Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

General discussion related to Rail Trails nationwide, including proposed rail trail routes. The official site of the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy can be found here: www.railstotrails.org.

Moderator: railtrailbiker

Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

Postby MinutemanMaroon » Fri Jun 13, 2014 5:04 pm

I have noticed that some rail trails in my home state of New Hampshire pay little attention to the historical right-of-ways that they are given. For example, the only allusion that the Londonderry Rail Trail was ever a Railroad line on their website are the words "rail trail" themselves. No pictures of former operations, no timeline, not even a mention of the B&M. Most times the historical remnants (stations, freight depots) along the trails are the responsibilities of the historical societies of the towns and not the trail groups. Many recreational users have no idea of the origin of what they ride on. This is not even mentioning the disappointment they show when they cannot turn a line into a trail due to future potential (Mountain Division) or their apparent eagerness to disregard any possible potential of a future revival. Are the trails a blessing in that the right of ways are preserved (albeit not recognizable) or a curse in the way they destroy and remove artifacts (rails, switches, crossing signals), end future potential, and continue the ignorance of the users towards the history of these lines? Now some trail organizations do preserve history quite well, and they are finding a new way to use abandoned lines. But are we becoming too rail trail obsessed?
"Every foot of track of the B&M, mainline or branch, rain or shine, needed or not, was the scene of legitimate human endeavor." -Robert Willoughby Jones
User avatar
MinutemanMaroon
 
Posts: 31
Joined: Tue Mar 25, 2014 7:39 pm

Re: Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

Postby Noel Weaver » Fri Jun 13, 2014 5:42 pm

I would say over 90 per cent of the time Rail Trails are a curse. Their advocates are forever pushing for more rail abandonments so they can push for their next place to walk, bike or whatever. Once these rail lines are gone, they are GONE period. No way these people would ever allow for their return. Just look at what's happening in New York State with both the Adirondack Scenic which has the potential to rival the Grand Canyon Railway or maybe something even better and in Kingston with the Catskill Mountain folks which offer a good tourist opportunity and attraction. If the trail advocates have their way both of these operations will suffer greatly, I would be very sadden to see that occur. We need to support our tourist railroad friends and fight these rail trail people with everything we can, maybe we will prevail, at least I hope we can but I am not at all sure we will. In every single case the railroad line should be totally abandoned and torn up, in both cases in New York State this has not happened and indeed the Adirondack still uses the portion of line in question for occasional equipment moves. The Walkway Over the Hudson is an exception, this line had no future as a freight operation, it never had a future for passenger operation, and was abandoned and completely torn up on each side of the bridge for some time. I know a little bit of the Poughkeepsie trackage lasted a little bit longer but it too was finally abandoned and it was served off a connection with the Metro-North Hudson Line in Poughkeepsie and did not need the trackage ease or west in order to provide service. There are one or two rail trails in Connecticut that might fit as well but here again there will never be a return to rail operation anyway. When in doubt I will and we all should oppose rail trails. The rail trail people might have decent intentions but they are NOT our friends.
Noel Weaver
Noel Weaver
 
Posts: 9330
Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 9:33 pm
Location: Pompano Beach, Florida

Re: Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

Postby RussNelson » Sat Jun 14, 2014 12:02 am

Noel Weaver wrote:I would say over 90 per cent of the time Rail Trails are a curse. Their advocates are forever pushing for more rail abandonments so they can push for their next place to walk, bike or whatever.

I do??

I would say you have it exactly backwards. 10% of the time Rail Trails are a curse, e.g. the Great Adirondack Rail Trail, or the Ashokan Trail or whatever they're calling it. The rest of the time rail-trails serve to prevent complete abandonment, which is a disaster.
User avatar
RussNelson
 
Posts: 3786
Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2006 1:20 am
Location: Potsdam, NY

Re: Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

Postby johnpbarlow » Sat Jun 14, 2014 6:28 am

Rail Trails in Massachusetts are definitely a blessing given there are so many miles of long abandoned rail lines and given a cyclist risks his life sharing narrow MA roadways with our notoriously patient drivers. Here are a few of my faves:
- Minuteman Rail Trail: B&M Lexington Branch embargoed in 1981
- Nashua River Rail Trail: B&M WN&P north of Ayer - last freight ran in 1982
- Shining Sea Bikeway: NH from N Falmouth to Woods Hole - freight service ceased in 1989
- Ashuwillticook Rail Trail: B&A then B&M Lanesborough to Adams abandoned in 1990
- Norwottuck Rail Trail: B&M Central MA branch Belchertown to Northampton abandoned in 1979 (?)
johnpbarlow
 
Posts: 1617
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 12:50 pm

Re: Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

Postby Noel Weaver » Sat Jun 14, 2014 8:19 am

johnpbarlow wrote:Rail Trails in Massachusetts are definitely a blessing given there are so many miles of long abandoned rail lines and given a cyclist risks his life sharing narrow MA roadways with our notoriously patient drivers. Here are a few of my faves:
- Minuteman Rail Trail: B&M Lexington Branch embargoed in 1981
- Nashua River Rail Trail: B&M WN&P north of Ayer - last freight ran in 1982
- Shining Sea Bikeway: NH from N Falmouth to Woods Hole - freight service ceased in 1989
- Ashuwillticook Rail Trail: B&A then B&M Lanesborough to Adams abandoned in 1990
- Norwottuck Rail Trail: B&M Central MA branch Belchertown to Northampton abandoned in 1979 (?)


