, president of the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society which runs the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, said this isn't the first time someone has tampered with train-related equipment. Within the last two years, he said, someone damaged a railroad crossing gate and someone used kerosene to ignite a section of railroad ties between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.

"This isn't vandalism," Branson said. "Vandalism is when you spray paint the outside of something. There have always been rumors about who's responsible for this, and we've always hoped something would turn up without us instigating it, but I think this one crosses the line. My guess is the police will take this pretty seriously."

Branson added that Federal Railway Administration officials will conduct their own investigation since public safety could have been compromised by the damage. The National Transportation Safety Board was also contacted and might investigate as well, he said.

"The track and the corridor crossings are all owned by the state, so we're not really sure if they (the state) will have an interest in this in a legal way or not, but the offenses do become federal offenses because public safety is at risk," Branson said.

The Scenic Railroad generally wraps up its rides up here in October. Branson said the train was bound for Utica later this month for use as one of three trains in that area's Polar Express rides, which yielded more than 14,000 ticket sales last year. The train will still make the trip, although Branson said it will now be towed there for repairs. Due to the extent of the damage, Branson said it is unlikely it will be operable before the Polar Express.

Police said anyone with information should contact the Lake Placid Police Department at 518-523-3306.

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or skittle@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.

 
 

 

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