The station at Lake Clear Junction with the stagecoach of Paul Smith's Hotel stopped out front, at the centennial celebration, July 16, 2011. The station at Lake Clear Junction. (undated) Junction House, Lake Clear Junction, 2012. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, October 28, 1989 Engine 4587 at Lake Clear Junction, undated. From the files of Edna Finn, courtesy of Mary Hotaling.
Lake Clear Junction is a hamlet east of Lake Clear on New York Route 30 and New York Route 186. It was the site of the junction of the railroad line to Saranac Lake and Lake Placid with the line running south to Tupper Lake and north to Paul Smiths.
The rail junction dates to 1892; at that time it was called Saranac Junction because it was the point where the Saranac Lake Branch joined the Mohawk & Malone main line. The name was changed to Lake Clear Junction in 1893. Passenger service north to Malone was discontinued in 1957, although service continued to Saranac Lake until the station was closed in 1965. The station is still standing. Charlie's Inn is nearby. 1
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 7, 1954
LAKE CLEAR JCT PLANS SCHOOL
Plans for a new school building, to have three classrooms and an auditorium, were approved by 87 members of Common School District No. 3, Town of Harrietstown, at their annual meeting held in the present school building, Lake Clear Junction.
Voters selected the proposed school from one of three schemes submitted by William G. Distin, Distin and Wareham, Saranac Lake. It was also decided that a suitable site should be purchased on which to erect the new building. The present school house has two classrooms. A heavy pupil registration has forced the district to place some of its students in the Lake Colby School.
During the four-hour meeting a budget of $18,000 was passed to cover the expenses for the coming year. Voters decided to have a board of three trustees instead of a single school trustee and elected James Cervo for a term of three years; Donald Bousquet, two years; Charles Fisher, one year; Mrs. Jenne Fisher, collector, and Mrs. Edith Bedell, clerk.
There will be a special school meeting, called in the near future to vote on bonding the District.
Wayne and Betty Tucker always had an interest in history, but when their daughter, Jill Brockway, bought Charlie's Inn in Lake Clear, the Tuckers began a quest for knowledge regarding the Lake Clear Train Depot.
From a train aficionada in Tampa, Fla. to the Paul Smith's College archives, the Tuckers delved headfirst into finding out all they could about the train leading into Lake Clear.
"In 1891, Dr. William Seward Webb wanted to build a railroad through the Adirondacks," Wayne said, attempting to summarize the past. "He was the son-in-law of the Vanderbilt who owned New York Central. New York Central wasn't interested, so Webb acquired all the land needed for a right-of-way from Utica, Herkimer, Old Forge all the way to Malone on his own.
"He built the railroad, which ran right through here" - Wayne pauses for a moment to show the Lake Clear Train Depot at Charlie's Inn - "The local stops became Saranac Inn, Lake Clear Junction, Gabriels, Rainbow Lake, etc. on up to Malone. After a year in existence, New York Central bought Webb's railroad. In 1911 they built a new train depot for Lake Clear, and hence the Lake Clear Junction Centennial that we are celebrating in 2011.
"Charlie's Inn existed right from the 1891 construction date, but it was called the Junction House. Paul Smith owned all the land between Lake Clear and his hotel. At that time there were four railroads in the area, and Paul Smith would have stagecoaches meet all the different trains. Sixty horses and many stagecoaches and drivers had to be involved."
Paul Smith's Hotel was a mammoth place with 550 rooms. According to Wayne, Smith could not convince New York Central Railroad to build an electric railway utilizing his utility power company from Lake Clear to his hotel. Smith had first attempted to get an electric railway with a trolley from Gabriels to Paul Smiths, which was only 4 miles away but would encounter a hill called Easy Street that was too steep for an electric trolley.
"Smith was on a trolley kick because he owned a power utility company and he thought he could produce his own electricity," Wayne said. "He then hired a surveyor to mark out a 6-mile course that would eventually connect Lake Clear to his hotel. He was then able to coordinate all the train lines to meet here. Guests would cross the tracks upon arriving at Lake Clear and then go onto the trolley to get to his hotel."
Betty interjects by noting that Paul Smith was 81 years old when he decided to build the railway himself.. The trolley couldn't turn around, so it pushed any cars up to Paul Smiths and pulled them back to Lake Clear upon return. This was the time when the more affluent visitors would show up in private Pullman cars and Paul Smith would accommodate them by getting their private railroad cars to his hotel where they would stay for the summer. In season, the train took five trips a day but reduced that to twice a day in off seasons, although he used it for logging operations during the winter. [. . .]
- 1Kudish, Michael, Where Did the Tracks Go in the Central Adirondacks?, Purple Mountain Press: Fleishmanns, New York, 2007, p. 363