Saratoga North Creek Snow Train – So Much More Than Transportation
The Snow Train is here!
Saratoga Springs New York …The long awaited Snow Train made it’s debut on Friday, December 30, 2011 with 38 passengers boarding at Saratoga Springs for an excursion to the Adirondack village of North Creek. The conductor opened the door to the platform and exclaimed “All aboard!” to the delight of the waiting passengers. Freddie Anderson, local ski pioneer and long-time director of the Schenectady Ski School at Maple Ski Ridge, was the first to board the train. It was a special moment for Ms. Anderson, as she had also ridden the last Snow Train that ran 50 years ago. “I am so thrilled to be able to ride the snow train again,” said Ms. Anderson. “I have so many memories of taking the train to North Creek when I was young, and to able to see it run again is just wonderful!”
Skiers and non-skiers alike were eager to be a part of history. The 20 year dream of a few visionaries was now a reality; the Snow train is back! Steve Torrico, General Manager for the Saratoga and North Creek Railroad, delivered a welcome message to the travelers and then delved into the history of the railroad and it’s various functions through the years. Colorful characters like Dr. Thomas Durant were brought back to life, who financed and built the Adirondack Company railroad in 1865. It was this rail line that Teddy Roosevelt used in his return back to “civilization” to take over the role as President of the United States upon the assassination of President McKinley. Acquired by D & H in 1902, the renamed “Adirondack Branch” became an important link for people and goods to travel to and from the Adirondacks.
Soon after the train left the station, the dynamic of this “alternative’ mode of transportation engaged all of the passengers. The place was abuzz with the significance of this ride; complete strangers now joined together with friendly chatter about their common desire to be here on this historic voyage.
John and Terrianne Koepp traveled all the way from Lebanon Springs, in Columbia County. The Koepp’s could be affectionately called “train junkies” – they travel by train whenever they can. “We wouldn’t have missed this for the world!” exclaimed Mrs. Koepp. They had caught wind of today’s maiden voyage of the Snow Train just a couple of days prior, and had been impatiently waiting like giddy school children ever since. Mrs. Koepp had on her official conductors cap, acquired from previous rail ride. Mr. Koepp announced to M . Torrico that they were celebrating their 44th wedding anniversary today, and the train ride was their celebration. John and Terrianne Koepp Mr. Torrico announced this news to the rest of the passengers, and suddenly the place erupted in congratulatory applause. The Koepp’s beamed with embarrassment, and gave each other a kiss.
The morning light began to expose the countryside about us, revealing a landscape that few eyes have seen. The railroad travels on it’s own path, away from the roads that cars must use. We were freed of the encumbrances of traffic lights and congestion, giving the term “right of way” true meaning. Where the railroad crossed the auto roads, all traffic had to stop for US! We had priority. It didn’t take long until we left all of civilization behind. The Hudson River emerged to our right, and it’s now wild and scenic character would be our visual stimuli for much of the ride. The icy waters and foaming rapids, with their mountainous backdrop, were an ever changing tapestry of beauty. We were in the wilderness! And as if on queue, snow flurries began to envelope the train.
Hickory Hill from the Snow Train
Across the aisle from me, a family of four seemed to be really enjoying themselves. Henry and Margaret Kinosian from Ballston Lake and their two daughters, Marion and Sylvia, were getting psyched for a day of skiing at Gore Mountain. They sat across from each other, husband and wife actually engaging in conversation with their teen daughters…and enjoying it! This never happens in a car, I thought. I asked them if they found this method of getting to the mountain any better than driving, and they just beamed with delight. Henry commented that for him, the beautiful Adirondack scenery was so much nicer to watch than a highway median. Margaret was happy to learn about the history of the Adirondack Branch and the railroad company. “I like the train because I can get up and move around instead of being strapped into the back seat of the car for over an hour,” exclaimed Marion. “And I’m not getting car sick!” added Sylvia.
One thing that quickly became evident about riding the train was the service. The white linen table cloth laden tables and carnation vase were an indication of what was to come. The railroad companies of old took service very seriously, and I am happy to report that on the Snow Train, service is alive and well for us today. Shortly after we were underway, Mr. Torrico announced that breakfast was available, and that the chef’s handmade corned beef hash is recommended. What ensued was nothing less than spectacular! Yellow-vested wait staff made there way around the car, taking orders and fulfilling needs. I ordered poached eggs over the recommended corned beef hash, along with coffee. Coffee refills were provided without asking, and the clean-up was timely and prompt. I can honestly say that is was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. And to enjoy it while cruising through the Adirondacks on a snowy morning – priceless!
