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Train is carrying the load of boosting the economy

NORTH CREEK - As Warren County officials probed methods of abandoning the county-funded railroad project, the contracted rail operator - Upper Hudson River Railroad Inc., which officials have routinely criticized - was defended this week by its manager.

Upper Hudson General Manager Cliff Wellz contended that his company has diligently fulfilled their contractual obligations and that the contract with Warren County all but destroys any profit-making potential.

"I just don't believe that people have seen what is going on here," Wellz said. "We are obligated to make at-least five runs per week to Riverside Station and back, from the first week of July to the first week of September, which we have faithfully done."

Wellz said that UHRR is responsible for all track maintenance, as well as maintenance of buildings and energy bills.

"We spend up to $100,000 a year just taking care of everything," Wellz said.

According to Wellz, approximately 125,000 people have ridden the train over the last five years. And although a "snow train" or a North Creek-Saratoga line may be doomed, the summer tourist train is a reliable contributor to the local economy.

"Odds are that about 9,000 riders of Thomas

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alone stayed at least one night in an area hotel," he said, referring to the railway's annual Thomas the Tank Engine special events. "I figure that accounts for about 2,800 room nights over the last five years - we are definitely bringing revenue to the region."

Over the last several years, Warren County has spent approximately $2.8 million - $429,000 from the local taxpayers - to construct railroad platforms in Stony Creek, Thurman and Luzerne. Upper Hudson announced last month it doesn't intend to stop at the three new platforms and that the county had not fulfilled their contractual obligation to build stations.

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