Yes and your "Shining Sea Bikeway" will effectively prevent any possible return of passenger service to Falmouth and Woods Hole, not next year, not ten years and not anytime in the future, the trail advocates will make sure of that.
Noel Weaver
Noel Weaver
 
Posts: 9330
Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 9:33 pm
Location: Pompano Beach, Florida

Re: Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

Postby johnpbarlow » Sat Jun 14, 2014 8:34 am

Noel Weaver wrote:Yes and your "Shining Sea Bikeway" will effectively prevent any possible return of passenger service to Falmouth and Woods Hole, not next year, not ten years and not anytime in the future, the trail advocates will make sure of that.
Noel Weaver


I'm guessing most residents of the Falmouth/Woods Hole area are very happy that RR tracks won't be returning to that area. I suspect they love the Shining Sea trail (I do and I don't even live there!) While the seasonal weekends only Cape Flyer from Boston to Hyannis gets positive press, it's not clear to me that Cape residents use it.
johnpbarlow
 
Posts: 1617
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 12:50 pm

Re: Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

Postby TomNelligan » Sat Jun 14, 2014 8:38 am

My biggest problem with the rails-to-trails crowd is the fanatic faction that wants to rip up little-used but potentially active rail lines, notably the current fight over the midsection of the Adirondack RR. And I don't mind when a rural line like the B&M Hollis Branch (ex-WN&P north of Ayer) that has absolutely no reasonable hope of future rail business gets turned into a trail. But between those two extremes there are the lines like North Falmouth-Woods Hole, the B&M Bedford branch, and the eastern portion of the Central Mass (not a trail yet, but being pushed) that have theoretical potential for restored rail passenger service at some point in the future. We know what would happen if the state ever tried to reclaim them for their original purpose -- endless lawsuits from the trail people that would tie things up for years.

And Mr. Barlow, no, Cape residents don't patronize the Cape Flyer service because they're not the intended market... the market is Bostonians headed the other way. I think that a rail connection to the Woods Hole ferries of the sort that existed historically would be as big a patronage draw as Hyannis if the track was still there.
TomNelligan
 
Posts: 3180
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 5:43 pm
Location: Massachusetts

Re: Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

Postby Tower35 » Sat Jun 14, 2014 12:10 pm

Wouldn't the provisions of the railbanking law come into play? As I understand it railbanking provides for the reconstruction of any railroad even on an existing rail trail. I wasn't sure so I checked the details on this site:

http://www.railstotrails.org/ourwork/tr ... ndwhy.html
Tower35
 
Posts: 33
Joined: Sat Feb 22, 2014 1:19 pm

Re: Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

Postby Noel Weaver » Sat Jun 14, 2014 5:55 pm

TomNelligan wrote:My biggest problem with the rails-to-trails crowd is the fanatic faction that wants to rip up little-used but potentially active rail lines, notably the current fight over the midsection of the Adirondack RR. And I don't mind when a rural line like the B&M Hollis Branch (ex-WN&P north of Ayer) that has absolutely no reasonable hope of future rail business gets turned into a trail. But between those two extremes there are the lines like North Falmouth-Woods Hole, the B&M Bedford branch, and the eastern portion of the Central Mass (not a trail yet, but being pushed) that have theoretical potential for restored rail passenger service at some point in the future. We know what would happen if the state ever tried to reclaim them for their original purpose -- endless lawsuits from the trail people that would tie things up for years.

And Mr. Barlow, no, Cape residents don't patronize the Cape Flyer service because they're not the intended market... the market is Bostonians headed the other way. I think that a rail connection to the Woods Hole ferries of the sort that existed historically would be as big a patronage draw as Hyannis if the track was still there.


I totally agree with these remarks.
Noel Weaver
Noel Weaver
 
Posts: 9330
Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 9:33 pm
Location: Pompano Beach, Florida

Re: Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

Postby johnpbarlow » Sun Jun 15, 2014 6:53 am

My point which is not that insightful is that recreating a long moribund passenger RR in a densely populated area such as Falmouth or Lexington or Wayland will meet huge resistance from residents (NIMBYs) and not just trail activists.