Freddie Anderson arrives at North Creek
The train ride from Saratoga Springs takes about two hours, however, the time just flew. With all the conversations and scenery to absorb, we arrived in North Creek in what seemed like a flash. Upon exiting the train, we were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of North Creek locals. “Welcome to North Creek!” they shouted in unison. “Where’s Freddie?” some in the crowd asked. They were looking for North Creek’s favorite ski bum and pioneer, Freddie Anderson. She emerged from the train to be received by hugs from old friends who came out to welcome her back. It was an emotional moment, to say the least. New York Senator Betty Little was amongst the throng, and I asked her what she thought about the return of the Snow Train. “It’s the fulfillment of a dream, ” she said. “A lot of people have worked real hard for a long, long time to make this happen!”
Old Friends meet at North Creek
A shuttle bus was parked at the station, and the skiers in the group all got on board. The driver helped get everyone’s gear loaded, and off they went. We went over to take a look at the Ski Museum located at the train station, and inside they were showing an old promotional ski movie starring none other than Freddie Anderson. Freddie was inside also, reminiscing and sharing her all the good times she had in the early days of skiing at North Creek. Behind her, a youthful Freddie was on the TV screen, careening through the woods, wearing a very stylish Scottish plaid skirt. Stretch pants had yet to be invented – and back in the day, girls wore skirts, so of course, Freddie skied in her skirt!
The Ski Museum holds all kinds of relics from the pioneering days in North Creek. The Snow Train is featured prominently – in fact, there is a whole diorama and miniature North Creek village scene that depicts the area in the heyday of the Snow Train. And here we were, on this day, writing a new chapter into story.
Inside the Ski Museum
I caught the next shuttle for trip out to Gore Mountain, where the place was abuzz with activity. There was a fresh coating of snow on the mountain, and the full parking lot signified that a lot of people had the itch to come skiing today. After milling about at the mountain, I took the shuttle back to the village. It was all very convenient. The North Creek Business Alliance operates the shuttle service, in other words, run by the local business community. The drivers shared their tips and knowledge of all things local, and made the short ride back to town a real joy.
Tim Wechgelaer at Bar Vino
For the non-skier, the village of North Creek is a delight. Each shopkeeper was anxious to hear about how the ride on the Snow Train was. I and the other travelers were practically treated like celebrities! At the Bar Vino Restaurant in the center of town, Saratoga Springs musician Tim Wechgalaer entertained the burgeoning crowd with his guitar and fiddle. I recognized several people who were Snow Train passengers, and our conversations continued, expanding upon all we had experienced today. Phone numbers and emails were exchanged, and we vowed to reconnect another day.
The next thing we knew, it was time to get over to the train station for the trip home. We all clamored aboard the train, to the warm greetings by the staff. Back on the train, the energy was vibrant – everybody had a story to share. The skiers, with rosy cheeks and smiling faces, were chatting about their day on the mountain. The staff went quickly to work preparing cocktails for those that wanted them, and then, moved right into the dinner requests. Cocktails on the Snow TrainA full menu was presented, offering everything from fresh salads and burgers, to steak or seared Ahi Tuna. I opted for the Ahi Tuna, my companions went for the steak. When the food arrived, everybody’s eyes widened. This ain’t plane food, it’s train food! And like the breakfast in the morning , the dinner did not disappoint. In fact, it was so good, I would say that the train is worth it just for the food! Debra Goodman, sitting next to me explained it very simply…”Everything tastes better on a train!” she said. Indeed!The Ahi Tuna dinner entree
Dave Delozier, Debra Goodman and Mike Velardi
Terrianne and John Koepp
Eco-LOCAL magazine will be doing a special editorial feature on the Snow Train in the soon to be released Winter edition. There will be a special promotion for Snow Train passengers, offering great deals all around North Creek. Be sure to grab a copy. The Snow Train will run weekly Fridays-Sundays during the 2012 winter season. Go to www.sncrr.com for info and reservations. Make sure you tell ‘em that you’re eco-LOCAL, and you’ll get extra special treatment. I promise!