Northern Adirondack Railroad

Northern Adirondack Railroad engine #7, the "Mountaineer". Source: St. Regis Falls Historians Association

Northern Adirondack Railroad engine #7, the “Mountaineer”. Source: St. Regis Falls Historians Association

The American portion of the line was only a year younger than its Canadian cousin through the legal incorporated acts of creation, but was opened to traffic fifteen years before the Ottawa & New York Railway’s own opening date.  The origins of the American line came about when a trio of ambitious lumbermen decided to use their fortunes from their work in Michigan and start a new operation in northern New York.  Peter MacFarlane was the initial leader, but once the trio arrived in the Adirondacks, it was clear that John Hurd was the main backer of the logging business with Charles Hotchkiss second in command.  After they had purchased a large amount of land, the trio invested in the creation of a logging railroad to haul out their wares.  On February 9, 1883, they chartered a company called the Northern Adirondack Railroad to transport logs and other finished wood products from the St. Regis Falls area where they had establish mills and was the northern end of their gross virgin timber lands. The NARR opened on September 25, 1883 from Moira, on the Ogdensburg & Lake Champlain Railroad, to St. Regis Falls.  The first train, which was leased from the O&LCRR, ended up derailing at the southern terminus. Hurd was a cunning businessman and learned the tricks of the trade from his efforts in Michigan.  The trio’s initial plans to operate their small 11-mile line was only a start for him.  He became ambitious and had his eyes set on reaching Tupper Lake where he could establish a logging business right on the shores of the lake. He proceeded to buy out MacFarlane, who was forced to leave the partnership almost immediately after  the railroad’s opening and began to fund the Everton Railroad. Hotchkiss though was more involved with the NARR than MacFarlane ever was and stayed with the company until 1885.  His son, Charles L., would be involved with the railroad until 1889. Hotchkiss shared Hurd’s idea of expanding the railroad, which reached Santa Clara in 1885 (but did not operate). Hurd then created the Northern Adirondack Extension Railroad on February 17, 1886, with the mandate to build from St. Regis Falls to Tupper Lake. The moment the company was formed, he transferred the section of completed rails between St. Regis Falls and Santa Clara to the NAERR, which started operations, and was leased by the NARR.

Bridge piers in the St. Regis River, St. Regis Falls, 1999. The bridge here was part of the Northern Adirondack Extension Railroad.

Bridge piers in the St. Regis River, St. Regis Falls, 1999. The bridge here was part of the Northern Adirondack Extension Railroad.

NAERR would open two sections. On July 6, 1886, it opened to Brandon then the final section to Tupper Lake was completed in 1889. The first train to run the entire route was on July 1, 1890 and the NARR absorbed the NAERR on April 5th, thereby ending the use of a lease. Another logging businessman, Patrick Ducey, had a large tract of land south of Brandon and had operated a logging railroad from his jackworks at Black Rapids to a connection with the NAERR while it was still under construction at Black Rapids Junction.  Once the NAERR officially opened through, Ducey sold his railroad to Hurd, giving him a branch line to operate.

When the NARR stretched from Moira to Tupper Lake, one would wonder why Hurd had stopped building to a place so remote. The answer is quite simple because he did indeed want to continue southwards when the time was right. Hurd had formed agreements with other rail lines so that his line would become a part of a new short route between Ottawa in Canada to New York City. The first such arrangement was made with Ernest Reynolds and T.A. Sears of the Saratoga & St. Lawrence Railroad, a small line from Moira to Bombay. Trackage rights along this line for his passenger trains was agreed to in 1890 and from there people could use the Grand Trunk Railway line to get to Montreal. The second company was the Utica & Black River Railroad, which ran out of Utica to Remsen and then went in a northwestern direction to Ogdensburg. Hurd made arrangements in 1890 to connect to this line at Prospect so that both companies could benefit from the logging operations of Adirondack forest, but that idea would not come to pass. Whether it was Hurd’s financial problems, the New York State Forest Preserve or even shareholders of the great New York Central & Hudson River Railroad, the proposed extension south was never built. The NARR business appeared to have been doing well at first, but the company was running in a deficit from 1887 to 1890 and profits were minimal. Added to that were Hurd’s business practices and on January 25, 1894, the company was put into receivership.