On the Path of Disaster

Date Posted: May 12, 2014
Author: John F. Sheehan

The Adirondack Council has called on the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation and the US Environmental Protection Agency to use their authority to protect the Adirondack Park’s communities, Lake Champlain and three major rivers from potential train derailments, spills and fires.  The Council also called on the US Department of Transportation to outlaw outdated model DOT-111 tanker cars that are prone to ruptures, leaks and fires if they derail.  Oil companies and rail roads can afford to replace the cars and should do so immediately.

The following is a photo essay of the Canadian Pacific Rail Road as it courses through the Adirondack Park, from Clemons in Washington County northward through Essex County, exiting the Adirondack Park adjacent to the War of 1812 battle site at Valcour Island in Clinton County.  The portion of Valcour Island inside the Adirondack Park is Forest Preserve, protected by the NYS Constitution’s Forever Wild Clause.  On the route, the RR passes through many small communities and crosses the Boquet and Ausable Rivers.  These photos were taken in April 2014, tracing the route from Clemons to Willsboro in northern Essex County.

(Directional names indicate the direction in which the camera was pointed to view the crossing.)

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Clemons Station South2.jpgClemons Station South 
Southernmost Adirondack community through which the Canadian Pacific Rail Road runs.  Worn and uneven track runs alongside wetlands and the Lake Champlain Narrows, which connect farther south with the lake’s South Bay and Champlain Canal. New track awaits installation on the right-of-way upslope from the tracks.
Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Clemons Station North2.jpgClemons Station North 
Most of CP Rail’s road crossings in the
Adirondack Park are at grade level, with no signals and with timbers lining the inside of the track to ease auto traffic over the rails. Lake Champlain and its wetlands sit just beyond the trees to the right.
Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Dresden Station South2.jpg

Dresden Station South
Looking south, worn track and splintered crossing timbers sit next to a lakeside home, among several on Dresden Station Road and adjacent Pit Road.

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Dresden Station North2.jpgDresden Station North 
The tracks wind closely alongside the edge of Lake Champlain’s Narrows.



Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Putnam Station North1_2.jpgPutnam Station North1
View of Putnam Station from just below the Lake Champlain Inn.  The station was in use as a rail-repair staging area in April 2014.  The track curves around a shoreline home just a few feet from the edge of the lake.
Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Putnam Station North2_2.jpgPutnam Station North2
same view with tighter focus on home
Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Wright South2.jpgWright South
Craigs Bay Road crossing, near the hamlet of Wright, Washington County; homes sit alongside the main track
and a side track. 
Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Wright East2.jpgWright East
Broken pavement and worn timbers at this densely-developed crossing neighborhood mix with discarded metal parts and rail ties, and a rusted historic landmark sign. 
Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Ti side track2.jpg
Ti Side Track
A rusted, rail-repair train sits idle along State Route 22 near the Fort View Inn in Ticonderoga, Essex County.
Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Crown Point Town Office2.jpgCrown Point Town Office
Government offices, track-side warehouses and Monitor
Bay Park campground surround the tracks on the
south end of Crown Point, Essex County.
Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Crown Point Looking North2.jpgCrown Point Looking North 
Rail ties sit waiting to be installed looking north near the Crown Point Town Offices.
Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Bridge View East2.jpgBridge View East
Looking from the tracks on the edge of the lake eastward toward the new bridge to Vermont in Crown Point, from
State Route 22.
Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Bulwagga Bay2.jpgBulwagga Bay
View from State Route 22 across Bulwagga Bay, where the tracks are just a few feet from the shoreline.  Bulwagga Bay campground is on the point across the bay.
Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/St Patricks2.jpg
St. Patrick’s
View from the lawn behind St. Patrick’s Church in the
Village of Port Henry, Town of Moriah, Essex County, of
CP Rail tracks that wind through a dense neighborhood alongside a town park.
Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Whallonsburg Trestle2.jpgWhallonsburg Trestle 
A rusty and worn rail road bridge over Whallons
Bay Road with many homes surrounding it in the hamlet
of Whallonsburgh, Town of Essex, Essex County. 
The Boquet River is less than 50 feet away.
Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Fish and Game North2.jpgFish & Game North
A CP Rail work station in a neighborhood at the edge of
Fish & Game Drive in the hamlet of Willsboro, Essex County.
Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Willsboro Trestle2.jpgWillsboro Trestle
This badly rusted and decaying trestle carries trains over State Route 22 in Willsboro.
Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/Trains/Port Kent2_2.jpg
Port Kent South
Oil train rumbles through Port Kent on the CP Rail line
that sits just above the shore of Lake Champlain. Older, rupture-prone tank cars and newer, lined tank cars are
mixed together in the same train.  Many observers worry
that any fire caused by a leak in an older car would
spread and involve the newer cars as well.


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John F. Sheehan - Born and raised in Troy, NY, John Sheehan is a graduate of Catholic Central High School and the State University at Albany (1985; BA). Before joining the Council's staff in 1990, John was the managing editor of the Malone Evening Telegram, just north of the Adirondack Park. Prior to that, he worked as journalist for the Troy Record, (Schenectady) Daily Gazette, Watertown Daily Times and Newsday.

For the past 20 years, John has been the voice of the Adirondack Council on radio and television, and on the pages of local, regional and national media. Sheehan has overseen the production of two films about the Council (The Adirondack Council, 1992; and, ACID RAIN: A Continuing National Tragedy, 1998), appeared in the independent film Inside the Blue Line (1993) and has produced a series of radio and television public service announcements with entertainers Bonnie Raitt (1994), Natalie Merchant (1997) and brothers/band mates Michael and Kevin Bacon (2009-10).

John is a regular guest lecturer at several New York colleges and universities, including Colgate University, Hobart & William Smith College, Hamilton College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Union College, Siena College, SUNY Albany, SUNY Binghamton, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (Syracuse), and SUNY Potsdam. He has also addressed dozens of local organizations including local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs and chambers of commerce, scientific societies and community forums.

In his spare time, John helps to train other not-for-profit organizations' staff in media relations, as well as local farmers in how to promote sustainable agriculture. He also volunteers for the Ujima Journey cultural education project in Albany; the Hamilton Hill Arts Council's annual "Juneteenth" celebration in Schenectady; the Albany Falcons Marching Band and Color Guard; and, the Westland Hills ASA softball league in Albany.

John and his wife Deborah live in Albany and are seasonal residents of the Adirondack Park. Their daughter Hannah attends Albany public schools.


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