NORTH CREEK - Hundreds of youngsters came from far and wide May 29 for the annual Day out with Thomas the Tank Engine, which kicks off the season for scenic railroad carrier Upper Hudson River Railroad.
"I expect we will carry about 1,400 passengers today," said UHRR General Manager Cliff Wellz. "The numbers seem pretty stable from last year."
Wellz said that the initial 12 p.m. train sold out quickly and the later trips were selling well also. The event carried on throughout Memorial Day weekend and will also be running this weekend as well.
The event carried with it a carnival-like atmosphere with stories featuring the exploits of Thomas - the children's' television icon, food and shows.
The opening comes at a time when political sentiment about the 15-year, nearly $12 million dollar scenic railroad project has turned negative among many Warren County supervisors.
The majority of the funding has came from state and federal grants, but the local share is around $2.7 million according to Warren County DPW Superintendent Bill Lamy.
Glens Falls Supervisor-at-large Bill Kenny and Queensbury Supervisor-at-large Fred Champagne have recently been on the offensive, blasting the project as a waste of taxpayer's money.
A May 23 rainstorm resulted in a washout of about 40 feet of track -- leaving the track suspended above the ground and rendering it impassable, officials said. Upper Hudson River Railroad officials said that a beaver dam had impeded a gutter and resulted in massive erosion under the track bed.
The cost of repairing the washout and track damage is expected to be about $70,000 with some estimates nearing $100,000 officials Warren County DPW Superintendent Bill Lamy said May 26.
The UHRR regular schedule is set to begin on July 2, but the destroyed track section one-mile south of Riparius station may put the season opening in jeopardy without timely county action.