Plan to re-open North Country railroad picking up steam
Starting during World War Two and lasting for more than forty years, the Tawahus mine near Newcomb and its connecting railroad were major sources of industry and employment in the North Country. In the final installment of his two-part report, YNN's Matt Hunter examines a plan to return the operation to its former glory.
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NEWCOMB, N.Y. -- Before beginning his tenure as Newcomb town supervisor more than 20 years ago, George Canon spent a quarter century working at the former Tahawus mine.
In its heyday, more than 8,000 tons of ore were extracted from the mine each day and shipped by rail to North Creek and eventually points further south.
"There's 50-million tons of orE that was mined there for years still in the ground," said Cannon, whose office is decorated with remnants of the old mining operation.
When it became cheaper to ship the ore from overseas, the mine and railroad were closed in the late 1980s.
Last year, Iowa Pacific Holdings purchased the stretch between North Creek and Saratoga and re-established a passenger line that had been closed since 1952.
"We had trains showing up and dropping people off in the middle of town, sometimes by the hundreds," said Ron Vanselow, town supervisor of Johnsburg, where the North Creek Rail Depot sits.
The rash of new visitors provided an instant boost to the North Country economy. Now, Iowa Pacific and local leaders would like to take it a step further and re-open the 29-mile stretch between Newcomb and North Creek.
Iowa Pacific's proposal to ship and sell the mine's leftover tailings is expected to create dozens of jobs.
"Anytime you get two jobs in Newcomb it's a big deal,” Canon said. “They're talking 15 or 20 to rehab the line and another four, five, six or eight through whatever it is they've got planned, so yeah, that's a big deal for us."
Standing in the plan's way is federal approval. Earlier this week, Senator Charles Schumer wrote a letter to the Surface Transportation Board's chairman, urging him to green-light the project. Congressman Bill Owens of Plattsburg has also written a letter in support of the project.
The DEC and state DOT have both given their stamps of approval. Local officials remain optimistic the ruling will be positive.
"Anything that contributes to the viability of Iowa Pacific's operation is going to help make it more of a success here," Vanselow said.
"I think there's just a wave of support for this and I don't see how they could turn it down," Canon said.
To read part one of this report, . click here