The Adirondack Division of the New York Central began life as William Seward Webb's Mohawk & Malone and Adirondack & St. Lawrence railroads; begun in 1891 and completed in 1892, by 1893 it became the Adirondack Division of the New York Central.
Webb's railroad connected Utica, and points south and west, to Malone and Montreal, but it passed six miles to the west of Saranac Lake. This was remedied by building the Saranac Branch from Lake Clear Junction (originally called "Saranac Junction) to a station on the west side of Broadway's north end (then known as "Depot Street"), at the north end of Mills Avenue and St. Lawrence Avenue (directly across the tracks from today's (2010) Kinney Drugs). Here the Saranac Branch ended in July 1892, until August 1893, when the line was extended half a mile to reach the tracks of the Chateaugay Railroad, which was originally built as a narrow gauge railroad that reached Saranac Lake from the northwest in 1887; this line was taken over by the Delaware and Hudson and converted to standard gauge.
By October of 1899, Depot Street was re-named Broadway and the former "Railroad street" was give its present name, "Depot Street", and the original wooden depot was replaced for passenger use by Union Depot in 1904.
Railroad passenger service to Saranac Lake was discontinued by the New York Central in 1965.
In 1874 the Whitehall and Plattsburgh Railroad had reached AuSable Forks. Stages from many of the early Adirondack hotels would line up at the station to meet the incoming train to garner their share of passengers. These were prosperous days for the stage coach drivers, but by 1887 the Chateaugay Railroad had reached Saranac Lake from Plattsburgh and two years later Hurd's N.Y. and Ottawa line arrived at Tupper Lake from Moira. In 1892 the northern portion of Dr. W. Seward Webb's Adirondack and St. Lawrence R.R. came to Saranac Lake village from Malone while from the south Webb was pushing his rails through the very heart of the Adirondacks from Herkimer. In 1893 the New York Central system purchased the completed line.
Malone Palladium, September 13, 1900
The New York Central offers excursion rates to Ottawa and return on account of the Ottawa Fair. Central Canada Exhibition, September 18 and 30, from Malone at $2.95, Constable $2.80, Loon Lake $3.30, Paul Smiths $4.10, Saranac Lake $4.40, Tupper Lake $4.75. Tickets good going only on the morning train (No. 635) on the dates named, returning leaving Ottawa on or before September 24th. Full particulars may be had from N. Y. C. agents.
From Seneca Ray Stoddard's 1908 The Adirondacks, Illustrated
Railroad service is excellent. Trains leaving in the morning reach New York early in the evening. Evening trains have sleeping cars attached running through to New York either by the Chateaugay division of the D. & H. via Lake Champlain and Saratoga or by the Adirondack division of the New York Central via the west side of the wilderness.
Adirondack Record, August 9, 1918
SARANAC LAKE —A sad, accident occurred on the New York Central about two miles south of Gabriels Station when Sunday afternoon Sam Martin, a prosperous farmer of Vermontville, accompanied by his wife and daughter and his hired man were visiting his daughter, who lives between Gabriels and Rainbow stations were returning home in their automobile and were struck by the train, killing Mr. Martin instantly. Mrs. Martin received two broken legs and a broken arm and cannot live. The other two were uninjured.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, March 24, 1956
NO RR STOP AT SARANAC INN
The Public Service Commision today authorized New York Central Railroad to discontinue all services other than the handling of carload freight at its Saranac Inn Station in Franklin County. Carload freight shipments will be handled on local team tracks but under jurisdiction of the railroad agent at Lake Clear Junction.
Since 1950, the station has been on a part-time caretaker basis during Winter months and has had an agent on duty only during the Summer vacation period.
At a public hearing, it was testified that Saranac Inn Hotel and the State Conservation Department Fish Hatchery are the principal users of the station's facilities and that each could be served conveniently at Lake Clear Junction.
Railroad testimony was also to the effect that the station has been operated at a loss and that it proposed to remove the station building and the passing track there. Its petition was unopposed.
The action follows a similar permission to the New York Central to discontinue service at the Gabriels station.
James Gillmett, supervisor of the Town of Brighton and superintendent of grounds at the Saranac Inn hotel, told The Enterprise this morning that a hearing had been held in Pittsburgh some weeks ago, but that it was at the time of a big snow storm and it had been impossible for him to get to Plattsburgh to testify.
The discontinue will make it necessary for the Inn to get most of its freight, all its mail and all its passengers at the Lake Clear station, which is three miles farther from the Inn, Gillmett said.
It will make the servicing of convention train passengers especially difficult, Gillmett explained, because it had been possible to shuttle them to and from the Inn station in several cars. With the longer run, he said, other means would have to be found.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 13, 1961
LOCAL FREIGHT SHIPMENTS WILL BE DECENTRALIZED
Railroad Program Approved by PSC
The Public Service Commission yesterday authorized New York Central Railroad to centralize control over freight shipments to and from Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Sabattis, Lake Clear Junction, Ray Brook and Gabriels at a new Freight Service Center at Tupper Lake.
Under this plan, ticket agents only will staff the railroad's station at Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. All resident agency service will be discontinued at Sabattis and Lake Clear Junction and passengers boarding trains at these stations may either purchase tickets elsewhere or pay fares on the trains. These two stations and the present non-agency carload only stations at Ray Brook and Gabriels will continue as satellites of the Tupper Lake service center.
Under the new plan, carload freight service will be continued at all six points and pickup-and delivery service for less-than-car-load-freight, now provided at Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, will be extended to all points involved.
The railroad must establish an Enterprise telephone number through which area freight patrons may make toll-free calls to its Tupper Lake station. Agency service is provided at Tupper Lake from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily.
In a report to the Commission, Examiner Jacob I. Rothstein says the change in status of the Adirondack Division stations involved in today's order is designed to streamline freight operations and to expedite service to the railroad's freight patrons. To accomplish this, a traveling assistant agent will make daily visits, Mondays through Fridays, to freight patrons in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid as needed, to those in other communities.
The railroad's team track at Stony Wold, no longer used, may removed. Similarly, the railroad may discontinue its non-agency station at Saranac Inn, at which, according to the P.S.C., no business has been handled for several years.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, April 27, 1964
Mail Train Made Last Run on Saturday
Saranac Lake has taken some uneviable historical steps in recent years and the latest curtailment in the nostalgia classification was the occasion Saturday morning at 9:03 of the last mail car coming into the village.
The old iron horse went out when her steam-driven wheels pulled her final load into the community in 1951. Since then we have had the cleaner more powerful diesels but they lacked the glamor of the old steam locomotives.
The gradual curtailment of passenger and freight service into Saranac Lake has caused its morbid measure of consternation but the ending of the mail car era is a deeper blow than all to the men who always set their clocks by the mail train's arrival ... or measured the winter weather conditions by its late appearance from Utica.
The old wooden mail cars were part and parcel of the Utica division back in 1892 when the railroad opened semi-restricted services to the north country. The line was completed in 1894. At one time the section from Saranac Lake to Lake Placid was part of the narrow gauge Chateaugay Railroad and sometimes called the Mohawk and Malone Railroad because the engine was named The Mohawk.*
The mail has been coming in to Saranac Lake by RPO since 1900 and of course carried its peak loads in the roaring twenties when everything in this area was booming. Yesterday had its mournful aspects. Luke Wood the station agent called Tupper Lake to see if engine number 8296 was on time. He looked as if he hoped it would be a couple of years late. The men who built and maintained; and operated the Utica Division; love its every railroad tie and water tank and to them it was just as much a day of sadness as to the rest of the people who have seen the railroad help build America to what she is today.
Luke got the bad news alright. She would be coming down the tracks in pretty short order. When she finally gave her mournful whistle at the bend of the Latour coal yards, it was Gabriels trumpet for the last mail car. We lined up the men, posed them with the final bag of mail, made them climb up on the front of the engine, handed out crying towels and generally made it a scene of historical significance.
The mail car itself was not sparkling and the lettering on her sides was dull... she looked like a girl going to her grave. We promised the boys on 8296 that we would give her a good newspaper sendoff.
* It is far more likely that the name Mohawk comes from the Mohawk River valley, where Herkimer, New York, is located.
- New York Central Adirondack Division Historic District
- Don Duso or Big D for photo of the fire that destroyed the former New York Central depot in Saranac Lake (not the Union Depot)