North Creek Freight train service was discontinued on the tracks between North Creek and the town of Newcomb in 1989, when the Tahawus mine shut down. But that all changed Wednesday, Aug. 8 when the Saratoga & North Creek Railway opened 6 miles of track to North River.
A ceremonial inspection train took the first run, and made history in the process.
It was a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony in the hot sun. VIPs were in front of the engine 52 at the North Creek station. Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific Holdings, parent company of the Saratoga and North Creek Railway, said a few words, followed by Barton Group Chairman Charles Bracken Jr.
Ellis cut the ribbon, the two climbed aboard a red caboose, waved to the crowd from the back of the train, and headed for North River, home of the Barton mine.
They first passed mile marker 29 — the tracks begin at the Tahawus mine almost 30 miles to the north. Railway manager Steve Torrico said that’s an original mile marker from the Sanford Lake Branch, built in 1942. Construction began on the tracks 70 years ago this month.
“In 1989, the Delaware and Hudson ran the last ore train from Tahawus to North Creek and down to Saratoga in 1989, and they shut this line down,” Torrico said. “The line was never abandoned. It’s just been sitting here dormant, and last year our company, Iowa Pacific, bought this line from National Lead. So we have rehabilitated the first 6 miles of track to get to Barton Mines and here we are taking our first trip on the first 6 miles.”
Torrico joined a group of a dozen VIPs, plus federal and state inspectors. Shortly after leaving the train station, they moved from the stuffy caboose to an open-air rail car, with railway executives, Barton managers, North Creek Business Alliance leaders and former Johnsburg Town Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed.