Costly Turboliners heading for the scrap heap

Posted at: 01/02/2013 6:19 PM
By: Beth Wurtmann

GLENVILLE - Sliced and shredded to be sent to the scrap yard. That's what's become of doomed Turboliners that have been rusting away in a Glenville industrial park. Trains the state purchased in the late 1990s for 70 million dollars, that finally sold for just 420,000 for recycling.

"I'm 25 years old so my taxes probably weren't wasted on this project but my parents and before that were," said Ryen VanHall, Vice President at Metro Metal Recycling, a Watervliet salvage company that purchased the locomatives.

N.H. Kelman Scrap of Cohoes bought the engines. Other parts were auctioned off.

It all started with the dream of high speed rail from New York City to the Capital Region. Governor George Pataki hailed the purchase of seven Turboliners from Amtrak, with their combination diesel electric engines.

"It was an idea that somehow, someday, Schenectady County that used to light and pull the world would be able to do it again," said Pataki in August of 2000.

But the project was doomed. The former Super Steel plant refurbished three of the trains, that were ultimately plagued with operational problems. The remaining four trains were hauled to Glenville, rotting for years, until something would be done.

"At that time it was a step forward, they served their purpose. Now if they're obsolete and they're in the junk yard so to speak, get rid of them," said John Egan, a former Albany International Airport CEO and state official.

Egan, completed a high speed rail feasibility study, making a number of recommendations that are coming to fruition, like a second track between Rensselaer and Schenectady. He said there were problems with the Turboliners, and noted that Amtrak hit financial difficulties that dashed plans for the faster service from Penn Station to the region.

With taxpayers shelling out 150,000 a year just to store the trains, and the dream of high speed rail sidelined, Governor Cuomo decided to sell the remains off. The end of a financial drain. The last stop for a failed tax dollar investment.

"We the taxpayers who have put 70-million-dollars into something we thought would mean an economic boon to commuter traffic between here and New York City ended up being a boondoggle of scrap metal," said Barbara Bartoletti, a government watchdog who heads the League of Women Voters of New York State.