I will continue to enjoy using the rail trails of eastern MA along with thousands of other residents and tourists. And I hope that rail trail growth continues in the area (eg, There are ex-B&A/NH branches around Framingham being acquired for trail conversion). It's certainly a better alternative than letting the abandoned RoW revert to nature or become the foundation of someone's garage.
johnpbarlow
 
Posts: 1617
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 12:50 pm

Re: Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

Postby BandA » Sun Jun 15, 2014 11:08 pm

The Minuteman bike trail would be viable as a commuter rail line today (imagine a giant commuter parking garage on 128 in Lexington), although it is super popular as a bike trail, so that would have to be accomodated. The Mass Central should continue to be held for commuter rail, or better rail with trail, from 128 to Berlin. (ROW in Waltham was stupidly developed in the 80s or 90s, requiring a super expensive connection off Fitchburg line, plus there are NO good bike paths in Waltham). The Brookline Branch RR or Charles River RR or whatever ROW IIRC was once part of the most direct route to New Haven and NYC, and part of the Needham Loop, now being converted to rail trails.
User avatar
BandA
 
Posts: 1821
Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:47 am

Re: Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

Postby BandA » Sun Jun 15, 2014 11:27 pm

The Mass Central bike trail, abandoned 1938 after the hurricane. Checked it out in Rutland, very nice, crossed by the Mid-State hiking trail and a snowmobile trail. No need for a railroad probably ever, but crying needs in Worcester County for modern highways running east-west, not necessarily following the Mass Central.
User avatar
BandA
 
Posts: 1821
Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:47 am

Re: Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

Postby AMTK822401 » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:03 am

I lean more towards the curse end. If a RoW should become desired again, the local bike nuts will make a huge stink about rails being put back in. That being said, portions of railroads like the O&W and such probably will and should remain trails. The trail movement has become very predatory as is shown by the efforts to destroy any hope for expansion at New York tourist lines. (ADIX and CMRR) The trail crowd must now work with rail advocates instead of against them. Russ, you are what seems to be a rare exception in this debate, if you don't mind me saying.
AMTK822401
 
Posts: 127
Joined: Sat Nov 16, 2013 6:17 pm

Re: Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

Postby MinutemanMaroon » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:32 pm

What really irks me is the development of what they are calling the "Granite State Rail Trail". The trail will apparently stretch from Lawrence, MA into Manchester on the old Manchester and Lawrence. From there it will become a "Rail With Trail" along the currently used NH Mainline to Concord. From there a trail will be constructed on what is left of the B&M Northern Main between Concord and Penacook, and of course after Penacook is the Northern Rail Trail which runs 65 or so miles to Vermont.

What gets me is the fact that this will be a 100+ mile rail trail. What is the need for this besides hardcore runners and bikers? Most trail users stay in the confines of their own towns. Plus, constructing a trail alongside an active rail line is very unnecessary. It is still a railroad line! It's not dead yet! It would be bad for railfans and detract from their shots, and it's a waste of funds which could be used to expand the railroad infrastructure which is already in place, and has been for the most part for over 100 years. With so many rail trails in place already for runners and bikers to use, there's no need to build alongside a railroad line, let alone detract from current railroad operations or remove historic railroad apparatus. You can have the dead branches I suppose, but stay away from the active lines! That's what also bothers me about the Adirondack Scenic, here is a line that belongs to a tourist railroad, which operates vintage diesels over a very beautiful line. It's still in service!!! So let's rip it up and build a walking trail! Imagine if someone wanted to rip up the Conway Scenic and make their line a trail. It would be equally as offensive.
"Every foot of track of the B&M, mainline or branch, rain or shine, needed or not, was the scene of legitimate human endeavor." -Robert Willoughby Jones
User avatar
MinutemanMaroon
 
Posts: 31
Joined: Tue Mar 25, 2014 7:39 pm

Re: Rail Trails: Blessing or a Curse?

Postby scottychaos » Mon Jun 16, 2014 3:26 pm

We have a great rail-trail network in Western NY, many nice walking and biking trails in the Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo areas, and the spaces in between.
its been growing rapidly over the past 10 to 20 years, and still in the process of growing.
I would definitely consider them a blessing, not a curse..

If the rail trails didn't exist, the abandoned ROW's would just be scrubby overgrown corridors, useful for nothing..
the railroads than ran on them 40 to 70 years ago are not coming back..ever.
So its a choice between a nice rail-trail, or an empty abandoned ROW of nothingness..
a rail-trail is a much better choice IMO..
around here, no one ever suggests getting rid of active rail lines to create more trails..
(except in the Adirondacks of course.but that isn't western NY, the Adirondack snowmobilers are a menace)
but we dont have that problem in the rest of the state..
There is still an abundance of undeveloped ROW's in the region if people want more trails..still plenty of future trails that can be made..

and! nearly every trail very much educates about the railroad heritage and origin of the trail, very detailed informational signs and displays
are on pretty much every rail-trail I have bicycled on in these parts..the past railroads are very much acknowledged as the origin of the trails..
Scot
~ Scot Lawrence
Moderator: Lehigh Valley
Co-Moderator: Anthracite Railroads
Scot's railroad webpages
User avatar
scottychaos
 
Posts: 4497
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 7:18 am
Location: Rochester, NY

Next

Return to Rail Trails

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests